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Want to hear a funny story about something that happened to me this weekend? It concerns the internet, elephants, and the absurdity of online nostalgia.
So, Naomi Wolf was getting pelters from me and others for having said that non-5G Belfast had the “calm” of the 1970s, (despite Belfast *having* 5G and the 70s not being the calmest of times for Belfast). It was really... something.
As a result, people in my mentions and throughout the wider web shared similarly “calm” photos from 70s Northern Ireland, rebranded with the stock phrases of those inane “Remember The Good Old Days?” memes. It was very funny.
This underscored the central weird complacency of her point, and the weirdly rose-tinted view of the sort of people who believe 5G causes cancer because everything modern is evil. The idea that the Troubles were good actually is really just an absurd extension of that point.
But one picture came up several times. It’s this one, of an elephant at a Belfast riot. To be clear, most weren’t taking it at face value, and were presenting it for absurdist purposes only. But a little searching showed it had been all over Twitter for some time.
Now, I happen to know quite a lot about this photograph, because PLOT TWIST, I created it, way back in 2016. Or rather, me and my pal Michael did for our short-lived and much-missed (by me) historical parody page Remembering Ireland.
Remembering Ireland was a parody of kitschy, “back in the good old days” schtick that 5G-haters love. The sort of inane Irish nostalgia tat you see on Irish Granny Facebook, or splattered all over Irish theme pubs. And loads of fake "do you remember this?" books, art, ads etc.
We covered Catholic heavy metal bands, made up of priests
We remembered the iconic, must-have toys of Ireland's cultural yesteryear.
We lifted the lid on "specialist" erotic literature for Ireland's most discerningly horny farmers.
And we showcased the niche magazines that catered to the nuptial needs of Ireland's political prisoners.
But we also invented Banjo The Riot Elephant, for no real reason other than it seemed funny at the time to riff on the idea of an “Ultra Rare” shot of something that made absolutely no sense.

In truth Michael did all the heavy lifting, and my only real contribution was to put Noam Chomsky there beside said elephant. I liked the idea that it might create uncertainty as to which part was doctored. Surely… we wouldn’t have put in both?
I thought it was funny to cast doubt at to whether one of the two actually was there, and we’d simply photoshopped in the other. What I hadn’t bet on was that so many people might think it was entirely real. Which I now realise happened… a lot.
Which brings me to the dazzling conclusion of this tale. When @drwhofreak told me that he had also seen this picture in the wild, but not online. In real life. On the wall of a pub. In Belfast.
Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you the wall of the Landsdowne Hotel in Belfast. From a sarcastic meme about pub wall tat, to a framed place on a real pub's wall. We gazed too long at the abyss and Chomsky gazed right back. The internet is, truly, an elephant that never forgets.

I can't quite believe I'm writing this but Noam has been in touch with Bryan regarding our work. Having now seen the message in question, I'm starting to wonder if Noam really was there.
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