"Hot Convict" Jeremy Meeks Was Not Arrested for Sex Slave Trafficking
by Jen Burd
July 3, 2014
On June 18, 2014, the Stockton, California Police Department posted a photo of Jeremy Meeks on Facebook. Meeks is a local convict who was arrested on five weapons charges and one gang-related charge. The photograph attracted over 50,000 likes within a day, inspiring the twitter hashtag #FelonCrushFriday along with a slew of "hot convict" memes. Meeks gained a $30,000 modelling contract and a successful online drive to raise bail money.
Meeks's popularity on social media has inspired a backlash that prolonged Meeks Mania, and one auteur in the art of memes added his own charges to Meeks's rapsheet: trafficking sex slaves and not being Marine Kyle Carpenter.
Meeks has been arrested for grand theft auto, forgery, and resisting arrest, but the sex trafficking claim seems to have appeared out of thin air. Meeks's most recent arrest was for possession of firearms found in his car when police searched the vehicle. Officers pulled Meeks over with two other men during a police sweep to crack down on gang activity, or "street terrorism." Meeks told ABC News that though he's "done some things [he's] not proud of," he hasn't been affiliated with any gang for years.
EliteDaily.com, a cringe-worthy "news" site that thrives on negative attention, churned out an article about Meeks's sex slave trafficking based solely on the meme pictured above. A commenter, noting that the article was one of four about Meeks featured on the site in 24 hours, made a good point: "Don't pretend to take the moral high road and shame others for giving the guy undue attention when you yourselves were feeding the internet multiple articles about him."
Meeks is not the Internet's first hot convict. In April of 2013, Florida woman Maegan McCullough's 2010 mugshot became the basis for a handful of popular 'Attractive Convict' memes.
Meeks is also not the first criminal to inspire a negative meme. Anti-criminal memes have been popping up frequently in recent years. In 2012 and 2013, the Trayvon Martin murder case inspired several popular memes attempting to alert people to "reverse racism hate-crimes" and bemoaning the media for covering them up or underreporting them. Unsurprisingly, the meme's writers were less concerned with accuracy than heart-string tugging.
Memes have surfaced as one of the most powerful new vehicles for spreading false information to a large audience. They are astonishingly difficult to trace to an original source, so no one is accountable for writing them. Readers don't expect citations in the medium closely associated with Grumpy Cat. Better yet, they're short and punchy, and the serious ones provide an easy way to show support for strong feelings without really doing anything.
So calm down, everyone. If you don't think people should be paying attention to a handsome criminal, then stop posting photographs of him. And while you're at it, stop listening to people who fabricate allegations about sex trafficking to get attention on the Internet. If you read it in a meme, it's probably not true.
by Jen Burd
@Skeptoid Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit