Illustration: Ansellia Kulikku.

Internet Humor at the End of the World

 

On 1/28, the first commercial telephone exchange is established in New Haven, Connecticut, and a locomotive passing through Panamanian jungle links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

On 1/28, a fifteen-inch snowflake falls on Fort Keogh, Montana.

On 1/28, Charlemagne, King of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor, curses the known and unknown worlds he’s left unconquered, and his dumb ass croaks and becomes a ghost.

wow, so scare.

Trump to Ivanka: Let’s just do it and be legends.

The jokes at the end of the world do not have time to coalesce, to gain the full imprimatur of the internet, of the parts of the internet to which and through which such jokes would normally be spoken.

What is binch? What is corncob? but with human extinction.

Feels good man.

The internet is dying, blinking out.

The internet’s record of its own destruction—and that of the greater part of human life and civilization—is given in part through jokes, many of them familiar, though often modified, mutating. People are making apocalypse jokes like there’s no tomorrow, for instance, is an old joke already available in multiple image macros, the “lame pun coon” in blue color wheel, the “bad joke eel” jutting from the ocean floor, jaw tensed, vacant pushpin eye clocking your reaction, standard bold Impact font, white letters in black outline.

That joke is one of many that proliferate on 1/28, long-dormant memes alive again for one last night, faces of Keanu and Xzibit, woke af at the buffalo wild wings, flowing into other memes, the available prefab containers, Trollface, Nyan Cat, Crying Jordan, countless iterations of Pepe. People were bringing back the old things, the old dead memes, it became a kind of contest, a curtain call, a last chance at everything that had passed us by, an activation of all internet traditions (the “all internet traditions” meme itself dating back to a comment on a 2008 post on the left political blog Lawyers, Guns and Money, about the apocryphal Michelle Obama “whitey” tape).

#CurtainCall, #AllInternetTraditions.

Or it was, others said, a glitch in the Matrix, everything released all at once, a collapse of history, of chronology: the system vomiting itself forth before it expired. In any case, passing on bad jokes, ringing the last best changes on a bad joke, is how many spend their final hours. And there is a gentleness to so much of it, even amid horror: familiar, comforting, buffering the experience, slotting it into the known.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles can’t melt steel beams.

Where’s the Kaboom?

20 minutes into Netflix and chill and he gives you this look [GIF: flaming skull]

ima wait this one out, woke af at the buffalo wild wings.

An image of a woman in a Pussyhat stopping a pair of nukes with her outstretched hands.

A woman, a white woman, in fact, in a Pussyhat, in the exact pose of the black woman from Baton Rouge in the iconic photo, one of the iconic Black Lives Matter images, the two riot-gear cops seeming to fall back from her, as though struck by a power, the woman in the original, Ieshia Evans, made into a white woman—of course she was, black Twitter noted, wypipo appropriating to the very end, to the grave, appropriating with the dying breath of whiteness.

This is white supremacy.

There is the struggle with finesse, recycling the old jokes, finding those slight variations, the call back to a call back to a call back, perhaps no one likes it now, but wait and maybe it will come around.

Just wait.

Just wait may be a tough proposition in a world that’s ending, but, as people also note, on Twitter, on 4chan, on Reddit, what are the options?

Are we gon sit here on this site or we gon commune with trees?

Go out and commune with the treeeeeees????

(•_•)

<)   )We

/    \

 \(•_•)

(   (>  Gon

/    \

(•_•)

<)   )>  Die

/    \

Some jokes come around.

Play us off, Keyboard Cat.

Resist, #Resist, people are saying, but it is unclear what that means in the face of nuclear annihilation.

Images of animal connection are widely shared, horses touching heads, cheetah cub and baby chimp “best friends,” a two-legged Chihuahua in a wheeled mobility harness paired with a Silkie, a fluffy, plush-looking breed of chicken, and still less likely combos, snakes and ducks, an alligator and an aardvark, best friends, always best friends.

Images that originated on 4chan, on Reddit, were being sucked up into Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr, and making the rounds at a frenetic pace.

