POLITICS

Origins Of 'Terrorist Fist Jab' Revealed

Slate's Christopher Beam has reflected on how the Obama fist-bump meme has grown from a simple celebratory gesture between Barack and Michelle Obama to the diabolical central psychological gesture from yesterday's cover of the New Yorker. And, for what it's worth, he's taking responsibility for it:

It's often asked, "Where does stupid stuff on the Internet come from?" In this instance, I think probably it came from me. Although I didn't originate the conceit, I'm pretty sure that I'm the one who put it in circulation. Er, sorry. Like The New Yorker, I never intended anyone to take it as anything other than a laughable example of ignorance.

The morning after Obama locked up the nomination, I was writing a "Trailhead" item that mocked the media's difficulty in figuring out what to call the now famous gesture. "Fist-pound," "knuckle-bump," and "fist-to-fist thumbs up" were among the funnier examples, but one of them--"Hezbollah-style fist jab"--was particularly risible. It came from the Web site for Human Events, a hard-right weekly. Unfortunately, I failed to note that its provenance was not the magazine itself but a reader comment posted below an unrelated column by Cal Thomas. I linked the phrase to the column but didn't explain that the words weren't Thomas'.

...

When I realized the confusion I'd helped cause, I posted a correction. But it was too late. Liberal bloggers from all over had already seized on the phrase. Time and Politico misreported that the words were Thomas'. Then, fatefully, Fox News anchor E.D. Hill jauntily paraphrased "Hezbollah-style fist jab" on air as "terrorist fist jab." Hill wasn't endorsing the phrase, but she failed to make clear that she was citing someone else's characterization. She apologized the next day but lost her show anyway.

It's a nice gesture, and a great post, from Beam, but he needn't feel all that bad about what happened to E.D. Hill, who characterized the situation, in her apology, by saying, "I mentioned various ways the Obamas' fist pump in St. Paul had been characterized in the media," which makes it sound as if the "terrorist fist-jab" meme had garnered a lot of media attention at the time, when in reality, the only person in "the media" who had used the term prior to Hill appears to have been Beam.