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Alas, the Internet’s Best Kissinger Meme Is Now Dead

I'm told it was the best.

CHINA - NOVEMBER 8:  Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) meets former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Great Hall of the People, November 8, 2018 in Beijing, China.

Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and “notorious war criminal” per his Rolling Stone obituary, passed away on Nov. 29, 2023. Kissinger enacted a series of foreign policies that devastated Argentina, Chile, and Cambodia, making him an “unusually plainspoken representative of a monstrous system of U.S. global hegemony,” as Jacobin wrote. For many, Kissinger is not a man to be mourned, but the ultimate representative of U.S. imperialism.

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His death also, for years, seemed an impossibility.

‘Is Henry Kissinger even in this thing,’ explained

Since at least late 2022, the “Death at the Claw Machine” meme consistently took over my Twitter (sorry, X) timeline with every single celebrity’s passing. It felt like Kissinger was destined to outlive every single human being.

“Jerry Springer?!” one meme quipped. “Is Henry Kissinger even in this thing?”

Other iterations included Pat Robertson, Jimmy Buffett, Queen Elizabeth, Angela Lansbury, and Unabomber Ted K.

"Is Henry Kissinger even in this thing?" meme

The meme originated from a dark humor art piece by Nacho Diaz, where the Grim Reaper pulls a person out of a claw game, according to Know Your Meme. Original iterations joked about the Grim Reaper snatching public figures like Pope Benedict or John McCain, but around a year ago, the most popular iteration of the edit emerged: Where the hell was Henry Kissinger? Would Death ever grab him out of the damn game?

Of course, all good things must come to an end. Death finally pulled a 100-year-old Kissinger out of the claw machine on Wednesday, which means, yes, Kissinger was in the game the entire time. He may be a war criminal, but he’s not immortal. “Henry Kissinger!!!” one iteration shared by Alejandra Caraballo said. “Fucking finally!”

People are also already moving on to the terrible old men they hope are next:

Twitter user @DoodlestheGreat posted a send-up to the meme with an edit of another Death exploitable. This time, Death from the claw machine met Death from the “Death and the Dog” meme, which originally featured the Grim Reaper praising a dead dog as the “best” boy.

Instead, the “Death at the Claw Machine” Grim Reaper asks the other Death, “Was I a Good Meme?”, and his counterpart replies, “No. I’m told you were the best.”

How sweet. In the meantime, pour one out for a legend. No, not Kissinger—but rather, the meme that lambasted the fact he outlived so many other politicians and celebrities. Or as Jacobin’s own book on Kissinger quips, The Good Die Young.

(Feature image: Thomas Peter, Pool/Getty Images)

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Ana Valens
Ana Valens (she/her) is a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship, and sex workers' rights. Her book "Tumblr Porn" details the rise and fall of Tumblr's LGBTQ-friendly 18+ world, and has been hailed by Autostraddle as "a special little love letter" to queer Tumblr's early history. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her ever-growing tarot collection.

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