Thank god for friends.

I want to send love to my friends, my community.

Stay safe, my friends.

The rush to make fun of the email blasts about impending missile strikes and other civil emergencies, or the absence of such alerts.

Waiting for my blast alert like [Vizzini “I’m waiting GIF, scowling, arms flung out in impatience].

The hay made online about all these decentralized warning systems: they would only be used once, this was their moment in the sun, there was a ranking of them, the messages that began Inbound Threat or Take Shelter, the one from Idaho that said Alert Template Information Here, the one from Pennsylvania that said cOrb Pulice.

There are tweets asking for, demanding interactions.

I just need to know yr out here.

Fave if your safe.

The increasing bad joke of Facebook’s “mark yourself safe” as the night progressed, flipped on worldwide, death toll skyrocketing by unknowable millions every hour.

There are tweets for the missing, photos, names and ages, locations, the missing flood the timeline, then there are too many, and that becomes a joke, too, pics of Stephen Miller or Guy Fieri or the dwarf from Don’t Look Now tagged HAVE YOU SEEN MY SON?!

A raw and increasingly frantic need at the end for validation, for retweets and likes, for—and this became a new joke—the LAST retweets and likes.

Hoovering up all the last likes like

Stacking last likes

Fave if your safe, retweet if your GIF: [screaming, flaming skull].

Baby pumping fist: Just got world’s last like.

Things are being tested, workshopped, and all would soon be dead, performer and audience, or most all.

Trump aboard his rigid airship, Trump Sky Alpha, the zeppelin orbiting a blasted chunk of coal, Trump still monologuing about how well it’s all going, in spite of FAKE NEWS.

Conservatives blasting Obama, blasting Hillary.

Thank God Obama spent all his time on global warming.

But let’s figure out global warming, right guys?

That’s a good hot take.

The hottest take.

Get the oven mitts for this hot take. 

Get in the bunker and shield yourself from the hotness of these takes.

Since we have nothing but hot takes.

Since the world’s a hot take.

People demanding we do it their way: don’t make it political, make it political, but do so the right way, along certain precise vectors that reinforce certain notions.

Your mileage may vary.

And the rage at Trump, and the defenders of Trump, and Trump’s last speech, the pieces of it flying around the internet, protesters overpowering the checkpoints and pushing into Trump Tower, breaking down the doors.

Long Live Resistance Auntie!

Your mileage may vary.

And a flood of racist memes, Trollface with turban and beard, Nyan Cat with turban and beard, worries about MS-13 rampages and looting, the “illegals” who are waiting to murder your family as civil society cracks.

Josh Marshall changes his Twitter avatar back to Kermit, and signs off to spend the night with his family. We’ll know more tomorrow. Or we won’t.

Mark Zuckerberg posts as Trump nears New York City. We hope that our users—and the whole world—will stay safe today. We will be back tomorrow to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.

And Zuckerberg’s responders:

Bro.

Bro.

Dude.

My man.

My bro, what?

* Zuck posting this shit forever in Hell.*

Among the most-circulated jokes is one that begins with an AP shot of the man in a red polo shirt and white pants in the aisle of a Taipei supermarket howling grief over three small incinerated bodies. And a caption: Actually it’s about ethics in gaming journalism.

And then hours later, the same image and caption, cropped, reframed, reworked by a larger caption: IS THIS A GOOD JOKE?

This call back to a joke that had died out years earlier is spreading with a kind of desperate ferocity: as the day goes on, there is more and more to see, videos of a mushroom cloud over Taiwan, of a highway on fire in the south of France, Abuja burning, Harare burning, riots in São Paulo, in Natchez, waves of death everywhere, flurries of gun suicides, a mass shooting in West Virginia, then five more mass shootings within the hour, California, Arizona, New Hampshire, two in Florida, then a group suicide in Iowa, another in Belize, corpses around the world with jaws clenched, with jaws snapped wide open, with no discernable jaw, piles of the dead, screaming and fleeing humans, some actually burning as they run, dead or dying human heads screencapped and pegged to the same text:

Actually it’s about ethics in gaming journalism.

