These Assassin Memes Are Chilling

December 22nd 2016

Lucy Tiven

Soon after an off-duty police officer killed Russian diplomat Andrey Karlov, memes of the assassin spread on social media.

Assailant Mevlut Mert Altintas shot Karlov at an Ankara art exhibition on Monday.

“Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” Altintas yelled standing over Karlov's body.

Altintas was killed by Turkish security officers. Karlov, Russia's ambassador to Turkey, was taken to a nearby hospital where he died. The moment was captured by several photojournalists who attended the event, Time reported.

Here are some of the memes that have been created about the assassin:

Many of the memes were first shared on Reddit and 4chan, according to Know Your Meme.

steal his look meme

tarentino meme

Why people make memes about tragic events.

As Mark Twain put in, "humor is tragedy plus time." The questions psychologists wrestle with are not if but when devastating events become comedic, and why some people make jokes when others are still grieving, as Psychology Today explains.

A paper published by the University of Colorado at Boulder's humor lab theorizes that time and distance both shape how long this process takes. "Because distance reduces threat, tragedies fail to be funny when one is too close for comfort," they write. Small mishaps, on the other hand, are less funny when they do not hit close to home.

Social media has certainly sped up this incubation period. Penn State Hazleton professor of English and American Studies Bill Ellis charted 9/11 jokes after the 2001 terror attacks in a 2002 paper. It took about a week for dark humor to kick in en masse online, Ellis found.

The internet has transformed radically since 2001 and meme culture has become a way to find levity in nihilism, addiction, self-deprecation, and absurdity. For participants — people who make, "like," and share these sorts of memes — the time gap appears to have shifted up. Of course, plenty of people would say it's too soon after the assassination for gallows humor to kick in, and those actually impacted by it would also likely not find the memes a laughing matter.

These viral images of and about the assailant also shed light on a larger phenomenon, which predates memes and the internet itself: People have been fascinated with assassins and have even valorized them over the course of history.

A statue of Gavrilo Princip — who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, triggering a sequence of events that startled World War I — was unveiled in near the Serbian government headquarters in 2014.

The statue was a gift from the Serb Republic, an autonomous Bosnian region, ABC News Australia reports. Public officials at the Sarajevo ceremony celebrated its debut.


"Princip is portrayed in the history books of the various countries of former Yugoslavia either as a terrorist or as a rebel with a cause – reflecting contemporary divisions in a region still recovering from the more recent conflicts of the 1990s," the Guardian explains.

In the late 1980s, author Don Delillo attempted to delve into the psyche of Lee Harvey Oswald in "Libra," a 480-page fictional novel inspired by the assassination of former president John F. Kennedy.

Delillo's portrayal of Oswald is complicated, but the author is inarguably captivated by his motives and character. "How would I live in America?" Delillo's Oswald asks at one point in the book. "I would have a choice of being a worker in a system I despise or going unemployed.''

"I think I have an idea of what it's like to be an outsider in this society," Delillo told Rolling Stone in a 1991 interview, when asked why he wrote the book from the assassin's perspective. "Oswald was clearly an outsider, although he fought against his exclusion. I had a very haunting sense of what kind of life he led and what kind of person he was."