“All warfare is based on deception.” — The Art of War.
— Sunny Bear – Sun Tzu (@Sunni_Tzu) January 16, 2018
Nearly 2,500 years after the ancient Chinese general Sun-Tzu was credited with writing the timeless and influential book The Art of War, his persona and words have been co-opted by an adorable dog from Philly who’s taking Sun-Tzu’s message to one of the 21st century’s newest battlefronts — Twitter.
Sunny Bear, who also goes by Sun-Tzu on Twitter, is a 2-year-old cavapoo with a legion of more than 41,500 followers. To put that in perspective, the Philadelphia Zoo, which houses some of the city’s most famous animals, has about 40,400 Twitter followers.
— Sunny Bear – Sun Tzu (@Sunni_Tzu) February 7, 2017
Bill Murphy and his girlfriend, Monica Treutel, who live in the city’s Spring Garden section, adopted Sunny — a fluffy ball of silky fur with an utterly cute underbite — from a family in Kennett Square on a particularly sunny day, which is how she got her name.
The skillful General subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting, captures their cities without laying siege to them, and overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.#SunTzu pic.twitter.com/HC8bOAa7pC
— Sunny Bear – Sun Tzu (@Sunni_Tzu) January 8, 2018
Murphy, 42, began tweeting photos of Sunny under the handle @Sunni_Tzu with accompanying quotes from The Art of War shortly after President Trump’s election in November 2016. Murphy works in digital strategy and said his goal with Sunny’s account is to both help people cope during an uncertain time and make her a “resistance fighter” against negative and bot Twitter accounts.
“I created the account as something cute and fluffy to just warm the hearts of people who were feeling so dejected at the time,” Murphy said. “I also did it as a case study to show that if you’re an organization committed to growing, you can do it in a positive manner.”
— Sunny Bear – Sun Tzu (@Sunni_Tzu) April 28, 2017
He chose Twitter as Sunny’s social-media platform because it offers “nuggets that people can digest.”
“That’s why the president is so effective on Twitter,” Murphy said. “It’s not big enough to really tell the whole story, it’s just a headline.”
Murphy tries to pair photos of Sunny with appropriate quotes from The Art of War and, when possible, he tries to make them relevant to the moment. On Jan. 19, the Friday before the Eagles won at home in the NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings, he tweeted a photo of Sunny at Lincoln Financial Field.
The method through which we intend to attack must not be made known; for then our opponent will have to prepare their defenses against possible strikes from several different possibilities.#SunTzu #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/v0jM6gmTtG
— Sunny Bear – Sun Tzu (@Sunni_Tzu) January 19, 2018
“The method through which we intend to attack must not be made known,” the accompanying Sun-Tzu quote read, “for then our opponent will have to prepare their defenses against possible strikes from several different possibilities.”
Murphy said he’s read The Art of War several times and it has motivated him “when I needed a kick in the pants.”
He said the book applies not just to war, but to life itself.
“My whole mission now is not to have people see it as The Art of War, but if you look at the quotes it can really be applied to anything you do in life. It’s like taking this ancient philosophy and softening it up a little bit.”
The clever General looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence their ability to pick out the right soldiers and utilize combined energy will lead to certain victory. #SunTzu pic.twitter.com/kU5WkjoNPX
— Sunny Bear – Sun Tzu (@Sunni_Tzu) November 27, 2017
But, at its core, it is a book about war and sometimes the passages can get dark. When that happens, Sunny can lose up to 200 followers in a day, Murphy said.
“A recent one was about five ways of attacking with fire, and one is to burn soldiers alive in their camp,” Murphy said of the photo showing Sunny in the passenger seat of a car with a beam of sunlight on her. “She lost some followers who said it was too dark, but she had the most malevolent look on her face.”
— Sunny Bear – Sun Tzu (@Sunni_Tzu) November 24, 2017
Other people have been moved to tears of joy by Sunny’s account.
“People have sent us messages that said, ‘I’m in a really dark place and she helped me,’ ” Treutel said. “They’ve got to know it’s a dog and it doesn’t talk, but maybe they appreciate what Bill is doing.”
— Sunny Bear – Sun Tzu (@Sunni_Tzu) August 30, 2017
According to Murphy, Sunny is currently the most popular Sun-Tzu-based account on Twitter.
“Three years from now, when people go to look up Sun-Tzu, it will link back to a dog. Twenty years down the line, when people Google ‘Sun-Tzu,’ will pictures of my dog pop up?” Murphy said. “That’s part of the whole thought experiment.”
“Because Philly is the city that always gets better, and it always reinvents itself. Ever since William Penn landed, it’s been a city about aspirations, about becoming a better person, so it just seems to fit.”
What’s been a classic Philly moment for you?
“A classic Philly moment for Sunny Bear, or moments, is just that fact that everyone is always so open and willing to speak with her and to love her. She goes everywhere in the city, probably places that she’s not supposed to be, but everyone kind of turns a blind eye because she’s pretty well-behaved.”
If you had a wish for Philadelphia, what would it be?
“There’s recently some new legislation to let Philly become a no-kill city, and we think that that’s great and we’re really behind that, and we hope that passes. We hope all the dogs and cats in the city shelters find a forever home. And obviously, like everybody else in the city, we’re hoping for that championship Super Bowl win, that’s for sure.”
Know someone in the Philadelphia area whose story deserves to be told — or someone whose story you’d like to know? Send suggestions for We the People profiles to Stephanie Farr at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 215-854-4225. Send tips via Twitter to @FarFarrAway.
Want more We the People?
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