And:

IS THIS A GOOD JOKE?

Ethics in gaming journalism was such an old joke, it seemed to come from another civilization, and yet it was as though that joke, those times, all of that rage, were somehow the ground we were still standing on, were all that were left, were in the end somehow really all that mattered to the system, actually it’s about ethics in gaming journalism, that was somehow the moment, the inflection point, to which the internet had led us, we lived somehow in the wake of that, the SJWs and snowflakes, no safe space this time, and that AP shot of the man in the red polo, and his incinerated children, it was eventually tagged with names of women targeted in Gamergate, and the text, LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE DONE, SHAME.

It did not seem to be a joke, or it was a very dark one, but the account was not one that did jokes, or that was good at them.

Somehow there were people who seemed to be blaming the end of the world on the women from Gamergate, and in some places it seemed the most deadpan troll, but in others the posters seemed so upset, so sad, so furious, that they had to be for real, they really did blame them.

If SJWs need a safe space, it will be pretty safe as a roasted corpse under an atomic shroud.

A quote from Elliot Rodger that went around, Men shouldn’t have to look and act like big, animalistic beasts to get women. The fact that women still prioritize brute strength just shows that their minds haven’t fully evolved.

Still incel at the end of the world L

Same picture: LOOK AT THESE SNOWFLAKES.

Picture: a trophy for everyone! (the trophy is the burnt corpose [sic] of your child.)

Performative wokeness was to blame, women were to blame, #BLM was to blame, or Putin and collusion, Time for Some Game Theory, massive tweet threads, a need to make the case now, as completely as possible.

Apocalypse Twitter is exhausting.

Glad to see this continues to be a normal and very good website.

There was the white supremacist who was stabbed to death on camera in Cleveland while beating an apparently Muslim American man, and Jonathan Chait tweeted about this, and only this, of the shame of it—this after thousands had already been confirmed dead around the world—and his mentions lit up:

Actually, it’s good.

In fact it’s good.

No it is very good.

It’s good, actually.

Elsewhere, on 4chan, or Reddit, the assertion that Democrats are somehow behind it, the false flag, the new world order that follows 1/28, Shillary, KIDS SHE LIKES AND LOTS OF DYKES.

John Podesta, the occult, the cucks, the RINOs.

On 1/28, Jon Postel will reset the system.

Who is blue-pilled and who is red-pilled?

Beta numale faggots, haircuts and beards and graphic tees, this country is so beyond fucked, how are we going to survive what’s coming, it’s fucking disgusting, girls who look like dyke sluts with manic panic hair, ripped jeans, vintage band T-shirts, bands they never listened to, they destroy the world and what, we’re supposed to protect them? If we survive, kill them all on site, it’s our only option.

#HillaryHack, #HillarysRevenge, Hillary was widely blamed, WikiLeaks posted a file implicating her in the hack, or someone did, saying they were WikiLeaks’ alt, it’s not clear anymore, in all cases, who posted what.

4chan:

Hillary’s broad grin. Stamped over it: Best her and molest her.

Or: Sucking bollocks and worshipping Moleck.

Or: Fucking kill her.

Stay mad cuntcucks, this is a Shillary op.

Stay mad, Stay mad, Stay mad.

MAGA.

At last the cuck world is crushed.

MAGA, my friends.

And: Perhaps the rarest Pepe of all is friendship at the end of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“So I guess the world is actually ending now!” tweeted a former Gawker editor, and the tone there is instructive: atavistic, a return to the site’s early editorial voice, at once wide-eyed and over it, giddy and etherized, a jaded and pitiless amazement, the flat relentless tone that had seeped into the water of the internet, and if the internet has moved on since then, if that is no longer quite the voice of things, on this day it is having a renaissance.

Well then OK!

YEP THEN SO WITH THE IMPENDING DEATH OF US.

