It started with a direct message to the Military Times Instagram account.
“Guys, why are you not reporting on the poop incident with General Berger?”
Surely, the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger had not endured some accidental in-public relief mishap. Such a ludicrous story would have been widely circulated, even among civilian publications — perhaps included in a Saturday Night Live skit or mentioned on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.” Alas, there was no such coverage.
And yet, there continued to be a trickle of messages from Instagram users asking why we had not yet published a story about it.
A quick search of popular, sometimes controversial, military meme accounts revealed widespread circulation of GIFs, photos and clips associating Berger with an issue of soiled drawers. However, the narrative is not tied to any specific incident, with memes ranging from diaper joke content to defecation during the PFT.
As it turns out, a handful of these anonymous accounts, which typically produce cartoonish service-related memes and stir the pot politically, banded together to start the rumor, all in the name of a joke, before it surprisingly took on a life of its own.
“We’re in a coalition of meme pages called the department of offense,” said user @dumbafnation. “Basically DD214memes said, ‘Hey wouldn’t it be funny if we made up a story about the commandant shidding his pants.’”
@NotinRegs, another military meme page, confirmed.
“Everyone started making memes and it started spreading.”
A screenshot provided showed that the @DD214_memes account was indeed the de facto ringleader behind the original joke.
“Imagine we just sh*tpost about the commandant pooping himself with absolutely no context and get people to think it happened,” a message from @DD214_memes, which was obtained by Observation Post, claimed.
Another account, @bluefalconawards, noted that what began as a small coalition quickly snowballed, confirming the often pervasive nature of meme culture among service members and veterans on social media.
“We just took it and ran with it — made memes and tried to out-meme each other,” they told Observation Post. “We said it was a joke within a few hours, but it had already gained too much traction and people kept on making jokes.”
The meme lords in question all claim it was in the name of fun, community, and military culture.
“I personally have nothing but respect and admiration for Gen. Berger,” wrote @self_hating_marine in a message to Military Times. “This was just a way for us lower enlisted to have a good laugh and leave the Marines with rockers and shiny collars scratching their heads.”
Although this case was done in the name of entertainment rather than widespread deception, the coordination on a campaign of misinformation is particularly relevant given the contemporary issues surrounding ”fake news.” Observation Post has therefore chosen to omit a majority of the memes themselves.
Request for comment from the Commandant’s office was not immediately returned. Handles have been used for anonymity’s sake.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.