Silence, Meet Satire: Netizens, meme-makers take on Tiananmen blackout

It’s common knowledge these days — on this side of the Great Firewall, at least — that the Chinese Communist Party goes to extreme lengths to scrub the internet of any mention of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, particularly around today’s anniversary of the bloody crackdown.

At this point, the party’s reluctance to admit any mistake, even 30 years later, in their decision to unleash the People’s Liberation Army on a group of peaceful students and hunger strikers seeking greater freedoms has become legendarily outrageous, even to the point of absurdity.

Thankfully, outrage bordering on absurdity is right in the internet’s sweet spot, and social media users across the internet today took aim at the CCP’s neverending attempts to rewrite history the only way they know how: with memes.

Now, we know what you’re thinking, and reasonable people could argue that humor has no part in the conversation where state-sanctioned murder is involved. At the same time, though, there are also arguments in favor of the use of satire in the face of oppression, futile gesture though it may be. (And no, we’re not equating Grumpy Cat with A Modest Proposal, but hey, that’s where the culture’s at right now.)

And at the end of the day, there are few better ways of making megalithic Orwellian machines seem a little less megalithic than poking fun at them — because if there’s one thing Orwellian machines don’t have, it’s a sense of humor.

So, all that said, let’s take a look at the internet’s reaction to the Tiananmen Square Massacre’s 30th anniversary in all its subversive and, yes, sometimes stupid glory.

First up, how about this little number equating Communist Party stonewalling to a chipper skincare advert. Think the massacre of hundreds of unarmed civilians is a blemish on the party’s record? Think again, says the CCP! Then again, as the post rightly notes, if you interpreted this meme as being anything other than a chipper skincare advert, that’s your own counterrevolutionary mindset at work, pal!

This one pretty much speaks for itself. Now you see the engines of oppression, now you don’t.

This Lego-fied depiction of what has gone on to be one of the most iconic photos in modern history may not be satire per say, but it was clearly a labor of love for someone. And could the use of children’s toys to render an indelible image of defiance indeed be a subtle reminder that future generations will continue to resist oppression? Who’s to say otherwise?

This image is one of the slyer entries in today’s list, swapping famed physicist Albert Einstein’s equation for the density of the Milky Way for the cryptic “8%4.” Now, if you squint a bit, that mathematical gobbledygook starts to look a bit like “89 64,” aka 6/4/89, aka June 4, 1989, the date of the Tiananmen crackdown. And while that may not seem like much of a commentary to you, given that the CCP goes so far as to even censor the numbers 64 and 89 in the days leading up to the Tiananmen anniversary — along with plenty of other cryptic references to the crackdown — it’s actually kind of clever.

(Also, this year, the joke was on the CCP: as of the noon break in trading today, the Hang Seng Index was down 89 points, while the China Enterprises Index was down 64.)

This post is a perfect encapsulation of the CCP’s reluctance to accurately account for the events of June 4. The fact that it casts the CCP as everyone’s favorite bumbling Police Squad/Naked Gun detective Frank Drebin (aka Leslie Nielsen) is just icing on the cake.

More than one netizen got in for a little equal opportunity criticism, reminding Uncle Sam that he has some accounting of his own to do. In addition to criticizing China, this post — for those unfamiliar with the Vietnam War era — takes the US to task for the killing of four Kent State University students when US National Guardsmen opened fire on anti-war protesters in 1970. Satire, after all, doesn’t care where you’re from.

Finally, this last post just goes to show what the creators of South Park learned years ago: you’ve got to get up pretty early to beat The Simpsons to a gag. The still above comes from the 2005 episode Goo Goo Gai Pan, in which Springfield’s favorite family visits Beijing and Tiananmen Square to learn… why, that it’s totally unremarkable, of course!

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