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During the third and the last U.S. presidential debate on October 23rd, 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized President Barack Obama’s plan to reduce the size of the naval forces by asserting that there are less military ships than there were at the beginning of the World War I in 1917.
Mitt Romney: “Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now at under 285. … We’re headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That’s unacceptable to me.”
President Obama rebutted Romney’s criticism by arguing that the quantity of naval firepower came second to their strategic roles and capabilities in the context of technologically advanced and modern military.
Barack Obama: “You mention the Navy, for example, and the fact that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. We have these things called aircraft carriers and planes land on them. We have ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. It’s not a game of Battleship where we’re counting ships, it’s ‘What are our priorities?’”
Within minutes of the candidates’ exchange on the U.S. Navy’s downsizing plans, Twitter became inundated with photoshopped images and the hashtag #horsesandbayonets, which swiftly took over the top trending topics in the United States and worldwide. At 9:45 p.m. (ET), former Democrat presidential candidate and senator John Kerry tweeted about Obama’s rebuttal, which was retweeted more than 5,550 times in less than 24 hours.
I think POTUS just sank Romney’s battleship
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) October 23, 2012
In keeping up with the recent trend, several parody accounts also emerged on the microblogging service, including @HorsesBayonets and @HorsesBayonette, which was originally introduced as @RomneyBinders during the second presidential debate on October 16th. By midnight, @HorsesBayonette had gained more than 34,200 followers.
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By the end of the debate, “horses and bayonets” had vaulted to the top of Google’s trending search terms, surpassing other debate-related keywords like “Syria,” “Mali” and “Drones.” According to Twitter’s election coverage team (@Twitter Government), President Obama’s witty remark became the most-tweeted moment of the evening, peaking at 105,767 mentions per minute on Twitter.
Meanwhile on Tumblr, the single topic blog Horses Bayonets and Horses and Bayonets were launched to curate some of the best photoshopped instances, image macros and other jokes from all over the web. On Facebook, dozens of similar fan pages dedicated to “Horses and Bayonets” were created.
Jokes and Parody Sites
- Tumblr – Horses and Bayonets
- Tumblr – Horses and Bayonet Single Topic Blog
- Twitter – Obama’s Bayonets
- Twitter – Horses and Bayonett
- Twitter – @JohnKerry’s Tweet
- Twitter – @TwitterGovernment’s Tweet
- Facebook – All Results for Horses and Bayonets
News Media Coverage
- The Atlantic Wire – ‘Horses and Bayonets’ Goes from Obama’s Mouth to Parody Tumblr in 9 Minutes
- Politico – Top debate Google searches: ‘Horses and bayonets,’ ‘tumult’
- Associated Press – Social nets grab ‘horses and bayonets’ debate line
- Washington Post – Romney saddled with ‘Horses and Bayonets’ meme
- Wall Street Journal – #horsesandbayonets Gallops Across the Internet
- Slate – The debate’s biggest loser: Memes