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- This article is about the magical telephone in the White House. For other uses, see the disambiguation page.
The hotline is a red telephone providing direct service between the White House in Washington, D.C. and the Kremlin in Moscow. The hotline was modeled on the emergency telephone connecting Commissioner Gordon in Gotham City with the bat-cave. Pressing a button on this hotline achieved direct communication with the Batman, or at least with Alfred, Batman's dimwitted but excruciatingly proper British butler.
Though there are many hotlines between national capitals, the most famous one is the Washington-Moscow link. This is also known as the "red telephone," although it is not red, and it is not a telephone. This link was established in June 1963, in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
This crisis occurred when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was testing the young, charismatic, and moronic U.S. President John F. Kennedy to see whether Khrushchev could get away with putting nuclear missiles in Cuba. Though he did not, diplomats thought that much anguish could have been relieved if the two leaders could simply telephone one another and ask, "Are you fricking out of your mind?"
The original "hotline" used teletypewriter technology. Much like an old UnNews Audio, it was thought that this version of the hotline would soothe frayed nerves by the clacking of a Teletype in the background, perhaps enough that they would ignore the blatant illogic coming through from the other end, as is the hope at UnNews Audio. Subsequent versions used a telecopier and then email. Thus, there has never been a telephone with a big black button on the top that one national leader could press to be connected directly with his swarthy counterpart, assuming that neither is having anything prurient done to him under the desk, pretending that the two spoke the same language, and ignoring the fact that the leaders have a cellphone in one pocket and a Blackberry in the other, and they have one another on "speed dial."
To place a call on a hotline, one simply picks up the headset and presses the button. Immediately, the counterpart telephone begins ringing. Assuming the counterpart national leader is sitting at his desk and has nothing better to do than wait for a call to come in, he picks up his hotline, the international crisis is quickly resolved, and a nuclear war is averted.
If the maid or Monica Lewinski is in the Oval Office and thinks it might be a neat prank to use the hotline and see what happens, an international crisis is instead quickly generated and a nuclear war is caused.
Pressing the button effects direct service to Moscow. However, if the presser requests room service, it will take a very long time to arrive, even via ballistic missile. Russian pizza houses may accede to a request to add anchovies but will probably resist adding pineapples.