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.

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyVia Instagram
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 ...

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyVia Instagram

... pulling a steely eyed magnum stare for a group of attractive young women ...

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyVia Instagram

... 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.

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyVia Instagram
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:

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyWason Wanichakorn/AP
"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.

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlySakchai Lalit/AP,Wason Wanichakorn/AP


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.

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyZuma/Rex
"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.

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyApichart Weerawong/AP
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."

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyPornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images
His tears are doves.

2
Neo-Nazis Are Turning Into Hipsters to Appeal to the Youth

Neo-Nazis admittedly face a pretty tough challenge when they do membership drives. It's hard to win people over to your cause when your cause was responsible for, oh, the darkest period in human history. Consequently, recruitment brochures are a brainteaser to assemble, which is why the neo-Nazis in Germany have been trying to clean up their image (and the label "neo-Nazi") by turning themselves into fashionable, scene-conscious hipsters.

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look Friendlyrt.com
"Our posters are printed with recycled paper and recycled hate."

Nipsters, short for "Nazi hipsters" and/or "nationalist hipsters" (see: "challenging brochure," above), are what the leaders of the neo-Nazi party of Germany realized they had to become once their membership numbers were at an all-time low. Pro-Nazi sentiment has gradually shrunk from 9.7 percent to 5.6 percent over the past 12 years; simultaneously, German youths have become increasingly susceptible to scarves, ironic hashtags, and wearing messenger bags everywhere they go, whether or not they actually need them to carry anything.

So what did the Nazis do? They began using Tumblr and Twitter, presumably to share vintage pictures of a nonchalantly candid Hitler drinking coffee at an open mic; they changed their wardrobe from "Walmart" to "H&M"; and they even started a cooking show for Nazi vegans, which is a statement that should be a joke, but absolutely isn't. They also like to hang out like moody post-adolescents, sporting eco-friendly handbags decorated with trendy minimalist hate speech.

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyJesko Wrede via rollingstone.com
"I'm a total fascisnista."

[inject-module]

They've even loosened the reins on their trademark fanatical racism in an effort to be a more inclusive group of violent socialists. According to the leaders of the new neo-Nazi movement, you can love Rihanna as an artist but still despise black people on Facebook, so as you can see, there's no reason not to join. It's not all business with nipsters, though -- they're just like any other group of opinionated young people who like to have fun. They organize an annual "Live H8" concert, and in their free time they like to make Harlem Shake videos, because as hipsters, they feed on irony.

1
China's Special Forces Are Recruiting With Movie Posters

China has recently declared a nationwide "people's war" on terror, which surprisingly doesn't involve spending trillions of dollars on a perpetual troop deployment in the Middle East. However, maintaining peace in a country with over four times the population of the United States requires a massive police force. And when your country loves Michael Bay movies more than America does, your best hope in driving new membership is to depict the police force in super badass Hollywood-style movie posters, pouring out of an armored G.I. Joe van and lining up for explosive action that will likely also contain some soft-core nudity.

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyChengdu Public Security Bureau
"Wait until you see what's behind this riot shield ..."

Chengdu's Public Security Bureau (actual motto: "Loyalty! Serving the People! Justice! Cleanliness!") recently released these posters to help reach their recruitment goal of nearly 400 new members for their Special Forces division, all but promising hopeful applicants that at least a portion of their workday will occur in slow motion.

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyChengdu Public Security Bureau
"Can ... can I put the leg down? It's been 10 minutes."

If these posters have taught us anything, it's that Chinese cops apparently carry crossbows. That's just, like, a job one guy on every team has. But it's not all roundhouse kicks and explosions -- there's downtime for hilarious antics and playful alt-rock opening credit montages with your fellow officers, too. Because above all else, Chengdu Police is a family.

4 Surreal Ways Scary Groups Are Trying to Look FriendlyChengdu Public Security Bureau
With crossbows.


The third part of XJ's epic science-fiction novel is out now on Amazon. The first $0.99 novella can be found here, with Part 2 out here. Or leave a review and get a free copy! Poke him on Twitter and follow him on Facebook.

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