Skittles are a candy. They’re a very good candy. Pop one in your mouth, and you may find yourself wanting more and more. The aftertaste tends to linger, and the only thing that seems to remove it is one...more...Skittle. In that sense, they are kind of diabolical.
But this is ridiculous.
The fact that Skittles have now become a hot-button issue in the Presidential race is only the latest surprise in an endlessly surprising election season.
And yet, here we are. It all started on Monday evening, when Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out an image that used the candy confection as an analogy for Syrian refugees.
The tweet seemed to be a veiled commentary on the series of bombings in New York and New Jersey on Sunday. Police have a suspect in custody, Ahmad Kahn Rahami, 28, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Afghan heritage who worked behind the counter in his family's fried-chicken joint in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Needless to say, the tweet got a lot of attention on social media. Most of it was negative.
These are people, not Skittles pic.twitter.com/LXPv7JULPM— Colin Jones (@colinjones) September 20, 2016
That feeling when you drop your dank Skittles meme pic.twitter.com/dw2MvjHW9x— Zach Braff (@zachbraff) September 20, 2016
Others tweeted their support.
Eventually, journalist Seth Abramovich reached out to the folks at Wrigley, the makers of Skittles, for a response, which came some 5 hours after the original tweet went viral — a seeming eternity in social media time.
You might think that would be the end of it. You might be woefully naive. That wasn't the end of it by a mile.
First, the man who took the original photo, the image of a bowl of Skittles, came forward. His name is David Kittos. As it happens, he didn't appreciate having his picture used by Trump Jr., especially to convey a somewhat convoluted political message.
To make matters worse for the young Trump, Kittos is a refugee, from Cyprus, who immigrated to the UK in 1974, at the age of 6. "This was done without my permission," he told the BBC. "I don't support [Trump's] politics, and I would never take his money to use it."
Other internet users noted that Skittles had acquired a powerful political significance in recent years. They were the candy that Trayvon Martin was carrying when he was shot by George Zimmerman in 2013. Protesters adopted Skittles as a symbol of Martin's innocence.
This is a lot of pressure for a single candy brand.
Meanwhile, a number of other commenters noticed that Trump Jr.'s analogy had a very dark history. As the Intercept pointed out, it's essentially an updated version of an argument advanced in a German children's book in 1938 by author Julius Streicher, also the publisher of the notorious periodical Der Stürmer, who was hanged at Nurenberg for crimes against humanity.
Of course, there were no Skittles in 1938. In Streicher's book, Der Giftpilz (The Toadstool), the Skittles were mushrooms. "Just as a single poisonous mushroom can kill a whole family, so a solitary Jew can destroy a whole village, a whole city, even an entire people," he wrote.
There's no evidence that Trump Jr. was intentionally making use of this murderous logic, but the attempt by a politician to create and exploit a climate in which people learn to fear and scapegoat their neighbors certainly has some disturbing echoes.
Fifty days to go till Election Day. Someone pass the M&Ms.