How A Leftist Meme Account Accidentally Fooled Everyone Into Believing A Famous Quote Came From Final Fantasy
Everyone including Twitch streamers, YouTubers, and Google
1:17 AM EST on November 7, 2023
“If the penalty for a crime is a fine, then that law only exists for the lower class.” For anybody who’s spent more than several seconds in the United States – or any number of other Western nations – it’s a line that resonates on a fundamental, perhaps even existential level. You might wonder where such a potent quote originated. If you ask Google, the answer is PlayStation 1 cult hit Final Fantasy Tactics. Google is wrong.
The line’s supposed origin has, over the years, embedded itself in the fiber of the internet’s tangled algorithmic web. Numerous Reddit and Facebook posts now claim that Final Fantasy Tactics – a once-overlooked but now beloved turn-based spinoff of Square Enix’s RPG series – first dropped that banger back in 1997. Asmongold, one of the most popular streamers on Twitch, has said so while live. Popular YouTube channel Some More News has also parrotted the claim.
In fairness, it’s an easy mistake to make. The quote typically makes the rounds attached to a dialogue bubble from FFT featuring a pixelated image of Wiegraf, one of the game’s most notorious characters, seemingly saying it. But, convincing as the image looks and feels, it’s not from the original game. Instead, it’s the creation of an Instagram and Facebook account called Leftist Gamer Memes, and since its first appearance in 2020, it’s taken on a life of its own.
"I didn't anticipate anything like this,” Leftist Gamer Memes, who opted to keep their real name private, told Aftermath. “I never expected it to get as large as it did. I felt like tons of people had already seen the quote, but I guess I was wrong. And it just really surprised me. It was awesome.”
LGM first created the Wiegraf meme back in 2020 and posted it on a personal account. They hadn’t been in the business of making memes for long; indeed, they’d yet to turn it into any sort of business. But this meme, in particular, found an audience almost immediately. A large Twitter account shared LGM’s image, leading to a deluge of “over 100,000” comments and likes. It was then that LGM decided to start dedicated accounts for their meme making. And thus, Leftist Gamer Memes was born.
It’s not entirely clear where the quote actually originated – variations on the central idea have shown up in places as far flung as economics textbooks and the writings of Plato – which likely contributed to the Wiegraf meme’s spread.
"I don't even remember where I first saw the quote,” LGM said. “It was on Instagram. It might have been on a Sailor Moon meme.”
Before LGM knew it, their image had been shared by numerous accounts across pretty much every popular online platform: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, and so on. In a sense, the meme filled a vacuum: Every time people saw it, they became more certain that the line was born of a pixelated retro game with a surprisingly heady story.
LGM believes, though, that Final Fantasy Tactics’ actual in-game script contributed quite a bit to the meme’s initial pickup. It is, after all, a game about tensions between nobles and commoners erupting into violence, with the main characters abandoning nobility to lead a revolution even as others who came before succumb to the dual pulls of power and corruption. LGM feels that the game’s more political elements are just as relevant today as they were in 1997, if not more so. That in mind, they feel like Wiegraf was the ideal character for the meme: an idealistic commoner who eventually gets driven to the dark side.
"I think people want to believe [the quote comes from FFT] because of the inherent nature of the story and characters in that game,” said LGM. “Wiegraf is essentially somebody that was wrecked by the military industrial complex of that world, of Ivalice. … [Over the course of the game] Wiegraf changes and becomes evil and shitty and fascist. But in chapter one, he's great, and that's what I tried to emulate."
Wiegraf, LGM added, is also a character present for some of FFT’s biggest difficulty spikes, so he leaves a lasting impression in more ways than one. If you’ve played the game at all, it’s hard to shake the memory of his face.
But despite the timeless quality of FFT’s political themes, the social and cultural climate of our current era is in other ways very different from the time period in which the game came out. The internet now binds us all, yet it often feels less like an institution and more like a lawless land loosely governed by roving fandoms, each more vicious than the last. Many across various social platforms choose to armor themselves with the media they consume, to suggest that it’s a representation of their values – or even in some cases that consuming said media is a means of enacting their values. Is it possible, then, that some people are retroactively applying that mindset to FFT, a game with interesting themes, but probably not one supported by leftist principles? That perhaps they want to believe they once played a game packed with subtext that matches their current values, which in turn makes LGM’s meme all the more appealing?
LGM thinks it's possible, but in their eyes certain elements of the Final Fantasy series seem to have taken on consistent significance among diverse groups of fans. For example, Final Fantasy VII’s Barrett, an eco-terrorist at that game’s outset, has become synonymous with pro-environmental messages online. FFT’s Wiegraf, meanwhile, is an anti-capitalist.
"There's a tag page somebody created on Facebook recently because of my meme,” said LGM, “and the tag page is [called], 'Wiegraf would have said that, but he didn't.'"
Additionally, LGM has created countless other memes based on games of all types and stripes since 2020, but they can’t think of a single other that’s fooled people like good ol’ Wiegraf. FFT – or at least this one meme based on it – just hits different.
"I really think Final Fantasy Tactics just has this, like, spice to it [such] that people will either really want it to be from the game or they just fool themselves, you know?" said LGM.
LGM also feels like FFT really did help shape their beliefs and values over the years, even if they didn’t realize exactly which path they were headed down initially.
“I think the game helped to shape a lot of my early childhood views,” they said. “But [it wasn't until] the last five years that I realized, 'Hey, this is communism.' It might have been because of propaganda and Red Scare bullshit, but I'm really glad I ended up becoming this way because of the game and other influences."
When it comes to other people, LGM isn’t certain how much of an impact their memes are having – especially in light of several platforms’ tendency to send users plunging down pipelines into the depths of far-right extremism – but they rarely feel discouraged.
"Somebody will message me and say, 'This meme is the reason I'm more leftist than I was before,'” LGM said. “That's it: One person could tell me that, and it would be worth it to me. But it's easily [been] over 100 people.”
Final Fantasy Tactics has reshaped far more of LGM’s life than just their beliefs. Four years ago, shortly before they started Leftist Gamer Memes, they developed a severe panic disorder and functionally became homebound. While contending with a debilitating stomach illness on top of that, they lost their job. Thanks in large part to the Wiegraf meme, they were able to launch a Leftist Gamer Memes Patreon that – while modest compared to some of the multi-hundred-thousand dollar behemoths on the platform – goes a long way toward paying the bills.
"It's part of the reason I'm still alive now,” LGM said. “I'm still unemployed. I still have a panic disorder. But the $500-something a month keeps me fed."
Running the Leftist Gamer Memes account also helped LGM discover their passion for sprite art, which they hope one day will culminate in a more overtly leftist Final Fantasy Tactics-inspired game of their own. They say that “over 30” people have contributed to it in various capacities and that – should it ever wind up on Steam or some other storefront – they intend to compensate everybody who’s even briefly lent a helping hand the same amount as they’ll pay themselves. It doesn't currently have a release date, but LGM is willing to work at it for however long it’ll take.
"When I was a kid, if I had told myself what the rest of my life would be like, my kid self would have been like, 'Oh man, that sucks,'” said LGM. “But then I tell myself I'm making this game, and [my kid self] would be like, 'OK, fine, I will live this life to get to the point where I'm doing this.' Because it's just really cool to dream."
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