That viral video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing is a meta-meme

As a long-time follower of Lawrence Lessig I recognized the @AOC video instantly. This Wired article provides the best context I’ve seen so far.

THURSDAY MARKED ONE of the most important days in congressional history for diversity. A record 102 women took office, 35 whom were newly-elected. They include Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim women to serve in the House of Representatives, and Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, the first Native American women. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now the youngest congresswoman in history, also took the oath of office. The night before her swearing-in, a nearly decade-old clip of the 29-year-old began to resurface online, where she and other students dance to Phoenix’s then-hit song “Lisztomania.” It was uploaded to YouTube the year before she graduated from Boston University in 2011.

There’s nothing remotely scandalous about the video, but that hasn’t stopped right-wing Twitter users from attempting to weaponize it against Ocasio-Cortez, who is a Democratic Socialist. The New York representative is likely used to these types of attacks. Since winning her election in November, Ocasio-Cortez has been criticized for the clothes she wears, her bank balance, her modest childhood home, and now, apparently, for dancing in college.

But the reason Ocasio-Cortez’ detractors were able to find the video on the internet in the first place is far more interesting than their criticism. The story demonstrates how copyright law is often used to squash free expression on the internet—and sometimes even potentially erase a video featuring a future member of Congress.

The Ocasio-Cortez “Lisztomania” video was inspired by a separate YouTube clip uploaded in March 2009 by a woman named Sarah Newhouse (it has since been deleted; more on that later). Newhouse mixed the song with parts of iconic dancing scenes from 1980s “Brat Pack” movies like The Breakfast Club, which originally featured Karla DeVito’s “We Are Not Alone,” and Pretty in Pink starring Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer.


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