Illustration for article titled A Chat With @GatorsDaily, the Only Twitter Account for Anti-Fascist Gator Memes
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It’s fitting that in a Twitter landscape cluttered with accounts like @RatsEveryHour and @PossumsEveryHour that a natural predator would emerge. @GatorsDaily, run by 22-year-old Seth Kaplan, began as a joke. But in recent weeks, it’s become a hub of anti-fascist gator memes, inspired by alligators’ appetite for feral hogs. Or maybe everyone is just bored, and anxious, and looking to ancient dinosaurs for a bit of escapism. Kaplan isn’t sure, and neither am I.

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Alligators, in their evolutionary displacement and association with Florida, capture the absurdity of this particular moment in history. These fossils casually stroll into Walmart while elsewhere, deflated alligator pool toys are weaponized as anti-fascist symbols worldwide. Perhaps it also explains the alligators seen on protest signs in Los Angeles and New York, among other places. Or why Kaplan, though @GatorsDaily, has been able to raise $7,500 for Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block with “I BITE COPS” patches and stickers.

I checked in with Kaplan, to chat gators, feral hogs, and anti-fascist symbology, among other things. Our interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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JEZEBEL: OK, I have to ask this for my Jezebel’s resident Floridian, Stassa Edwards: Are you from Florida?

KAPLAN: No, it’s funny. I actually live in Massachusetts. I have always lived in Massachusetts.

I guess pretending to be a “Florida Man” is extremely “Florida Man.”

Honestly, I’ve only ever seen one alligator in the wild, which is when I was on tour with a band. We played a show in Louisiana, and I saw an alligator off the highway, just hanging out.

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So... why gators?

Gators have always been my favorite animal, and I was drunk enough at a party—I think it was Halloween—and told one of my friends that there was a niche that needed to be filled. We have Possums Every Hour, Rats Every Hour, what about... Gators Daily? I’ve just been posting about gators ever since. It started taking off in March, and it’s just been exponential since then. I wish I could explain it.

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It’s interesting that you mention March because that’s really when people realized that the pandemic wasn’t just going to go away and this would be our life for the foreseeable future. Do you think people were just on their phones more? Was the way you expressed yourself through the account influenced by the shutdown? 

I definitely try and tailor my posts to be somewhat topical, and pertaining to current events. But also, I think the internet, especially lately, has just been fueled by a lot of anxiety and stress about the world. I was feeling helpless, and really bad, and having an account that is 99.9 percent gators—some people seem to be attached to that. I get so many messages that are like, “This is one of the only things helping me get through it.” I definitely can see it being tied to the world ending, and people looking for something to get through it.

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When people reach out to you and are like, “This is getting me through the end of the world,” does it give you anxiety or make you feel better?

Definitely both. It’s weird to like, “feel pressure,” like: “Oh no, my silly gator meme Twitter is giving me anxiety because people expect something from it.” But overall, it does make me feel better.

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The gators have a personality—you’ve imbued them with emotions and politics. What inspired that?

They’ve just been like, rocks? You know? Like, evolutionarily rocks, in how they’ve evolved. Gators have always been there, don’t usually bother people that much. They’re an enigma to people who don’t live in Florida, or encounter gators that often. Giving them this weird, hip 20-year old personality is funny! Like, even things like: “He’s going to Walmart!” It’s funny to imagine a gator walking into a Walmart, or a gator knocking a cop out.

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It is comical to think that these unchanging fossils that are hundreds of millions of years old are just, chilling and walking around and living with us! How did these feelings about gators influence your recent stickers and patches?

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The goal in my mind was to do what I could to make a difference. I had a follower reach out to me, or tag me in one of his posts. He makes stuff, and I was like we should try and do a collaboration! And he said we should do patches or stickers, and have it be gator related, and related to this moment in history. Pigs are actually prey for gators. They’ll go for them, if they can.

[...]

Gators can help keep the feral hog population down in the South, and you can obviously make a connection between cop and pig. And I thought if we could raise any money for it I would feel good that I’m using this gator platform to do something beneficial. We’ve raised over $7,500 so far. It’s amazing.

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Speaking of, there was something you posted recently, of a deflated alligator being thrown at a cop somewhere?

That was in 2017, and it was Sweden. I believe it was a protest against Nazis, if I read the articles about it correctly. (Ed. Note: The photo was reportedly taken at a Neo-Nazi rally in Gothenburg, on September 30, 2017, where counter-protesters clashed with police and the Nordic Resistance Movement.) A follower sent it to me and said the gator had been co-opted as an anti-fascist symbol in Sweden, with people making signs. I thought it was perfect to post that and say: “Look, guys, they’ve already been going it. Gators are an anti-fascist symbol!” Added with the video of a gator knocking a cop out, people have been sending me their protest signs, with pictures of anti-fascist alligators on them.

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Everything we do on the internet manifests in that other [real] “physical” space, and viral moments like this speak to that. A meme account for gators influencing anti-fascist symbology on protest signs!

It’s crazy to acknowledge that influence, to think I posted something, and somebody went out and protested with an alligator on the sign because of it. But that allows me to keep going. It’s nice, it makes me feel nice, it makes other people feel nice!

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