The Emperor’s New T-shirt

May 14, 2007 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Bedtime story, Climate change, Global warming, Humour | 3 Comments

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there lived an emperor in a far-away land, not so far from here. This emperor was perfectly average as fairy tale rulers go: sixty inches tall and one-and-a-half metres round his belly on a fair day, which was said to be 77 or 25 degrees, depending on the units. Like all fairy tale rulers caught between the metric and imperial ways, he liked to choose the system, and reporting methods, that worked best for him.

This emperor was so average, when he climbed in an elevator and pressed the button, it always stopped at the middle floor!

It must be said, Emperor Watson Mai Intrest took great pride in the fact that he sat right in the middle of the bell curve. He even had a throne designed in the shape of an upside-down bell curve to prove it. He presented himself as the perfectly average kind of ruler most citizens would like to share a beer with … and he knew for a fact that half his citizens were below average intelligence, which meant they looked up to him. (The other half he had to be more careful with, so he would simply use or ignore them, depending on his mood.)

The emperor was an imperial clothes horse: he loved fashion! He especially liked pretend-play and dressing up as “the common man”, loafing around his empire in the latest brand warfare labelled “Fair Wear ®”.

One fair day, two experts named Bill and Ben ‘The Flowerpot Men’ approached the palace and knocked firmly on its ancient oak door.

“They seem a nice pair of guys—just the kind I’d like to share a beer with,” thought the emperor as he peeked out of his secret pop-up window. He commanded his servants to let Bill and Ben enter.

The usual security checks followed. You know the kind of thing:

  • shoes off before passing through the metal- and lie-detecting arches
  • no liquids (apart from those contained within your body) allowed in the imperial throne room
  • and not-yet-invented or not-invented-here devices, like iPods and Bose noise-cancelling headphones, to be removed and turned off in the imperial presence

Bill and Ben kneeled before their victim and spoke confidently:

“Your Imperial Majesty, we bow before you today in total humility to inform you of our amazing new discovery. Not only are you the most popular emperor this land has known, but this discovery will ensure your popularity lasts for ever!”

Oh! What music to the imperial ears! (… which, don’t forget, had never known the joys of iPods and the benefits of Bose headphones …)

H.I.M. (His Imperial Majesty) urged the two experts to continue.

“Everyone says you are a trendsetter. Your lowly peasants and honourable advisers agree. You are undeniably ahead of half of them in the intelligence stakes, to be sure. As for the other half: we have a plan. We present to you—the finest T-shirt in the world!

[Imperial applause]

“The cloth it is made from,” they added in hushed tones, “has a very special capability: it displays a message and always tells the truth.”

[Imperial applause goes over the top]

The two experts said the magical message on the T-shirt would always be ahead of popular trends. It would always lead and always be true. Anyone who disagreed with the message displayed on such fabric was evidently an eejit and deserved to be stuck in the stocks and pelted with rotten tomatoes.

The emperor loved this colourful way to promote the truth in his empire. He smirked with glee at the thought of humiliating those who disagreed with his core message. Such a T-shirt would work wonders for those citizens who were below average, as it would simplify communication of the truth to them, and would be backed up by the imperial “Fair Wear ®” label that they all knew and loved. Even more satisfying—those citizens who were above average intelligence would head straight for the stocks in disgrace if they so much as murmured their dissent. Party-time for the elites would be over!

With this magical fabric he could more easily control the bell-shaped balance of power in his kingdom, which, as everyone always told him, was not a measly little kingdom, but rather an impressive empire. (Nevertheless, he was always keen to avoid a tipping point.)

H.I.M. called for three wise men—trusted and intelligent advisers—to examine the T-shirt.

When they arrived, the spectacular T-shirt read:


imperial warming glitter pink animated

is a hoax glitter pink animated

Fair Wear ®

Of course, the three wise men knew full well that this was not what the scientific community had concluded after decades of serious study of the imperial climate. Naturally, none would admit that this was not the truth, because that would land them in the stocks, so all praised it in front of the emperor.

H.I.M. called for a further delegation of ten wise men—trusted, and intelligent ministers—to examine the T-shirt.

The spectacular T-shirt still read:


imperial warming glitter pink animated

is a hoax glitter pink animated

Fair Wear ®

Of course, everyone in that delegation knew that this was not what the scientific community had concluded after decades of serious study of the imperial climate. Naturally, none would admit that this was a lie, because saying so would be declaring oneself an eejit, so all praised it in front of the emperor.

Secure in the knowledge that there was no dissent even from his most senior officials, H.I.M. commanded that the people be prepared for its appearance upon the imperial person at the next procession.

Before long, the cloth was being discussed in bars near and far, narrow and wide, north, south, east and west across the land. Many folk, knowing full well that they themselves were not eejits, were still interested to learn how stupid their neighbors were, and looked forward to the day when they would see this remarkable article of clothing and read its true message.

On a hot sunny day in the darkest of winters, just as the tides were turning, the emperor wore the T-shirt as announced. In his arrogance, he never realised he was proudly promoting a hoax himself! Of course, he did not doubt the truth of the T-shirt slogan: the best experts in the land—who seemed a nice pair of guys he would like to share a beer with—had made it for him, and they had presented its technical capabilities very well, even translating terms into the easy-to-follow language of magical powers (a way of thinking he found more appealing to his well-groomed imperial feelings).

The crowds praised the magnificent T-shirt: half of them knew the message was true, and the other half were afraid to point out the flaw for fear of repercussions.

Suddenly, all at once, and once and for all, a young boy yelled:

“That T-shirt is wrong!”

imperial warming jump red animated

is no hoax jump red animated

“Give us facts. Don’t give us jokes.”

This was whispered from person to person until all that could be heard were chants of:


imperial warming jump red animated

is no hoax jump red animated

“Give us facts. Don’t give us jokes.”

The two swindlers had already converted their rewards into infinity bonds and had fled back home to another planet in a parallel universe, secure in the knowledge that “we did what we thought was right” and they would never be affected, whatever the weather.

The emperor changed permanently into a penguin, and waddled back to his imperial palace, never to be seen in public again.

The little boy was respected as a true hero. He resisted calls to become a minister, choosing instead to study the natural world, and became a well-loved scientist.

© inel 2007





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  1. […] recent fairy tale about an Imperial Warming Hoax (aka The Emperor’s New T-shirt), my description of Fantastic Fantastic Mr. Fox as a fine example of an engineer, and my use of […]

  2. Wow, inel! What a story, and it’s so relevant. I love it!

  3. […] enjoying the imperial warming hoax in The Emperor’s New T-shirt, my daugher asked me to write another environmental fairy […]

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