When security fears are heightened, it makes a humourless age even more humourless - which the British embassy in Washington has just learned.
Yesterday was the 200th anniversary of British soldiers burning down the White House in 1814, during the confusingly named War Of 1812.
To celebrate, London's people in Washington served a massive cake, complete with sparklers, fanfare and a Twitter picture.
They joked they were using "only sparklers this time!"
Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time! pic.twitter.com/QIDBQTBmmL
— British Embassy (@UKinUSA) August 24, 2014
But, as news of Islamic State jihadists threatening death to the West and murdering people dominates the headlines, it was perhaps not the best time to cheerily joke about Redcoats marching down Pennsylvania Avenue and destroying the president's home.
This guy was distinctly unimpressed.
— Michael R. Wimberly (@Michaelmrw) August 24, 2014
And, in a sign that tropes of British political culture have made it across the pond, this guy blamed the Tories.
— Yossi Gestetner (@YossiGestetner) August 24, 2014
"Apologies for earlier Tweet," the embassy said. "We meant to mark an event in history and celebrate our strong friendship today."
Apologies for earlier Tweet. We meant to mark an event in history & celebrate our strong friendship today http://t.co/gs3heJDMzt
— British Embassy (@UKinUSA) August 25, 2014
It might seem odd "celebrate" a "strong friendship" by recalling the time you burned down your friend's house, but oh well.
Some found the whole thing hilarious.
I am genuinely loving the @UKinUSA feed right now. Sorry for trying to burn down the White House, here's a cake of it burning
— Jules Mattsson (@julesmattsson) August 24, 2014
But a lot of people were unsure why the embassy felt it had to apologise.
V. annoying that the British embassy (@UKinUSA) felt pressured into apologizing for a funny tweet. Stand behind your jokes, Britannia!
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) August 25, 2014
Ridiculous that the British Embassy apologized for that tweet. Was anyone seriously bothered? https://t.co/1cQL1jceqc
— Joseph Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) August 25, 2014
One person suggested the embassy's only crime was getting "good at Twitter".
Did the British Embassy just apologize for getting good at Twitter? pic.twitter.com/FeOA1Tz82S
— Kelsey D. Atherton (@AthertonKD) August 25, 2014
One American hit back (sort of), by cruelly claiming Britain's timid need to apologise for everything was why we lost the War of Independence (not the War of 1812 obviously, that was a draw).
— Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) August 25, 2014
Not cool, Blake, not cool. We're not holding our breath for an apology though.
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