C4′s Blackout: Disastrous Cyber Attacks CAN Be Funny
Tom Brewster considers the cybergeddon dystopia of Blackout, which shed little light on what a serious cyber attack would do but inspired mirth nonetheless
If Channel 4’s ‘Blackout’ show from last night isn’t handed a British Comedy Award, then it will be a travesty. The “drama” sought to give us all the willies about the potential for a cataclysmic cyber attack that takes the power grid down, causing the
titular eponymous blackout.
I’m guessing it wasn’t supposed to inspire the LOLs, but the show had some bonafide comedy gold, which was wonderfully supplemented by some very informed viewers on Twitter. Let’s go through the best bits.
The opening stages set the scene, with a radio presenter describing a “cyber attack” as if it were some esoteric act of sadomasochism. Does the show bother to explain this “cyber attack”? No. No one describes what actually happened, leaving viewers… totally in the dark (BOOM BOOM!). Normal people are too fick to unnerstand, innit?
As chaos consumes Britain, the show then follows a set of characters, from a hapless toff father (“We could’ve gone hunting if we lived in the countryside like I wanted, but mummy wanted to stay in f*****g Homerton,” he tells his poor, terrified kid towards the denouement), to a mother and a child trying to get to Sheffield with the assistance of an ex-convict. My favourites, though, had to be a couple of lad-banter types who try to siphon off some petrol from a tanker, only to set their own car and the tanker on fire, the latter subsequently exploding, leaving one of them to eruditely note: “F*****g mental!”
All these histrionics didn’t go down well with some cynical viewers, who only suspected some corporate conspiracy lay behind the plot…
#blackout sponsored by Halfords and the British Survivalist Association.
— Christian. (@DCTRFOX) September 9, 2013
Wonder if #blackout was funded by a generator manufacturers? Must be worth buying shares in someone anyway!
— Alistair Reid (@ralph_moustache) September 9, 2013
So there you have it. Generator manufacturers and Halfords spies have covertly infiltrated Channel 4 and are feeding us subliminal messages via our TV sets. First the NSA and now this. What next? Nestle and Google transmitting signals to our tiny minds forcing us to eat Kit-Kats?
Is it real?!?!!?!?
Blackout’s mix of found and real footage really spooked a lot of viewers. Some were so convinced they believed it was real, despite the fact they were watching a TV set, or some other device that was powered by electricity (unless they were smart enough to invest in a battery-powered TV).
Trev and Lewis here were sure it was a documentary…
This #blackout documentary is scaring the shit out of me more than any horror. Mainly because its gonna show people 4 how they really are.
— trev Yates (@troop69) September 9, 2013
Best documentary I’ve seen in ages #BlackOut
— Lewis Cullen. (@Lewiecee) September 9, 2013
Elliot, meanwhile, was sickened, just SICKENED, by the way these people were acting…
Sickening scenes in #Blackout. It’s really frightening to see the extremities people go to in situations like this.
— Elliott Lacey (@elliottlacey_) September 9, 2013
These people, hey Elliot? These bloody actors, beating one another up in their fictional set pieces? Absolute outrage mate. Sam Robinson has the right idea – bloody shoot them all:
This is why the British police should be allowed to carry guns to shoot the c**ts that are rioting. #blackout
— Sam Robertson (@srobertson92) September 9, 2013
Meanwhile, Holly hadn’t paid much attention to fact that much of the footage was taken from the London riots…
#Blackout is terrifyingly realistic. Making me feel abit sick. Makes it worse that most of the footage could easily be from riots last year.
— Holly Reynolds (@hollypocket22) September 9, 2013
Much of Blackout begs the most pertinent existential questions. Like would you, if there was nothing else going, eat dog food?
But, quite rightly, most viewers were concerned about the lack of Wi-Fi that a blackout would bring upon us, and all the concomitant horrors that would subsequently rain down upon the nation.
if #blackout actually happened i would die cause no wifi
— megan yo✌ (@hiyaitsmegan) September 9, 2013
Stuart here ponders the worst possible outcome…
— Stewart C (@stew12341) September 9, 2013
And Nat the nihilist just doesn’t think he could take it…
I’d probably just kill myself tbh #blackout
— Nat (@natkrivonozka) September 9, 2013
Power down, but smartphones survive
Obviously this piece was a gem of directorial and scriptwriting brilliance. One master-stroke was to make sure you were scared by having a lot of characters make it known that “things are getting genuinely scary now” or “it’s really scary”. But there were a couple of gaping plot holes in Blackout.
Viewers were understandably baffled by the long battery life of the phones and cameras the characters were using, or the fact that broadcasts were still going out that may have been reliant on the grid…
All I can say most of these mobile users in #blackout have a better battery life than I do.
— Nilesy ★ (@Millhaven_Curse) September 9, 2013
Others took the show’s commentary on power infrastructure very seriously though. Hyundai got in there with the PR message…
Living off-grid is an achievable outcome, but the UK is just not prepared for a mass #blackout
— Hyundai Power Equipm (@HyundaiPowerEq) September 9, 2013
Terry thought it proved those windfarm naysayers were just crazy fools (although, Terry, I’m fairly certain windfarms feed into the grid, which was taken out as a whole)…
— Terry Buzec (@telbuz) September 9, 2013
Jack Johnson (shouldn’t he be twiddling a guitar somewhere?) provided us with this terse truism that really summed up most people’s feelings…
I love you, electricity #Blackout
— Jack Johnson (@JackJohnson710) September 9, 2013
And for all its good intentions (this surely wasn’t some protracted piece of scaremongering? Say it ain’t so!), people didn’t quite get the message on how to survive after a big old cyber strike.
I was particularly concerned for people who still wanted to go out and buy candles, even though one of the major fallouts of the attack was the spread of fires from, you guessed it, excessive use of candles…
Going out tommorow buying a hundred candles, generator, ten ton of petrol and raiding the tinned isle section in tescos. #blackout
— Lauren (@laurenellesse) September 9, 2013
Don’t do it Lauren! Anyway, at least you weren’t just taking the mick like others were…
Thank christ draft beer doesn’t require electricity to pour #blackout
— Grant Thorpe (@GrantThorpe1) September 9, 2013
So what we’re saying is there’d be no pizza or coffee? #Blackout
— Matthew Paul (@MatthewJPaul) September 9, 2013
Anyway, Chris spoke for all of us with this little note…
Plan for when #blackout 1) Kill neighbours 2) Generate in peace
— christian (@ohchrisburton) September 9, 2013
Anyway, the overall message here is that a catastrophic cyber bomb is going to land imminently and we should all get the tin foil hats out to direct any denial of service attacks away from our puny brains and stock up on supplies. Advice? Just stay at home. And please, please, please do not buy candles.
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