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In 2011, Charlie Brooker’s speculative anthology series Black Mirror first aired on Channel 4. Described by Brooker himself as “… all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes if we’re clumsy,” the show presents various fictional impressions of various fictional futures, all hinged around the notion that technology, the media, and social media are rapidly transforming the ways that we interact with one another. Black Mirror’s first episode was called ‘The National Anthem.’ It told the incredible story of British Prime Minister Michael Callow, and his struggle to come to terms with the fact that he would have to have sexual intercourse with a pig on live television to ensure the safe return of the previously kidnapped Duchess of Beaumont.
It sounded absurd, and it was. But it was also brilliant. Thanks to the perpetual omnipresence of social media, Callow found himself in a position where every single person in the United Kingdom knew the terms of his blackmail, and knew that he would be caught if he tried to fake the act. In the end, he did it. Millions of viewers were glued to their TV sets, laptops, and iPhones as their Prime Minister had sex with a heavily sedated pig on live television. Of course, the Duchess of Beaumont was released on to the streets of London before any of this happened, but nobody noticed because they were all too busy watching the telly. It was tragic, and yet, also painfully admissible… Now, more so, than ever.
Last night, it was revealed that Prime Minster David Cameron engaged in a similar act with the head of a dead pig back in his Oxford days. In an extract from Lord Michael Ashcroft’s biography (that the Daily Mail are so graciously running today), a source claims that Cameron “put a private part of his anatomy” inside a dead pig’s head during his initiation ceremony into one of the university’s secret societies. The book promises to expose Cameron’s debauchery, discuss his use of recreational drugs in detail, and suggest that the Tory Prime Minster was aware of Lord Ashcroft’s overseas tax evasion from as early as 2009.
It all sounds very scandalous (and I’m sure it is), but nobody really seemed to care about any of that stuff once the pig story broke. Within minutes, every single person on the internet was making pig jokes, images of Cameron looking delighted as he held a variety of live piglets on some farms somewhere were flooding everyone’s timelines, #piggate began to trend worldwide, and ‘Hameron’ became a thing. Charlie Brooker even started tweeting excerpts from the original script from ‘The National Anthem,’ stating that he had had no idea what the Prime Minister got up to in his uni days before he wrote the episode, and that the whole thing “weird(ed) me out.” Suddenly, a speculative science fiction show where something utterly ridiculous had happened had become a reality. And it had happened. And it was still ridiculous… But also hysterical.
A few years ago, something like this might have popped up in the paper, everybody would have been a bit disgusted, had a bit of a laugh, and it would be over. Maybe Downing Street would have issued a statement a few days after, but by then the majority of the general public would have already forgotten what they had been so very shocked to read, thrown away that day’s issue of the Daily Mail, and allowed the tiny little words claiming their Prime Minster had done such a dreadful thing to sink into the recesses of their minds, only to surface infrequently by the odd “Hey, remember when this thing happened. That was weird.”
Except, it didn’t happen a few years ago – it happened now. And social media has allowed us to share, redistribute, and reproduce this information at rates so alarmingly fast that the Lord Ashcrofts of the past could only dream of them. It really didn’t take very long for “David Cameron placed his penis inside of a dead pig’s head” to become “David Cameron fucked a pig.” And, well, technically he did. And that’s all anybody is going to remember. Downing Street have yet to issue a statement, but even if they do it won’t make a difference. Even if they debunk the biography’s claims and somehow provide solid evidence that David Cameron did not fuck a pig, it won’t matter. Because David Cameron did fuck a pig – and we have the evidence to prove it. #Piggate is trending worldwide. Everybody’s re-watching ‘The National Anthem’ and musing about how insanely accurate and strangely uncanny it is. This is all anyone can talk about. Even if it didn’t happen, it still happened.
Brooker’s Black Mirror presented us with a version of ourselves that we probably didn’t want to see, but one that we couldn’t look away from either. The fact that social media has radically changed the way we live is undeniable – it’s obvious, it’s irrefutable. It’s as undeniable as the fact that something like this won’t be going away any time soon. It’s as irrefutable as the fact that David Cameron fucked a pig. The photographic evidence may not exist (yet), but in a weird way we all saw it happen anyway. Whether we wanted to or not.
And it probably did anyway, let’s be honest.
Images via thesun.co.uk