Ninja_Hater is an Instagram account with just over 3,000 followers, but a joke post from July 16 has turned into a major hoax centered around the word “ligma.”
Ligma is a joke similar to any joke in the “Deez Nuts” camp; someone says “ligma,” and when another person asks what ligma means, the response is, “ligma balls.” The play on words picked up speed this past week after a number of meme accounts on Instagram and Twitter started trolling people by claiming Fortnite streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins died from “ligma,” insinuating it was a disease.
Ninja_Hater is credited with starting the hoax that led to a couple of publications reporting on people’s reaction to the joke, hundreds of distressed fans and a recent PewDiePie video about the subject that’s amassed more than five million views in 24 hours. The person behind the meme account, however, told Polygon that turning ligma into a meme was a community effort.
“I personally like the joke and how it’s really kept the joke going, and even spread to other people,” Ninja_Hater, who didn’t want to be identified, told Polygon.
Here’s how Ninja and a community of meme accounts managed to turn a quick, offhanded joke into an actual death hoax.
A subreddit dedicated to the crank launched in mid-June, but this particular incident started as a campaign to circulate a fake story about Blevins’ death. Ninja_Hate’s initial post, seen below, features Blevins standing in heaven alongside some other famous dead people, ranging from Michael Jackson and Prince to Harambe and rapper Lil Peep. Ninja_Hate captioned the photo with a plea for his followers to spread a fake message claiming Blevins died.
“My account started over trying to mess with a friend, and then I just kept it going for fun,” Ninja_Hater said. “The whole ‘Ninja dying’ joke was just to see how much it would spread, and to shake up the internet community.”
The image Ninja_Hater used started spreading on Twitter, causing fans to tweet at Blevins asking him to check in. The hoax was further spurred on by trolls — and believed by anxious fans — who noted Blevins hadn’t streamed in a day. That may not seem like an abnormal amount of time to stay away from streaming, but it is for Blevins, who often streams daily. He recently told Ethan Klein on the H3H3 Podcast that he set up a strict routine for himself.
“The schedule is: 9:30 is when I start in the morning and then I play until 4, so that’s like six, six-and-a-half hours,” Blevins said. “Then I’ll take a nice three- to four-hour break with the wife, the dogs or family — we have like family nights, too — and then come back on around 7 o’clock central until like 2, 3 in the morning. The minimum is 12 hours a day, and then I’ll sleep for less than six or seven hours.”
All of these factors led to a perfect maelstrom of confusion and miscommunication.
“Dude, i thought you died from ligma”
Ninja_Hater’s trollish hoax spread quickly on Instagram.
Another user, Spookid, who has more than 125,000 followers, shared the photo. He later left a comment on Blevins’ own Instagram account while the hoax was in its prime asking what happened to Blevins.
“What the fuck i thought you died from ligma,” Spookid wrote.
This message caught Blevins’ attention. Blevins responded by asking what ligma was, playing into the very joke the internet hoped he would. The responses to Blevins’ question, and Spookid’s original response, continue to grow as people reply with the term “ligma balls.”
The joke quickly got out of hand. A screenshot of a DM from Blevins sent to Spookid asking Spookid to stop spreading the news was posted on Spookid’s account on July 1().
Ninja_Hater wasn’t prepared for ligma disease to go viral.
“Honestly, I imagined a few friends I had on this account would repost it, their followers get fooled a little bit, and that would be it,” they said.
Ongoing shenanigans from people on Twitter, Instagram, blog posts and replies from Blevins himself turned ligma from a joke term most people didn’t know into a Fortnite meme.
Urban Dictionary started referring to ligma as a “rare disease that usually Fortnite players carry,” adding “the disease was believed to take the life of famous streamer Ninja.” Different copypasta subreddit threads, which are dedicated to copy and pasting blocks of texts and changing aspects to reflect a meme, are full of references to ligma taking Blevins’ life. Here’s an example from an “official PSA” on Reddit.
PSA: Ligament interruption gait maximum aridity, or LIGMA for short, is a serious disease that we need to be on the look out for. It stops the use of your ligaments due to the immense heat we are facing this summer. One of the known signs is when it affects your walking. If someone you love starts to walk in a weird way, tell them, “You may need to see a doctor. I think you have LIGMA.” It just might save their life. Ninja isnt the first one to be affected by LIGMA but together, he could be the last. Rest in peace Tyler Blevins.
The meme community on Instagram took full credibility for turning ligma into something more than an offhanded joke. This is what Instagram’s meme community does; and they’re good at it.
“It’s just been amazing just getting on Instagram, and seeing a goofy little picture I made in 30 seconds everywhere I go,” Ninja_Hater said, who added they consider themselves a part of the meme community on instagram. “I’ve interacted with many other accounts small and large even before this account blew up.
“I’d consider myself a niche meme page if that makes sense.”
Instagram’s meme community is popular, but it’s not exactly mainstream. It took attention from some of YouTube’s most popular creators to really get the meme rolling.
The YouTube effect
Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, DramaAlert and Scarce, a popular commentary channel on YouTube, all covered the meme within days of the first post. By Monday, there were close to seven million collective views between the three channels, all of which cover the term and laugh at the situation.
Capturing the attention of major YouTubers like Kjellberg, Ninja_Hater said, was something he had in mind from the very beginning. Despite a controversial past, having a creator like Kjellberg, known among the meme community as a top commentator, is a win for memesters like Ninja_Hater. Kjellberg’s channel has changed a few times over the course of his career on YouTube; his pivot to covering memes as part of his Meme Review or even “Last Week I Asked You” show is a big part of his current programming strategy.
“That was something I was hoping would happen from the very beginning,” Ninja_Hater said. “I’m definitely not a PewDiePie fan, but the fame that he has and him talking about some joke I made seemed like a crazy thought.”
Kjellberg’s video has received quite a bit of attention — including from Blevins himself. Blevins left a video in the video’s comment section jumping in on the joke. This followed a brief exchange on Twitter between Blevins and Kjellberg that included Blevins jokingly asking, “what’s ligma?”
Here’s what Blevins wrote on the video:
“RiP Ninja ... that damn ligma.”
The comment has nearly 120,000 likes, making it one of the most popular comments in YouTube history.
All of which stems from Ninja_Hater’s joke. Despite the hoax’s success, and his involvement in the situation, Ninja_Hater hasn’t spoken to Blevins. That’s not to suggest he doesn’t want to, though.
“I would be open to hearing his feelings about it if he wants to reach out to me,” Ninja_Hater said. “I think [the joke] took off because people on the internet tend to believe anything they see. Many people still DM me asking if Ninja is dead when a simple Google search shows he isn’t. It also helped that Ninja happened to be out on some personal time, which I didn’t know, actually.”
Blevins, who is not suffering from a disease called ligma and is very much alive, has returned to his normal streaming schedule.