Skip To Content

Jonathan Swan is the meme hero we need right now

Jonathan Swan’s agile interview with President Donald Trump for Axios on HBO was revelatory.

The 40-minute conversation exposed the president’s dismissiveness of pandemic-related deaths, his unwillingness to praise critics like the late John Lewis and his remarkable lack of concern over Russia’s reported aid to Taliban soldiers. But for the internet, the biggest takeaway was Swan’s face. A meme was born.

In the interview, Swan’s boyish visage shifted from bemusement, amusement and abject confusion over the president’s claims of success and unfair treatment by the media. One stand-out expression that exploded on Twitter came after Trump handed Swan graphs showing that the United States was “lower than the world” in terms of death in proportion to cases of coronavirus to debunk Swan’s statement that America had a record-setting number of fatalitie.

Swan, who insisted he was referring to the U.S.’s record of deaths proportional to population, was told he “can’t do that” by the president. Swan furrowed his brow; his mask of utter befuddlement perfectly encapsulated many viewers’ reactions to the interview and, in a macro sense, the world of 2020 writ large.

Swan, an Aussie with a friendly mien and strong Nice Jewish Boy energy — and a physician father who has been guiding Australia through the pandemic — also prompted some more baroque, multi-panel memes using juxtaposing his reactions against different bizarre images imposed onto the piece of paper Trump offered him.

This last format, sure to be a flash in the pan given the news cycle, recalls the “Social Network” meme in which Jesse Eisenberg, as Mark Zuckerberg, receives a note and scrunches his face in consternation.

But, whatever the meme’s longevity, Swan, with his WTF mugs and willingness to challenge Trump is now the standard bearer for many confused Americans. Today, we are all Jonathan Swan.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at [email protected].


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.