Hillary Clinton is prompting media organizations to explain a popular online rebuke after the presumptive Democratic nominee’s social-media team deployed it on Twitter addict Donald Trump when the likely Republican nominee criticized President Obama‘s endorsement of Clinton to succeed him.
Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama—but nobody else does!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2016
Delete your account. https://t.co/Oa92sncRQY
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 9, 2016
Because candidates’ tweets—especially Trump’s—are considered news events in and of themselves, many media organizations covering the presidential election elected to explain to their readers that in addition to being words of advice, “delete your account” is a common joke used by people to admonish their friends’ less-inspired tweets. To wit, this example from February between the Huffington Post’s Nick Baumann and the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs:
@NickBaumann delete your account and may God have mercy on your soul
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) February 24, 2016
Although millennial reporters throw around the phrase with ease and know to ignore the suggestion—both Baumann and Jacobs continue to tweet—not every news outlet is familiar with it as a shorthand. In the wake of Clinton’s tweet, many are attempting some linguistic acrobatics to get across the point Clinton’s team was trying to make with “delete your account.” Here are the eight best:
1. NBC News
The broadcast network’s online side explains it succinctly, pointing out that “delete your account” is almost never a serious demand:
Clinton’s team swiftly tweeted back to Trump “Delete your account,” a frequently-used sarcastic retort on the social media platform.
2. Oregon Live
Lizzy Acker also gives a brief explanation of Clinton’s tweet, but also pivots to wonder if it isn’t a ploy to get younger voters—many of whom have flocked to Senator Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary season (and helped him to a 56 percent majority in Oregon)—to her side in the race against Trump:
“Delete your account” is a fairly recent internet meme, used as a response to politicians and anyone else really who tweets something regrettable.
Clinton’s meme game, or more likely the meme game of her social media team, is pretty solid. They’ve even been known to respond to people with actually Hillary Clinton memes.
In this case, it’s hard to say if Twitter loves Clinton’s embrace of their culture or views it as pandering to millennials.
The magazine quotes the tweets, and adds a bit of contextualization for when “delete your account” is most appropriate:
Trump’s tweet read, “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama—but nobody else does!.” Clinton’s account responded by quoting Trump’s tweet and adding the caption, “Delete your account,” a phrase made popular in the Twitterverse to call out people who are offering unsolicited hot takes, being irrelevant, or just plain being rude.
4. The Verge
One would think the tech-focused website like the Verge would toss off a major-party candidate’s use of an internet meme like it was nothing. Not quite. The Verge, perhaps fulfilling its editorial ambit, is quick to point out the relative datedness:
Days after becoming the Democratic presumptive nominee for president, Hillary Rodham Clinton rocked the internet by deploying an old, but hardly stale meme. In response to Donald Trump’s tweet, “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama — but nobody else does!” Clinton replied, “Delete your account.”
Surely Mic—the news site so tilted toward millennial stereotypes that a New York Times story about its office culture is one of the great hate-reads of 2016—would just embed Clinton’s tweet and be like, “Awesome.” Nope. Mic had to give it a bit of a preface, too:
You knew this was coming. Here’s how extensively “delete your account” got Voxsplained:
“Delete your account” is a pretty standard joke tweet, especially in political and media Twitter (which both the people writing “Hillary Clinton”‘s tweets, and the people reading them in the middle of a Thursday afternoon, are likely to be familiar with). But this is a well-executed iteration of it.
You don’t tweet “delete your account” in response to an outrageous or offensive tweet, because it’s not a serious demand. So many of the things that Trump tweets (or retweets) wouldn’t be appropriate targets. Rather, “delete your account” is used when someone has tried to be funny on Twitter — for example, by attempting to land a sick burn — and failed.
The other reason this is funny, of course, is that it might actually be a good idea for Donald Trump to delete his Twitter account.
Bordering on self-loathing, Dan Victor acknowledges that, as the nation’s paper-of-record, the Times has to explain what “delete your account” means:
Look, we don’t want to write about every presidential campaign tweet that teeters on the brink of the absurd and holds the fun-house mirror to each and every American to reveal the political Frankentheater that the entire electorate has collaborated to create, whether actively or by submission.
I can’t paste the entirety of the Times‘s article, which reads like an editor threatened Victor when he tried to get out of writing an article about a campaign’s tweet, but here is his exquisitely Timesian explanation of the Clinton tweet:
It translates roughly as “Your tweet or opinion is so bad that you should be immediately disqualified from further participation on the platform.”
Philip Bump also explains the meaning of “delete your account,” but frames it as the death of a youthful pleasure when someone from an older generation uses it to great effect:
When an uncool person manages to do something that is, in context, cool, it is no longer cool. (Please note: I am making no claim to being cool here and I amcertainly not suggesting that tweeting is cool.) That’s how it works. In cybersecurity, there’s something called a zero-day exploit, a security exploit that’s never been used. Once it’s used, it’s ruined, because the target becomes aware of the problem and then moves to fix it. Twitter jokes are like zero-day exploits for brands. Once you use them effectively, they’re ruined for everyone forever.
To borrow a meme buried in the last election year, assume joke dead.