Aesthetics Wiki

Phony Bureaucracy is a term used to describe the aesthetic of unsettling but ultimately phony bureaucratic and informational media. These can include posters, videos, broadcasts, letters, or any other forms of media that follow the aesthetics of official (often government) propaganda, except that they are sinister in tone, ominously describing nightmarish or unworldly events. Many aesthetics, such as Analog Horror and Cryptidcore, contain elements of Phony Bureaucracy as a way of worldbuilding or reinforcing a feeling of "wrongness," but this specific aesthetic can also be found in more humorous contexts, such as the 2011 puzzle-platform Portal 2. There is also some overlap with work from online creators such as Alan Wagner (although not all of his work should be considered Phony Bureaucracy).

The effectiveness of this technique may come from the familiar authority and coldness of authoritative media being juxtaposed with a sinister or threatening scenario. Arguably, the most effective examples of this aesthetic are pieces of media that could be mistaken as real. Fear of emergency alert systems in general may contribute to this feeling of unease.