The Grand Colonic Irrigation (GCI) that was 2016 has rolled on into 2017 and the hose doesn’t look like coming out any time soon.
A Gilded Guttersnipe has infected, through dubious means, a whole history at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. – a.k.a. the White House, which it is again after eight fairly sane and hopeful years of non-white residency.
Thank you Michelle, Malia, Sasha and Barack for your grace and normalisation of familial love.
Thank you Barack for your good intentions.
In exchange we’ve got some excellent new memes though: Fake News, Alternate Facts, and one that made it into the Oxford English Dictionary – Post-Truth, which I believe was deemed “word of the year” by the same august tome during the GCI.
It’s an adjectival term really. Call me pedantic.
Give me a meme and I’ll cry you a river . . . because you do know, don’t you, this is going to end in tears.
Among the pages of the Great Sage Douglas Adams’ jottings – you might remember The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (and if you don’t I suggest you give it a go) – is a personage of great power and persuasion named Slartibartfast.
As it turns out he is not an Alternate Fact or Fake News at all.
He is a scary, omniscient acquaintance of mine with a design company of truly epic proportions.
He’s the biggest, most beautiful acquaintance a man can have. Everyone says so.
You are living on a world reworked by Slartibartfast . . . one of his many figments, born of a pernicious sense of humour and diabolical sense of fun.
He’s the one on my smart phone contacts list who exists almost in the vicinity of “S” as something resembling dark matter, with an Emoji that suggests there is no turning back and nowhere to run.
The Emoji is a smiley face but, if you ever find my phone (and I do leave it laying around quite a lot, unlike the current majority of sentient ambulances), don’t, whatever you do, look into its eyes.
Slartibartfast and I talk quite a bit.
Well, to be frank, he talks quite bit and I just listen with the curious sensation that, at a sub-atomic level, my corporeal self is about to be intubated by a Smiley Face with eyes that only someone wearing a Burberry hessian robe and wielding a large scythe could gaze back at with some kind of twisted affection.
The other day Slartibartfast had a mischievous glint in his eye and was saying something about a Fucking Muppet wanting a wall built. Which, for someone who, shall we say, “reinterprets” whole galaxies three days a week and does “worlds” as a hobby, is a trifle piddling and not much worth spending time on.
“My dear boy,” he said, “sometimes we don’t get it right the first time, and sometimes not the second and third,” he said.
“Quality control is not what it use to be and I can’t be everywhere at once. Well, actually I can but it’s tiring and these days my knees are giving me gyp.
“The fundamentals of the Earth project are fine: stunning shade of blue if you look at it from the right angle; nice balance in the continental formation . . . although I’ve always maintained the southern hemisphere is a bit light-on and I have no recollection of who it was thought New Zealand was a good idea.
“The stumbling block has always been, and continues to be the dominant life form.
“Just when we think it’s all going along nicely, albeit with the usual hiccups, there’s a quantum ricochet and the damn thing goes pear-shaped.”
My mind cast back to the pre-GCI period where things seemed pretty much under control and orderly.
Privileged people purloined Important-Looking-Desks by way of manipulating the fears of other people . . . and made phone calls to other Important Telephones.
Smaller scale folk looked over their shoulders just in time to see . . . well, nothing really, because by that time it was too late.
“Exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about,” Slartibartfast said.
“We’ve had to scrap the project more times than I care to remember.”
In one of my rare conversational interventions I asked Slartibartfast if he’d noticed a quantum shift in the vibe.
He tapped the side of his nose and winked.
“No, really,” I said, “the vibe has . . . um . . . gone skew whiff, Slarti.
“Before the GCI we were pretty sure that facts were things that you could hang onto with a degree of certainty, but now there are things called Alternative Facts that are slippery and elusive, and seem to have an anesthetic effect on those who encounter them with any regularity.”
Slartibartfast chuckled and opined that there were always Alternatives but that humans had a peculiar knack for choosing the ones that could rightly be labeled Fucked Up.
He suggested that I’d slipped through a wormhole and wasn’t, actually, where I thought I was. And if I ever called him Slarti again he would fuse my genitals with my face.
I wondered aloud how things had turned out to be as weird as they have.
I sounded a tad whiney as I lamented the labour of thousands of philosophers who had done hard time in the academies, at enormous taxpayer expense, sweating over the nature of Truth.
Only to be availed of the notion, in a Tweet, that we live in a Post-Truth world and the highly paid services of diligent thinkers was no longer required.
Slartibartfast said a lot of it depended on what kind of books people read when they were young, and quoted an example offered by a Sage named John Rogers:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year-old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
“Unfortunately the Fucking Muppet never got past the first one,” he said.
