On September 16, 2011, Darden Restaurants, the owner of midrange chain restaurants The Olive Garden and Red Lobster, announced some minor changes to their menu. If you have read that sentence and thought "So what?" you obviously have never used the internet.
As a small piece of backstory on this, it should be noted that the President's wife, Michelle Obama, has chosen childhood obesity to be her chosen cause, which has been a tradition for the first lady over the past few decades. When Darden Restaurants announced their menu changes, they mentioned Michelle Obama's anti-childhood obesity campaign as one of the inspirations behind the changes. The changes were rather minor, for example, one of them was changing the default side dish on children's items from a plate of french fries to a plate of fresh fruit.
Luckily, unlike in past times, when our media was controlled by evil institutions that filtered for such things as relevance, the vox populi can now respond in its full-throated, enthusiastic glory. And this is soon what happened, as conservative populists soon descended on Facebook to let their opinions be heard. Because apparently, this was an example of the nanny state strong-arming free enterprise. Further details of the conspiracy emerged: apparently Darden had been given a waiver from having to follow the provisions of Obama's healthcare act. Although now all the horse-trading, waffling and compromise that went into that act makes sense, because it was really just formulated so that Obama could then use its provisions to extort suburban eateries into making minor changes to their menus.
Of course, I don't know how many people actually believed that, because soon after the comments decrying the sinister Obama-Olive Garden axis in earnest were soon superseded by people seeing how far they could spin the conspiracy theories and see if people would still take them seriously. In other words, trollery. And of course, there could be only one group of people on the internet that could be in the vanguard of such a brilliant piece of internet meta-humor: noders. Most of the greatest comments were posted by members or former members of this site, with varying degrees of believability. I myself seemed to be taken as an actual libertarian warrior, until I was banned. So yes, that is something to put on my resume: I was banned from Olive Garden's Facebook wall for my claims that "Barry Soetero wants to raise you on a diet of tofu so that the phytoestrogens will ruin your rugged individualism". Although the entire event was well on its way to achieving meme status, quick action on part of The Olive Garden's presumably very bewildered PR staff damped down both the frothing-at-the-mouth types and those mocking them killed the true fun before it could begin.
To switch gears, slightly, Soren Kierkegaard famously made the prediction, right before the European Revolutions of 1848, that a revolution was unthinkable. Kierkegaard believed that an air of insistent irony had taken away people's desires for real change. At the time that I participated in the Battle of Olive Garden's Facebook Wall, it was not so much the political aspects of it, as the sheer ridiculousness of the claims that having to ask for a plate of french fries at The Olive Garden was a startling violation of the 9th or 10th Amendments. But much like Kierkegaard, I was ignorant of the course of history, because the next day saw the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which rather than just ironically dismissing the overly bold claims of conservative populists, started a movement that would not just disprove claims, but make some of its own. In other words, a positive movement, rather than the negativity that I thought was our only recourse.
But the seemingly small events of September 16th might be more relevant to political change in this country than they seem. One of the great failings of the movement that I call "conservative populism" and some call "The Tea Party" is not in its conservatism, but rather in its liberalism. Culturally, it is part of Baby Boomer Politics, with its strong belief that personal autonomy is the most important thing, and that all institutions are part of an evil conspiracy to crush the individual. Some of the greatest spread of the ideas of Occupy Wall Street came when it chose to look at itself ironically, but as the movement becomes more confrontational, it might also fall more and more into the typical mindset of Baby Boomer Politics: a long screed against "those in power" that is just as ridiculous as a picture of an eagle crying over a plate of french fries.