The Harlem Shake is an Internet meme in the form of a video in which a group of people perform a comedy sketch accompanied by a short excerpt from the song "Harlem Shake". As a meme, the video was re-enacted by many people, using the same concept, but with variations on the content. This rapidly led to it becoming viral in early February 2013. Thousands of "Harlem Shake" videos were being made and were uploaded to YouTube every day.
Some contributors never expected the consequences that would befall them for taking part in the "Harlem Shake" phenomenon. Not everybody found it amusing. One could argue that one reaction in particular was a bit extreme.
In Israel, two soldiers were sentenced to prison and one was relieved of his command after they posted a video of a few soldiers performing the Harlem Shake around a cannon. Reportedly they did notify their commanders of the planned project and made sure that no sensitive military equipment was shown. They even sought approval for the final product. The video received positive reactions from mainstream Israeli media and online, but the poor soldiers still served time.
The Washington Post explained the Harlem Shake's instant virality by referring to the jump cuts, hypnotic beat, quick setups, and the short, half minute routines.