Of all the important conflicts that have happened in the internet age, none have affected American culture and its memes like the events of the early noughties. Catchphrases like 'Bush Did 9/11' or 'Jet Fuel Can't Melt Steel Beams' were at one point an essential part of the repertoire for many controversy-courting shitposters. In recent years, these touchstones have been abandoned for newer, edgier material, but a new format has once again brought this seismic time back into focus. Fifteen years after his death, Saddam Hussein has become a meme.
Although it may focus on the former Iraqi president, the format is much more about the concept than the man. It is based on a diagram from a BBC News article about his capture, which described the details of his underground hiding place and depicted him as a plain, horizontal, bright red figure. Taken out of context, it is slightly absurd and humorous in a one off, Science diagrams that look like shitposts kind of way. However, it's important to take into account that the journey from factual diagram to chaotic meme can be an unlikely slippery slope. All it takes is one industrious memer to pluck something from obscurity, and suddenly the image is everywhere. It's hard to say what might have started the trend, but it may have been encouraged by the recent death of Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time of the Iraq War.
The meme itself, though, could not be further removed from the politics of the conflict that led to Hussein's infamous hiding place. Instead, it's more concerned with the elaborate depiction of the hole and Hussein's strange silhouette that somehow lend themselves perfectly to the kind of brain melting remixing that makes for an unexplainable meme phenomenon. With its multiple outlandish components, the picture lends itself to the kind of endless variation that makes for an unstoppable format. It's not political commentary that makes this funny, it's that the little red meme man keeps lying down in places he shouldn't be.