On 31 October, I received an emoji-filled text that screamed: “THOT-O-WEEN is upon us.” While taking a break from Turkey Day baking last week, I got another wishing me a “HAPPY SPANXGIVING”. Such is the horny holiday copypasta text.
It’s practically a Gen Z and millennial tradition. These texts resemble the chain emails that were popular at the dawn of the digital inbox: send this generic spooky story to 15 people, or you’ll be dead by midnight. But they’ve been revamped for our chaotic times, filled with horny emojis, sexual innuendos, and lots of curse words.
It was one of these deranged texts, not an Apple News alert or New York Times tweet, that broke the news of Henry Kissinger’s death to me on Wednesday night. Editorial propriety prohibits me from posting the full message, as it is remarkably explicit. But to summarize the text, it lists the former US secretary of state’s many alleged war crimes – the product of his time with the Nixon and Ford administrations – alongside penis jokes and dirty wordplays. Its tone is gleefully disrespectful, and it asks recipients to pass the copypasta along to friends.
I wasn’t alone in this discovery. Multiple friends told me they’d learned of Kissinger’s death through the bawdy message. On social media, others said the same. “I cannot believe this is how I found out,” tweeted the writer Maya Kosoff. “This is also how I found out,” Anna Merlan, a Vice writer, responded.
After some light digging, I found the Chicago woman who wrote the copypasta. She did not want her name printed, as she worried that being the author of a text celebrating the death of a powerful public figure might affect her job prospects. But she goes by @giltcomplex on X, and she has written horny copypastas for past holidays.
“I do these as a hobby, mostly to send to friends to be obnoxious and goofy,” she told me over the phone. @giltcomplex crafted the Kissinger copypasta five years ago, when Kissinger was 95. “I did not think it would take this long to send,” she added.
On X, some users have spent years waiting for Kissinger’s death. As the writer Miles Klee predicted in a 2019 article for Mel Magazine: “The newspaper obituaries will show some restraint, and the rest of us will rejoice, our happiness barely dented by how overdue the finale was.”
This nose-thumbing goes against pundits’ tendency to demand decorum after the death of a public figure, no matter how controversial his legacy or reviled his accomplishments. “Do not speak ill of the dead” is traditional media etiquette. In recent years, obituaries glossed over the misdeeds of people like Hugh Hefner (accused rapist and Cosby co-conspirator), Karl Lagerfeld (fatphobic, misogynistic, anti-immigrant), and Rush Limbaugh (Rush Limbaugh).
That’s partly why @giltcomplex wrote the copypasta. “So often when someone really disgusting dies, you immediately see people falling over themselves to write a really mealy-mouthed obituary,” she said. “I hate that we let people get old and bumbling and then no longer hold them accountable for terrible things. I’m going to do what I can to at least keep this man’s legacy from being a master politician.”
It is not subjective to say that Kissinger’s foreign policy led to millions of deaths, or that Limbaugh regularly distorted facts to rile up his fans. Reporting on someone’s life, even soon after their death, may bring up odious facts – and an obituary is not PR. That’s not to say the copypasta will win a Pulitzer, but it does stand in contrast to the establishment’s perceived respect for a man whose infamy, as Rolling Stone’s Spencer Ackerman put it, “sits eternally beside that of history’s worst mass murderers”.
Some might say that the Kissinger text, as absurdly juvenile as it is, will sow division. But I see it uniting people. In fact, I felt compelled to send it to a friend I had a falling out with months ago. She used to be my designated holiday copypasta sender, and I’ve missed her presence in my texts. Almost instantly she responded: “YOU BROKE THE NEWS, THANKS BABY.” We made up, sent kissing emojis. Such is the power of the Kissinger copypasta.