Web Culture

Keep Calm: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, Internet.

Justin Pot 04-10-2013

Internet, this needs to stop. You keep finding moderately cool things and driving them into the ground, and what you’ve done with “Keep Calm And Carry On” is just the worst.


Stop. Now.

I saw a bunch of people wearing “Keep Calm It’s The Henderson Family Reunion” shirts at a park recently. That’s not a parody of the poster: it’s “Keep Calm” followed by some random words. There’s no semblance of thought here, it’s just using the font and the words “Keep Calm” because they’ve been used in other places.

Which is too bad, because the poster itself is actually pretty cool. The UK government printed 2 million of these during World War II, but never hung them up. They were forgotten for half a century, until one was eventually found in an old box by the owners of Barter Bookstore in northeast England.

It’s instantly iconic. The crisp typeface looks downright contemporary, the white-on-red stands out, and the message easily resonates in a complex age when obscure things like Greek financial policy can bring western civilization to the brink of destruction overnight. The modern world is complex and frightening, and something about this message from the past stands out.

So naturally, the Internet had to ruin it.


Keep Calm and Any Combination Of Words

The parodies started early, one of the first examples being a straight-forward reversal of the concept:


Kind of funny, right? And the upside down crown is a nice touch. A sane civilization would have stopped at this point.

But we’re not sane, and eventually every niche interest on the Internet decided they wanted in on the “fun”. Zombies came quickly, of course:



Moderately amusing. Perhaps worth putting in the background of yet another comedy set in a zombie post-apocalypse. But that’s the end of the trend, right?

No. People kept making it worse, designing “parody” posters only loosely connected to the original concept.



Yep, we’re using “parody” to compare the mass-hysteria that results from needing to wait for an Apple product to a Nazi invasion of the UK. Get it?

Me neither. Don’t worry, though, because I’m sure someone made something worse.


I’m probably biased, because I’m never going to forgive Justin Bieber for making it impossible for me to Google myself Destroy The Web: Shoot Things You Dislike, For Fun and Profit [Firefox, Chrome] Tired of seeing stuff you hate on the web? Shoot it. Destroy the web is a stress-relieving diversion that allows you to target elements of any site you dislike, leaving destruction and high scores in... Read More . But seriously: transparent text? You’re so opposed to anything covering this guy’s face that you resorted to an overlay?


And what does “keeping calm” have to do with being a fan of a particular singer? Speaking of not having anything to do with anything:


Ahh, I see you’ve ditched the “Keep Calm” thing entirely, and replaced the solid-red backdrop with pixelated racism. Interesting choice. Now I’m probably too Canadian to really “get” what you’re trying to say here, and I’m not going to tell you what to do. Still, I bet your southern ancestors would be pretty angry you put the symbol of Abraham Lincoln’s party at the top of this nonsense.

Rise Of The Machines

So yeah, humans made some pretty terrible “parodies”, but I bet your wondering: could a computer do an even worse job? As it turns out, yes!


Holy crap that’s offensive. No person in their right mind would try to sell that shirt, right? Perhaps not, but a machine programmed to combine “Keep Calm” with random noun-verb combinations did. The above shirt was actually on Amazon, as PopSci.com explains. It clearly points out why this is a bad idea, but that it was even attempted is telling. Humans are just jumbling random words together, why not let a machine do it? Might sell a few shirts…


You might be wondering: is there a voice of reason in the midst of all this? This is the closest I could find:


It’s hard to disagree, but no one listens. These “parodies” keep happening – Keep Calm O Matic, which automates making these awful parodies KeepCalm-0-Matic: Create a WWII Style Propaganda Poster Online Read More , claims over six million of them have been created using their service. Think about that: for every original poster the UK printed, three people have effortlessly re-arranged words to “parody” it.

And I’m sure I haven’t found the worst ones here. Can you find anything worse? Point them out in the comments below, if you must.

Or check out these fascinating British propaganda videos from World War II 80 Fascinating Historical British WWII Propaganda Films [Stuff to Watch] Recently the British Council, an organization that focuses on educational and cultural importance, released a bounty of historical films produced during the Second World War for viewing online. These reels were produced to counter Nazi... Read More . It’s a better use of your time, really.

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  1. BeccaB
    December 31, 2014 at 2:41 am

    You want to know some serious keep calm sh*t? There's a picture of a btirish women having tea time on some rubble after a bombing in WW2, how did this silly saying go viral but not that pic!?!

    • Justin Pot
      December 31, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      Do you have a link to said picture? I'd love to see it.

  2. Frank P
    December 4, 2013 at 11:47 am

    lol! I made one for a guy on G+, he had issue's getting rid of his facebook account.
    (it was supposed to be deleted) Mine said: "Keep Calm, Adam was here"

    Why does facebook keep an outline of your profile in any case?
    A few people I know and help still have ghost type profiles on facebook.

