If you've looked at Hillary Clinton's Instagram account lately, you might have noticed that the comment section is full of people mourning her death, posting "RIP Hillary." They're also writing "spicy boi."
So, let's handle the first one: Hillary Clinton is alive and well.
Explaining "spicy boi" is a little more complicated.
According to Knowyourmeme.com, the closest thing out there to an authoritative source on real-time meme history, "spicy boi" became a phenomenon when a Change.org petition posted in late June demanded that fire ants be renamed "spicy boys." The petition, which is addressed to Michelle and Barack Obama, as well as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, currently has more than 50,000 signatures.
"It's 2016, there are 36 genders …" the petition says. "why arent we calling fire ants 'spicy boys.'"
Because most of the people signing the petition are anonymous, it's hard to judge what's driving this. But the petition appeared to resonate strongly with the "alt-right," an amorphous online movement composed largely of young, conservative white males. The "spicy boys" label serves as a sarcastic dig at what the alt-right apparently sees as out-of-control political correctness.
The alt-right counts among its stars Milo Yiannopolous, who was recently banned from Twitter for participating in a campaign of abuse against the African American actress Leslie Jones. Several critics, including more traditional conservatives, have labeled the alt-right movement sexist, racist, or both.
Many of the "spicy boys" comments on Clinton's Instagram account refer to racist memes. Other commenters seem to be making sarcastic fun of transgender people:
"as a personally identifying spicy boy myself i think it is HIGH TIDE the media stop misgendering us as 'Formicidae' and start giving us spicies the respect we DESERVE thank u"
Still other comments claim that the term "spicy boys" is more "religiously acceptable" or "politically correct" than "fire ants" – mirroring the kind of lampooning often seen in comment sections of articles about racism or discrimination.
The bizarre prank jumped the confines of Change.org when an invitation to spam Clinton's Instagram account with "spicy boys" was posted to iFunny.com. Thousands of people appear to have heeded the call, and for the last few days, looking at Clinton's Instagram account has meant wading through hundreds of "SPICY BOI" messages and hot pepper emojis.
Eventually, media outlets began to report on the raid – which is generally the ultimate goal of 4chan-style harrassment. After a few prominent outlets published "spicy boy" stories, people decided to try to force a public reaction from Clinton herself.
"Due to the success with getting on the news with the spicy boy raid we have decided to try again," said a post on iFunny.com Wednesday afternoon.
"This time we will be spamming 'RIP' and 'Rest in peace' in an effort to get Hillary herself to make a public statement proving she isn't dead."
There seems to be a racial tinge to the raid. Some of the comments cite Black Lives Matter, saying that "BLM protesters killed her" or that Clinton was shot at a Black Lives Matter protest.
It's difficult to tell which spammers are just in it for laughs, and which are intentionally racist or sexist. The original call for the raid did not ask for harassment beyond posting "RIP Hillary" – but some seem to be using the opportunity to make disparaging comments.
Those spamming Clinton are not necessarily fans of Donald Trump, though some prominent alt-right supporters of Trump do seem to be embracing the meme. As NYMag notes, popular Twitter personality "Pizza Party Ben," an enthusiastic Trump supporter and associate of Milo Yiannopolous, declared the original "spicy boi" raid the "best meme in history."
Whatever their political leanings, the "spicy boy" spammers seem to be enjoying their 15 minutes of anonymous fame.
Follow me @dexdigi for more on the intersection of culture and the Internet.