One Vox writer posted a photo of what he announced was his own penis, under the headline, EZRA, CHOKE ON THESE CLICKS.

Angela and Strawberry, Kurt honking it to hentai, people remembered the good times.

Can we all just admit now that Harambe was never funny.

Tweet pegged to a screencap of sixty-nine dead in Peoria shopping mall bombing: *me as nukes melt my face*: “nii..ce.”

When bombings were reported in Egypt and Iran: The whole internet loves nuclear apocalypse! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the apocalypse is racist.

Small brain: Drumpf killed us, as I predicted.

Big brain: The entire US military-industrial complex across Democratic and Republican administrations for decades is to blame, and the US people are without exception culpable for this moment.

Galaxy brain: Centering the US in the narrative just because they have the most nukes is colonial bullshit.

Universe brain: Death Tastes Good.

Photos of kittens are exchanged in comments sections, and there is the sense among these commenters that they have short-circuited the system, beat it, at least momentarily, with kittens.

I needed that!

This too!

Awwwwww….

[Eight kittens in a New Balance shoebox]

And a bulldog on a skateboard, and a black cat batted in the nose by a stealthy orange kitten, and the perfect pug, a basket of perfect pug puppies.

And the first and last tweet of a brand-new account, an egg that has just joined Twitter, perhaps for no other reason than to post this response (netting two faves, zero retweets) to a retweet of a twenty-one-month-old tweet of an etonline.com story about a YouTube video headlined “Seeing This Puppy Scared of His Own Hiccups Will Change Your Life!”:

cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was reported in some outlets that the earliest nuclear detonations had happened in Delhi, others said the Middle East, or the Korean peninsula, or Russia, or out in the middle of the ocean in an open stretch of the Pacific, the reports varied, and there was no authority, it had happened when the internet was down, and when it came back there was too much chaos, too much of the fog of war, as commentators were putting it, to understand, at least here in America, but the notion that Pakistan was behind it had taken hold in some quarters, that it was al-Qaida terrorists in Pakistan, or ISIS terrorists in Pakistan, that these terrorists had gained control of Pakistan’s nukes.

On 1/28, in 1933, someone tweeted, the name Pakistan was coined by Choudhry Rahmat Ali Khan and was later accepted by the Indian Muslim extremists.

This was a fact, circulated on conservative Twitter, on Free Republic, on 4chan.

The Meaning of 1/28, a pattern, an explanation, something solid.

And then that changed, somewhere, and what circulated is the fact that Muhammad died on 1/28, that this was jihad, Islamic terror, on the anniversary of Muhammad’s death.

That neither the fact about Pakistan nor the fact about Muhammad was true did not prevent them from circulating.

On 1/28, Muhammad died. Today, his followers commemorate his death with an attack on Western civilization.

People explained that this was false and found themselves me with storms of raging disagreement, they were called useful idiots for the jihadists, liberal media dupes (pretty safe as a roasted corpse under and atomic shroud), and then the rebuttal shifted, all at once, all across Twitter, Facebook, people were leaping in, saying that the discrepancy was explained by the “Islamic Calendar” (also cited: the “Muslim Calendar” and “Hijra Calendar” and “Sharia Calendar”) and its differences from the Gregorian calendar.

What the Muslim calendar recorded as June 8 was in the Gregorian calendar January 28.

Or so people argued.

You still believe muslim lies.

It’s almost satisfying to know your family’s going to die because you believed the Muslim lies.

ITS 1/28 OF COURSE ITS JIHADISTS.

MAGA! MAGA! MAGA!

There were similar threads for North Korea, for Russia, for China and Iran, for India, explaining why it was them, explaining the meaning of 1/28 in terms of a historical anniversary or the cultural beliefs of the country in question.

Someone shared as a semicomic rebuttal the 1:28 Bible verses from Genesis: Replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth, and this was also picked up, shared.

Jokingly or in all seriousness, some suggested that Christian terrorists had precipitated the end of the world.

Subdue it.

Have dominion.