  3. Saske
    November 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    God! I can't believe this. They're doing such a horrible thing. You must be feeling horrible.

    This is why I wish the French had ruled India rather than the British. You and your dictatorships, tradition and censorship!

  4. stricnin
    October 31, 2013 at 1:03 am

    For some reason I thought it was a quote from "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy"

    • JFrankParnell
      November 2, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      I thought it was a Dr. Who reference. I'm the last person on the inet who has never watched dr. who.

  5. Sara
    October 25, 2013 at 4:47 am

    This is well-written and hilarious. So I can stop wasting my breath trying to explain to people why the original slogan was so awesome (and the overdone parodies completely take the power out of it), I will just send people to this article! Well done!

  6. Nancy
    October 11, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Thank you Justin. That is all.

  7. williamworlde
    October 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I love the Internet. Some days though, I do get to the end of it; like last night for example. But, here I am starting all over! :-)

    I like those intelligent/funny reworks of the original "KEEP CALM AND"; sadly, this is often not the case. Example: None of the instances you highlighted above!

    Yes, I do agree the Internet has a tendency to spoil things. Not to worry though; the idiots we are, WWIII will give us a fresh start.

  8. Xiao
    October 5, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    This is so freaking stupid, but it became viral so quickly. Why do internet users like stupid random shit?

  9. Marky
    October 5, 2013 at 4:32 am

    I made one for my sandwich shop: Keep Calm and Carry Out!

    • williamworlde
      October 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      Now see; I think this one is smart.

    • Justin P
      October 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      An actual pun, and not just a random series of words? Whoa.

  10. STFU
    October 4, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    I'm with you on this one. The "Keep calm" shit is so overused.... most people probably don't have a clue of it's true story.

  11. Quite the Pundint
    October 4, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Of course, the phrases "this is why we can’t have nice things" and "you need to stop" are worn out too.

    • Justin P
      October 4, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      You're not wrong. I'm part of the problem.

  12. JohnnyWarbucks
    October 4, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    I too hate how the internet ruins everything. FAIL and EPIC are the worst offenders, IMO. I hate the internet.

  13. Matt S
    October 4, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I agree, Justin, I hate this meme. It's just a bunch of idiots slapping shit beneath a crown and saying "lookie, I made a funny!"

  14. jkendal
    October 4, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Keep calm.


    Seriously, people. It's just a slogan.....

  15. Joseph B
    October 4, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I'm glad I don't know what a 'meme' is, since said memes rock the boat so much.

  16. Me
    October 4, 2013 at 2:58 pm


  17. Nick O'Disney
    October 4, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Nice history lesson, but you're pissing in the wind my son. What Joel L said.....

  18. Joel L
    October 4, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Unfortunately, that's what the Internet does. Look at image macros and meme phrases, especially on sites like Reddit, 9gag, etc. These things are like inside jokes: 1) everyone wants to feel like they're "in" on the joke and 2) it's a way to tell a joke without requiring any effort in creating the joke. It's a way for the uncreative to feel creative.

  19. CJ
    October 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    I think the OP should Keep Calm and Move On. How sad is your life that an internet meme troubles you?!

    • Justin P
      October 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      My life is freaking fantastic. I have an awesome wife, I live in a great town and I have a job that pays me to write about how an Internet meme trouble me.

    • StoJa9 (@JStoesz9)
      October 4, 2013 at 6:37 pm

      How sad is CJ's life that an Internet article troubles him? Justin writes for an Internet site. On the Internet. ABOUT the Internet. What's your excuse, CJ?

  20. Manuth C
    October 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I remember "Keep calm and switch to Nokia Lumia" :D

    • Justin P
      October 4, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      So made because Nokia was freaking out about no one buying any. :)

    • Manuth C
      October 5, 2013 at 6:19 am

      I don't quite understand this. Lumia is good (and so does Windows Phone), yet folks don't like it even most of them have never seen it or use it in action.

    • Mel
      October 18, 2013 at 5:21 am

      @Manuth C I don't like it because 1, It doesn't work, 2, updates make it worse, 3, Nokia went five stories down to work with Windows Phone, 4, MS likes to keep everything secret, 5, They tend to trash everything else when there is a new version, 6, They do it dispite what customers think, 7, Lumia isn't the Nokia of Innovation and beauty which I fell in love with, 8, That is a few reasons why other than the UI which I don't like, but that could just be personal preference. TBH, I prefer the old Nokia rather than Android, they are just more fun; that said there is little you can do with them at this time seeing the Tech is quite outdated; they still are good for calling though. :)