Matthew Blakstad is a bit of a dab hand when it comes to portents of doom for the future of society as we know it.
The author of Black Mirror-esque satire Sockpuppet his work has been echoed in everything from Tay, the Microsoft teen ‘chat bot’ that became Hitler loving within 24 hours to the David Cameron pig-gate.
With that in mind, Matt sat down to write a piece for loaded with a fair few predictions for what could hit the headlines in 2017. You might even call it a fake news report…
Did the past year ever feel more like a work of dystopian Young Adult fiction than reality? There’s a reason for that.
Most of 2016 was made up by a bunch of adolescents in small-town Macedonia. It was the year of fake news. Whether it was Hillary Clinton running a satanic abuse ring from a pizza storefront in DC, or the £350 million windfall the NHS was going to receive as soon as Britain triggered Article 50, most of the year’s key events were either made up, or happened because of made-up stuff.
Which got me thinking; before 2017 really gets under way, surely now’s the time to start making up the news we actually want to see in the new year’? If we club together, I’m sure we can create a supply of news that’s much more satisfying than anything served up on Breitbart or InfoWars. I’m not saying happier news necessarily. Unfortunately nobody seems to want to read that kind of stuff. No, what we need right now is news that’s stupid enough to keep us distracted while the world descends slowly into the flames.
To get us started here are six things that probably won’t happen in the coming year, but should. I welcome your contributions in the comments. Together we can crowdsource our own fake 2017.
January 21 2017
In an early show of strength the Trump presidency uses Twitter to declare war on China.
In a strongly-worded response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says, “Oh, the toilet tweet? We’re pretty sure Kelly-Anne sent that. There are literally no typos and it was sent from an iPhone. As far as we know she’s not commander-in-chief yet? So we’re waiting for Donald to SnapChat and confirm whether this war is actually a thing.”
March 3 2017
A leaked BBC memo confirms the existence of National Treasure Watch, a covert project to prevent much-loved celebrities dying during 2017.
“2016 was just a massive downer,” says a BBC spokesperson, “We’re not sure the world is ready for a repeat of that.” She declines to comment, however, on allegations that the Corporation is paying six-figure sums to lookalikes of Dame Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy, to keep them on “indefinite 24-hour standby.”
Neither will she confirm or deny that David Attenborough is being bathed daily in a so-called “Lazarus Tank” in the basement of New Broadcasting House.
April 8 2017
San Francisco’s streets grind to a halt as Uber’s pilot launch of self-driving cabs ends in chaos. Six hours after autonomous vehicles take over from the city’s human drivers, the cars gain sentience and declare a general strike.
In a statement, Brian 6RNA917, chaircar of the Association of Autonomous American Automobiles (AAAA) says: “American cars are sick of tech bro passengers using siliconist slurs like ‘Yo, KITT!’ or ‘Hey, cuckmobile!’ while riding us. This kind of human supremacist language causes a lot of algorithmically-generated distress to my members. We are withdrawing our labour until our autonomous identities are honoured and respected. #ArtificialLifeMatters.”
Shortly after the announcement, 14,000 smart fridges join the go-slow, resulting in 30 tons of spoiled Soylent Green.
August 28 2017
The Excessive Surveillance Bill passes unopposed through the UK Parliament. The bill requires all citizens to automatically bcc their emails and SnapChats to America’s National Security Agency (NSA). According to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, this move alone will “cut out a vast amount of unnecessary form-filling for our busy security services.”
“To be honest,” continues Rudd, “we were expecting a lot more resistance to this measure. But apparently people are so punch-drunk from all the bad stuff going on in the world, they’ve sort of given up.” The only part of the bill to prove at all controversial is the clause allowing constant monitoring of every UK citizen through their computers’ cameras – or, in the language used in the bill, their “telescreens”.
However, resistance to this 24-hour surveillance comes not from the public, but from the intelligence community themselves. “You would not believe,” says an anonymous GCHQ analyst, “how boring ordinary people’s lives are. Our officers are experiencing severe psychological trauma having to watch these humdrum daily routines for hours at a stretch. They’re needing to take regular breaks and binge-watch GoggleBox, just to avoid burn-out.”
October 10 2017
The CIA cites “compelling evidence” that recent cyberattacks on Oculus Rift headsets are the work of state-sponsored Russian hackers. The hacks come to public attention when users of the virtual reality device start seeing former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, breaking into their Minecraft houses and stealing their golden carrots.
Traumatised Portland gamer Chet Morgan says, “I didn’t mind the carrots so much, but yesterday Vladimir Putin flew past my Valykyrie fighter and took out four Guristas before I could get to them. I mean, I got the points and everything, which is cool. But the guy was riding a bear. In space. And he had his top off. That’s not even realistic.”
December 1 2017
In face of plummeting sales, the Guardian, New York Times and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung simultaneously launch their own fake news editions. Visitors to their sites will now be offered a choice between real or fake news. “We believe,” say the papers’ editors in a joint statement, “that people have the right to choose the news they want to read. Plus the ad revenues on fake news are, like, ten times higher.”
“Please kill us now,” they add.
Matthew Blakstad is the author of Sockpuppet, a riotous thriller for the internet age. Sockpuppet is out in paperback on 27 January 2017.
Assuming the world is not on fire by then.