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You Don’t Gotta Hand It To George Santos

Please stop giving this man money

U.S. House Office of Photography

Last week, in a move disapproved of by no serious person, the United States House of Representatives expelled pathologically lying clown man George Santos, who differentiated himself by demonstrating a willingness to lie one or two percent more brazenly than others in Congress. Now he is running amok online, not the worst possible outcome for us all – that would be him remaining in office – but not a good one.

In the time since his expulsion on Friday, Santos has wasted no time in agreeing to do a “pay per view” interview with a famous comedian and setting up shop on Cameo, a site that allows people to purchase personalized videos from celebrities. He has also expressed interest in appearing on Dancing With The Stars

“Live life, laugh, and let the haters hate because they’re always gonna hate,” he said in one of the first videos for his expensive Cameo, which is evidently already popular. "They can boot me out of Congress, but they can't take away my good humor or my larger-than-life personality," he said in another. Santos is the exact sort of cloying con man the modern internet was made for, and he knows it. Even as he faces, according to The New York Times, "23 felony charges, ranging from identity theft to wire fraud, and up to 22 years in federal prison," he is clearly thrilled at the prospect of a third act, yet again in the public eye.

Santos is a perfect villain: Disliked by many on both sides of the political divide, but also practically more meme than man, with a rap sheet of tales so tall that they don’t scrape the sky so much as they pierce right through it. They are, in that sense, like the Twin Towers, which Santos falsely and needlessly said “claimed my mother’s life” despite the fact that she was not in the country when 9/11 took place. There is also an appealing level of buffoonery to his actions: His deceptions seem so outlandish and uncalled for as to land like punchlines. I mean, we’re talking about someone who allegedly laundered tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds so that he could buy designer clothing and subscribe to creators on OnlyFans

His response to being caught, like so many before him, has largely been to double down. But, slight difference: He's been sassy about it, whether that's meant throwing down with drag performer Trixie Mattel in a way that demonstrated actual Drag Race cultural fluency or saying it "wasn't very Mormon" of Mitt Romney to tell him that he didn't belong at the 2023 State of the Union address. All the lies have made Santos easy to hate in an internet-friendly performative way, but his delivery of them has turned him into a sort of hero among the cynical and the irony poisoned. Yeah, he lied while holding office, but at least he did it in a fun way. In that sense, he's like a gay Donald Trump.

“My all time fave George Santos quote was ‘Sue me for having a life,’” reads one viral tweet, referencing a response Santos gave reporters who asked him if he ever worked as a drag queen in Brazil. “Like LMFAOOO he knew he ate that.”

Comments on TikToks of his greatest hits, some of which have hundreds of thousands of likes, take on a similar tone.

"Is it bad I'm gonna miss him?" reads one comment. "Want him on [YouTuber] Trisha [Paytas]' podcast."

“He is going to write a book and be financially set for life,” reads another. “He won the game!”

This you’ve-gotta-hand-it-to-him-style tone has carried over to the reaction to Santos’ Cameo account, as well.

“We live in the dumbest timeline, so it’s best just to embrace it,” tweeted YouTuber Philip DeFranco alongside a Cameo video he presumably paid for in which Santos references the recent (and incredibly dumb) Pokimane cookie controversy.

But all of this makes light of what Santos is: a grifter with fascistic leanings. In October, shortly after Hamas’ attack on Israel, Santos said in a Twitter Spaces conversation that Palestine sympathizers in the United States should be investigated. “I think every inch of this country at this point should be mapped out again and completely checked,” he said. “I don’t care if we go into a police state for a couple of months.” His biggest contribution to his now-former workplace, meanwhile, was the proposed Medical Information Nuanced Accountability Judgment Act, which would have stopped the federal government from imposing mandates on relatively new vaccines despite the rigorous testing requirements already in place. It was a clear play for approval from anti-vaxxers, one that – had it been successful – would’ve left the country profoundly unable to cope in the event of another covid-like pandemic. The act’s name, by the way, spells out MINAJ, almost certainly a reference to Nicki Minaj’s debunked tweet about a friend of a family member’s testicles swelling up after receiving the vaccine.

If we’re talking about the United States government, Santos is a symptom more than a cause. Speaking broadly, he fit right in with an increasingly radicalized Republican party that complacent Democrats seem uninterested in reeling in. But he’s running an obvious playbook here, one nobody needs to play into: Flunk out of politics and court the cancel culture crowd. Except, by transforming himself into a meme, he’s also – perhaps even primarily – targeting a less niche audience: terminally online but otherwise normal people. We point and laugh at him, he makes money and gains additional opportunities. And all he had to do was be as over the top as possible while running for/holding public office and committing what seem like very real crimes.

At the very least, it seems like the shamelessness of Santos' swan dive into the waters of content creation might be shaking some people awake from his spell.

"Whispering quietly so as not to be a wet blanket," Dave Jorgensen, aka The Washington Post TikTok guy, wrote on Twitter, "I think we have officially taken the George Santos thing too far and may be unintentionally minimizing the actual harm of his actions." 

Comments on an Instagram post by Ziwe – the aforementioned comedian who seeks to interview Santos – reflect a similar wariness (though others are more positive, and the post itself has proven exceedingly popular, garnering nearly 100,000 likes). 

“Only [do the interview] if you really call him out and he answers,” reads one comment. “If he gets to just sit there and be silly and not held accountable, I think it’s a gross idea to give him your platform and I wouldn’t watch.”

“If he makes zero dollars,” reads another.

The solution to this problem – at least, outside of a radical restructuring of the online platform ecosystem, as well as American politics – is simple: Ignore this man! Do not give him hundreds of dollars for a stupid video! Expelled from office, he is now a nobody, lacking even a pinky’s grip on the levers of power, and therefore deserves none of your attention. The next time another disgraced politician tries to pull the same stunt, ignore them too! The internet already has enough shameless grifters. It doesn’t need more.  

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