“You know we sent one of our kind, who you know as Charles Darwin, to put paid to the slanderous nonsense that we banged your world and all its life forms together in a mere six days.
“We’re much more meticulous than that, but as I’ve said, humans are pretty much a rogue element that we didn’t anticipate and – I can assure you it came as a huge surprise – can’t control.
“We even sent an emissary – whose Emoji is more assertive than mine – to try to jolly you out of your slavish observance of twiddle-twaddle espoused by bushes that set fire to themselves.
“Douglas is a venerable soul who returned to us in a sorry state of askance and bewilderment.”
Slartibartfast conjured an image on his smart phone – much, much smarter than mine because he has Pokemons that no one’s even thought of yet – of a planet that was similar, but not quite the same as the one you’re on as you read this.
He became agitated and started to fidget. He hopped from one foot to the other . . .
“There’s another wonderful thing that we at The Office are looking forward to very much,” he said.
And went on to espouse that despite hundreds of thousands of person-years of painstaking research and number crunching, the post-GCI Big Desk Club almost all agreed nothing needed to be done about the Alternative Fact that the planet was heating up. Big time.
Most of them are quietly offing pesky scientific bodies dedicated to the research of climate change and redeploying funding to support Research that says burning long-dead animals to generate power is the best way to go for the foreseeable future.
“The foreseeable future is a relative concept,” Slartibartfast said.
“For you it’s not really going to end well. But as far as we’re concerned the blue colour of Earth – regardless of how wonderful it was when we first thought of it – can get a bit old.
“We’re looking forward very much, and quite soon actually, to seeing tinges of pink, a hint of green, and some yellow and red adding texture to the view when the atmosphere goes through its metamorphosis.”
Just today he suggested that a large slice of Antarctic sea ice was about to fracture and float about in dramatic fashion . . . that might give New Zealanders pause for contemplation.
I appealed to his better nature and asked if there was a way to avoid such tempest.
Slartibartfast seemed, almost, to regret his re-joiner – a very tactile riposte in which he laughed his arse off and gave high-fives to an Emoji with no hands, and eyes capable of creeping out Vladimir Putin.
“Nope,” he said.
. . . do you believe that?
I’ve stopped channeling Douglas Adams now and am asking you a question.
The irony is that people think Fake News is a new concept. In a collective amnesia of stunning scale the fact, or one of its Alternatives, has been unremembered that we’ve been faked out since people discovered ways of communicating with each other.
Here’s a fact – unpalatable as it might be for you skinny-chai-latte-drinking, kale-munching, weird-hand-shaking, pretentious hipster and yoga types – the planet we live on doesn’t give a rat’s arse about you.
You are the Fake News as far as it’s concerned.
You live in a world less sane and responsible than the one Slartibartfast and I hang out in.
“Make America Great Again” was genius – actually copyrighted by a man-child whose ranting resembles that of a murderous filmic doll/puppet named Chucky.
Bring on the variant atmospheric colourations.
The too-cool-for-school attitudes of ephemeral faddists is exactly what allows the rise of those like the Gilded Guttersnipe. You’re so busy cultivating your image garden that things just kind of slide on by.
Quite big things in the post-GCI world.
That, and the existence of people who think they’ve got the inside dope (not a synonym for something good in this instance) on what’s really going on.
All those tiny moments of embellishment have added up and come home to roost for the scribes and the commentariat.
I’ve worked in the media business for a long time and have known many, many committed people – and a number who should be committed – dedicated to “draining the swamp” so that the people might see what’s really going on.
“Draining the swamp” has been appropriated by the Guttersnipe and turned against those who would otherwise be truth-seekers, but somehow got caught up in the notion that they, too, are part of the celebrity cult.
The only cult that matters . . . which really pisses off the Freemasons.
Back in the GCI there was one sort-of-shabby fat guy who was yelling at the top of his lungs while the likes of Anderson Cooper and Megyn Kelly were primping and posing. Newspapers are so mired in their profit and loss statements and so smug about their relevance that they allow Fake News to happen – often inside their own tent.
The shabby fat guy was Michael Moore and he explained exactly how the Gilded Guttersnipe was going to get to the Oval Office.
Might as well have been screaming into the face of an oncoming hurricane given the tut-tuttery that surrounded him as the pundits smirked and Slartibartfast danced.
Pre-GCI, in the 1930s, a short Austrian with a huge chip did the Fake News thing to a German population reeling from one Alternative Fact to another. He convinced otherwise rational, even normal, people to hate their neighbours and believe in their own racial superiority.
He started a movement. He wasn’t the first.
It didn’t end well.
And there will be no happy endings this time.
The late and very great Leonard Cohen wrote, “there is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in . . .”
I’m searching for the crack as we speak.
While you are lost in your hopeless little screen.