It was unclear which of the detonations raining down across the world were US bombs, but the world was going haywire, the information was conflicting, there was no official word on which of the disasters, which of the mass kill-offs, the US was directly responsible for.

Other 1/28s emerged.

On 1/28: The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.

On 1/28: Marty traveled back in time.

On 1/28: Sir Thomas Warner founded the first British colony in the Caribbean, on the island of Saint Kitts.

On 1/28: Henry VIII died.

Each of them appended with some variation on Today, his followers commemorate his death with an attack on western civilization.

The anniversaries were scoured for resonance and clues, for patterns. Lines were drawn, connections made, causality established, certain halos of meaning.

Perhaps it was both North Korea and Pakistan, it made sense to some, an axis between them, it was Korea that had done the hacking, and the Muslims launched the first nuclear attacks, A.Q. Khan and Kim Jong Un and an al-Qaida remnant, or was it ISIS, the reported attacks with low-yield bombs, maybe it was Korea doing both, or the Muslims had hacked and Korea had the bomb, or the bombs had not been nuclear, no low-yield nukes, but conventional bombs, false flags.

False flags, stay redpilled.

Shillary will make herself president if it means burning down the whole world.

On 1/28, Jon Postel will reset the system.

It was the birthday of Kim Jong Il, or Kim Jong Un, or the first day of the Korean New Year: 1/28. And if it wasn’t true, then there was so little time to learn what was.

Canuplin, one of the last memes, perhaps the last new meme to gain widespread attention.

It reaches a reductio ad absurdum with Canuplin, the Pinoy Chaplin.

A Filipino magician born on January 28, 1904, Canuplin, a Chaplin imitator, who appears in Filipino movies and the local bodabil circuit. The name itself, Canuplin, a combination of his own, Canuto Francia, and Chaplin.

Canuplin did 1/28.

In the world of the internet in which people are making fun of the jihadist 1/28 connection, there is a new account, @ApocalypsePoets, a log of 1/28s, it blends fact and fiction, states that as Henry VIII dies, his ulcerating leg fills the room with stench, his attendants too afraid to tell him he’s dying, because predicting the death of a king is treason punishable by torture and death. And so swollen is he with sickness that his corpse explodes in the coffin during his funeral procession, and when his carriage overturns, it snaps the necks of several of the horses drawing it, though just how many necks (all? and how many is all?) is lost to history.

1/28 was an inside job.

Jet fuel can’t melt Canuplin.

But by now Trump had announced it. The US had launched a “limited” nuclear strike earlier that day, but now he had landed his airship, Trump Sky Alpha, in New York, and via streaming video, on his airship, he had announced the big one, the one we’d been waiting for for years now, and the missiles were flying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weariness, the sickness.

Perfectly normal website.

Good website, here, at the end of the world.

What a normal thing to do on a website this is also normal and good.

The terminal weariness, the horror at how much was being destroyed, at the lies and bad faith, the trolls and bots and the slurping of liberal tears, soy boys and snowflakes and safe spaces, the rape and death threats (it would be too bad if some immigrant raped you— phrasings to steer the poster clear of a ban, even now, though of course many other posts simply called for rape and murder—pretty safe in a grave under a mushroom cloud after I’ve raped you and cut your head off), the need to be heard, the need to respond, the constant chaotic hum of it.

Negative partisanship, zero sum games, the nonstop trolling, the hate and the love, the postures that were knowing and cool and monstrously self-deprecating and panicked and thirsty and performatively woke, none of it stopped at the end of the world.

The lies and misinformation, the endlessness of that.

The fundamental inability to determine: stupid or evil

The sense that it was this, it was the structure of the internet, that had amplified the stupid and the evil, and at the same time flattened them, made them impossible to distinguish. Or made distinguishing them somehow beside the point.

As Trump landed Trump Sky Alpha on the roof of Trump Tower, a 4chan user said Love Trumps Hate.

He said, It’s true, we do, we love it, we love his hate.

And dozens or hundreds of missiles from multiple world powers were sailing to their targets:

Oh yes, we love his hate.

