To say that John Tyner’s actions at San Diego International Airport have touched a nerve is an understatement. This all started at a security checkpoint on the way to a flight on American Airlines on November 13th, two days ago. The complete event is written up by Tyner on his blog. He uploaded a video of the events on the same day. As of right now, that video has been viewed 350,000 times on YouTube and on many, many newscasts. It’s below:
At 3:45 in the video, he is heard saying, “If you touch my junk, I’m going to have you arrested.” It’s that line, and theme that has caught on. Why?
In my communications classes in the early 90’s the talk was always about the “sound bite.” What would you say in an interview that would be the eight seconds they would use during the newscast. At the time, you were at the mercy of news editors, not any longer. Now, it’s the power of the meme. So, why did this one catch on?
- Timing – lots of people are still worked up over the election, and semi-pro politicos are still in “election-mode” and have large groups of like-minded people on speed-dial, or more likely as Twitter followers;
- Growing concern over TSA searches at airports, particularly as we get into the travel season and news organizations are looking for travel-related stories; and
- Linguistic novelty – the inclusion of a specific word, that can have multiple meanings, but the one used in this case is not the usual usage by most people, and when used in shorthand in this moment many people will know what you are referring to.
All of these things together have made “Don’t touch my junk,” the meme du jour even though he never actually says it in the videos I watched. I think this might make it somewhere up there with,”Play it again Sam,” as one of the most famous lines never actually said, at least for this week.