They Rate Dogs, Don’t They?

American culture may be approaching the event horizon of politics, from which all matter(s), including harmless diversions, cannot escape. This includes the Twitter account We Rate Dogs (@dog_rates), which was sucked into the singularity on Thursday.

The name of the account is self-explanatory: We Rate Dogs playfully judges photos and videos of canines. The account’s shtick is grade inflation: The pups are unfailingly cute, and are awarded 12, 13, or sometimes 14 points on a 10-point scale. While much of Twitter flunks for entertainment value, We Rate Dogs, with more than two million followers, has been an A++ trifle.

But not this week. It began early Wednesday when its creator, Campbell University student Matt Nelson, leveraged a presidential meme into a funny tweet, a business opportunity, and a social cause:

“This is Dewey (pronounced “covfefe”). He’s having a good walk. Arguably the best walk. 13/10 would snug softly.”

Less than a half hour later, Nelson promoted a hat displaying “covfefe” for sale at the We Rate Dogs online store. (Such is the popularity of the account that this emporium is a real thing; Nelson has a book coming out in October, too.) Less than a half hour after that, there was a “PUPDATE” about the hat: “half of all profits will be donated to [Planned Parenthood].”

Some of his followers were not happy about this development. Though a few pro-PP accounts applauded, Jonah Goldberg, Guy Benson, and many pro-lifers tweeted their disapproval. A noticeable number said they would stop following We Rate Dogs. Nelson told BuzzFeed he “immediately recognized” that he erred, and posted an apology to Twitter. “Abortion is a lot more of a sensitive subject, even though it’s not Planned Parenthood’s main focus,” he said. But he said he would follow through on the donations to the organization, nonetheless.

It didn’t end there. Nelson then deleted his apology. And later Thursday day, after President Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, Nelson responded:

“This is Zoey. She really likes the planet. Would hate to see willful ignorance and the denial of fairly elemental science destroy it. 13/10.”

One user replied: “You really can’t avoid the political commentary, can you? Stick to just commenting . . . on dogs.” Nelson responded: “Stick to f—ing off.” And from there, as the kids say, it was lit.

Long before puppies were weaponized, Sonny Bunch identified the encroachment of politics on everyday life. “What’s the politicized life? It’s the growing, pernicious trend in American society where politics are injected into every moment of one’s existence,” he wrote. The use of “life” here implies individual choice—that a person decides to base his value system or moral code on American politics. But in the examples Sonny has cited over the years, the politicized life seems to have manifested less as action than reaction. You voted for Trump? I’m no longer your friend. You, businessman: You’re against gay marriage? I’m no longer your customer.

But Nelson and We Rate Dogs are different. Rather than reacting to the culture, Nelson injected something into it. We’re used to that sort of thing from Hollywood, or academia. But no one expected it from We Rate Dogs. Last November, the account was innocent fun, and Nelson explained that “I don’t think of myself as being the one with 400,000 followers. The thing I created has that audience.” The following May, that thing he created inexplicably developed a political sensibility identical to his own.

Sure, it’s Nelson’s decision. And sure, it’s just a Twitter account about adorable dogs. But it’s also one more example of how the walls are closing on people looking for an escape from the politicized life. Hollywood is politicized, and sports is politicized, and consumer brands are politicized, and damn dog photos are politicized—wherever you turn these days there are fewer exits. Is there a visible point at which the politicization of life ends? And if not, what sort of person wants a politicized life? It’s enough to make you want to take Nelson aside and ask him.

“What I’d really like to do is talk to Dana.”

There is no Dana, only covfefe.

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard


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