It's hard to be a militant organization without looking like the bad guy. Image is more important than ever, particularly when anything you say or do can be beamed across the world in an instant on Twitter and Facebook. Consequently, once-terrifying groups are deliberately taking steps to cultivate a more Internet-friendly image, which is why we're seeing neo-Nazis doing the Harlem Shake on YouTube and the Chinese secret police making recruitment posters of their officers spin-kicking their way through explosions.
#4. The Russian Troops Who Invaded Crimea Take Happy Pictures With Anyone Who Wants It
2014 has been an interesting year for Russia and its neighbors. Winter Olympics fever took Eastern Europe by storm -- that is, all of the parts of Eastern Europe that weren't totally screwed by it -- and as soon as those two weeks of pretending to care about obscure athletic competitions tenuously connected to cold weather dried up, Russia went and invaded Crimea while simultaneously denying they were doing so, because global politics is occasionally a cartoon show.
However, not everyone in Crimea totally hates their Russian invaders, because not all of Crimea was completely down with becoming part of the European Union (which was theoretically on the table before the previous Ukrainian president suddenly changed his mind and was booted out of office for his trouble). The invading troops extended an olive branch to these pro-Russian citizens the only way the 21st century knows how -- by posing for adorable selfies.
Moments before Granny's hand got uncomfortably lower.
Sinister intentions notwithstanding, most people would agree to a quick picture with a pretty woman or a great-grandmother who looks like she'd pound the shit out of you with her brick-loaded purse if you declined. But these soldiers are going above and beyond, joyfully participating with quirky gun-toting poses to help elevate each image to the maximum level of whimsy, whether that means bending down for a better angle with the kids ...
... pulling a steely eyed magnum stare for a group of attractive young women ...
... or allowing a man wearing a baseball cap and windbreaker he found in a time capsule from the 1990s to drape a flag over your shoulders while his children, bundled up in clothing announcing an enthusiasm for the idea of organized competition without supporting a specific sport or team, wait to be instructed to smile.
Best game champions.
A similar situation is occurring in Thailand, where a military coup has resulted in the population scoring some awesome photos for their Instagram feed:
"Please don't leave. My neck isn't strong enough to support this Spaceballs helmet."
However, unlike the Russian troops, most of the Thai military seems unwilling to do anything more to enhance the citizens' photos beyond not ruining the picture by getting out of their jeeps and shooting people.
#3. Thai Military Coup Commander Wrote and Released Ballad Titled "Return Happiness to Thailand" to Make People Happy
As we mentioned above, Thailand has pretty much turned upside down over the past few weeks ever since the military declared martial law. This isn't completely unheard of for Thailand, though -- the last time something like this happened was only eight years ago. So while the Army storming the White House and holding the president hostage seems more like a Roland Emmerich movie you watch on Netflix while nursing a hangover than something that could actually happen, for Thailand it happens about as often as a new Star Wars movie, which partly explains why everyone was so quick to get their picture taken with soldiers who look like they'd really rather be killing people.
"It's not that bad!"
-Star Wars fans/the Thai people
Thailand's new military government -- known as a junta -- has been promoting a nationwide drive to "return happiness to the Thai people." Free movie tickets, free World Cup viewings, government-sponsored parties, free checkups, and free concerts are just some parts of the campaign.
Also included were free umbrellas and free laughter.
However, far and away the best part of this campaign is its official theme song. We're not talking about a nationalist marching band song, either -- "Return Happiness to Thailand," written by the Thai Army chief general himself, sounds like a Lionel Ritchie song as covered by a Hall and Oates tribute band.
Yep -- the man behind the military coup wrote and produced a song to express "his feelings for the people," in hopes that it would inspire Thailand's citizens "to love each other again."
Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images
His tears are doves.