Hundreds of thousands of people choking the streets of Manhattan and by the time he landed, a chaotic mass of bodies pushing up against Trump Tower, against the police and military, overrunning them, breaking down the doors, up the stairwells, soon they were out on the roof, running for him, for Trump Sky Alpha, he saw the mob running his way, and his jaw dropped, and he said Wha-wha-wha-what? and no sooner had Trump set down than he lifted off again, he set a final course for Mar-a-Lago.

Trump, someone tweeted, the most hated man in the history of the world, hated twenty-four hours a day by more living humans than anyone has ever been hated by, is ending the world that hates him.

A very US-centric POV, someone observed, Trump the most hated—wasn’t there someone, someone in Asia, maybe, who more people had hated?

Why am I spending the last minutes of my life arguing about this?

The most hated person, the person who in all of human history has been deeply disliked and hated by the most people, who has had the largest number of human animals just wishing that somehow, anyhow, he would just somehow no longer exist, no longer be among the human animals, he was still here, still making sounds, still delivering his YouTube livestream.

There were only a few moments left for the internet.

Trump, face smudged, last singed strands of hair writhing away from his scalp, was piloting what was left of his zeppelin—the secure inner vault, festooned in rotors—to Mar-a-Lago.

And there was a last irruption, millions of people pouring themselves into the social media sites.

Trump still talking, still livestreaming, sailing above the unfolding devastation, justifying and joking and raging, attacking his enemies, and then calling for the largest possible strike, calling for it even as the internet was flickering out.

He’d announced a big one in New York, but this was an order of magnitude more, the one that would end so much of human life and civilization.

I saw it screencapped from 4chan and shared onto Twitter: Love Trumps Hate.

And:

A Dead Trump Pepe, Xs for eyes.

Trump, it was said, easily, easily the most hated man who had ever lived.

A voice somewhere: I don’t want to die.

And: *mocking voice*: I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.

A final rush of MS Paints, hasty Photoshops, Pepes saluting Trump Pepe, Pepes with Xs on their eyes, hearts on their eyes, Trump up there in Trump Sky Alpha, the flag of Kekistan on a zeppelin, the zeppelin itself Pepe’s head, Putin and Kushner and Conway appearing in different iterations, Crying Jordan and Savage Patrick, Side-eyeing Chloe, even Harambe yet again, vultures circling overhead, enemy aircraft racing in, all of it shuddering and flickering and trying to mutate, it seemed, trying to reach out beyond this, trying to dream up some sort of escape, the image of Canuplin there, all of a sudden, the painting of an old Filipino man, melancholy, impassive, the cigarette frozen near his mouth, Love Trumps Hate, Canuplin amid the Pepes, the bombs that were Pepes, a field of dead Pepes, Pepe with a single tear, Savage Patrick at the helm, Distracted Boyfriend meme, boyfriend’s eyes going from a flayed corpse head to a flayed Pepe head, the phrases Love Trumps Hate and We Love Trumps Hate, shirtless Alex Jones and shirtless Putin and Hillary in a white pantsuit and Obama in a tan suit and Canuplin staring out, cigarette in hand, in a field of Pepes that were laid out on top of the airship, something about that airship and everyone on it and everyone who surrounded it, who flew with or against it, was near some ultimate form, some joke about 1/28, about all the lies about that, all the jokes about that, all of the colossal rage and grief and fear, it was slipping toward something, it was vibrating with certain possibilities, and then the internet was dead (*universe to humans*: retire bitch) and all that was over.

*

Trump Sky Alpha © Mark Doten, 2019. First published by Graywolf Press

Mark Doten

Mark Doten is the author of the novel The Infernal. He wrote the libretto for The Source, an opera about Chelsea Manning and Wikileaks that premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014, and appeared on the New York Times list of best classical vocal performances of the year. He is senior editor at Soho Press and co-host, with author Adam Wilson, of the literary podcast The Consolation Prize. His first fiction piece was published in Guernica.

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