Here are two things that happened this week that, according to the United States Department of State, do not count as coups. First, a rogue Libyan general declared the Libyan parliament to be illegitimate, seized control of much of Benghazi, and then sent loyal militias against the national parliament in Tripoli. Second, the Thai military declared martial law, took control of government and security institutions, and went on the national media, which it had also seized, to explain that its taking control of the government, despite bearing all the indications of a coup, was not actually a coup.
With all these official groups so eager to tell us that these obviously-coups are not in fact coups, some befuddled foreign affairs watchers took to Twitter to offer an informal, crowdsourced guide for how to tell to if your country is experiencing a coup. Started by Libyan activist Hend Amry in the mold of southern comedian Jeff Foxworthy's "you might be a redneck" jokes, the hashtag #YouMightBeExperiencingACoup is a laugh-through-the-tears checklist for judging whether your country's government has been deposed by an unelected force, since we can apparently no longer rely on either the State Department or the coup leaders to acknowledge this fact themselves.
If your president is re-iterating his/her legitimacy to rule...from a different time zone, #YouMightBeExperiencingACoup.— Hend (@LibyaLiberty) May 21, 2014
If regular TV and radio programming in your country is put on standby for strange military parade music #YouMightBeExperiencingACoup— Imad Mesdoua (@ImadMesdoua) May 21, 2014
If foreign governments are either noticeably silent or describe situation as "fluid" #YouMightBeExperiencingACoup— Asma (@LibyanBentBladi) May 21, 2014
If the new ruler invokes Israel or the CIA on day two, #YouMightBeExperiencingACoup.— Hend (@LibyaLiberty) May 21, 2014
If the masses "take to the streets to celebrate the end of a dark period in the nation's history" yup, #YouMightBeExperiencingACoup— Imad Mesdoua (@ImadMesdoua) May 21, 2014
If the US "review" military aid to your country #YouMightBeExperiencingACoup— OA (@OA1975) May 21, 2014
A major street is suddenly renamed after a 'great leader',& it isn't into 'Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.', then #YouMightBeExperiencingACoup.— Hend (@LibyaLiberty) May 21, 2014
if your ministers have packed gold and bags of cash on a private jet #YouMightBeExperiencingACoup— Houssem Tefiani (@Nick_Holdden) May 21, 2014
The hashtag was also joined by a number of Egyptians; next week, General Abdel Fatah el-Sisi will stand for the presidential election, less than a year after he led a coup against Egypt's first-ever democratically elected government. Official government results already report he has won 94 percent of absentee ballots from Egyptians abroad. At the of Sisi's 2013 coup, many Egyptians who supported him repeatedly tweeted #NotACoup, thus proving that his coup didn't count as a coup. The US State Department similarly spent months insisting that Egypt's obviously-a-coup was not a coup.
if the army is forced by 'popular will' to 'safeguard' the revolution #YouMightBeExperiencingACoup— Houssem Tefiani (@Nick_Holdden) May 21, 2014
What I'd really like to see is for the State Department to follow up #UnitedForUkraine, its much-mocked Twitter campaign to generate international support for its Ukraine policy, with a new hashtag campaign that channels its enthusiasm for insisting that various coups don't count as coups. Maybe they can get #UnitedForItsNotACoup trending.