“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Lewi Carroll – Alice Through the Looking-Glass
Lewis Carroll invented the White Queen as an absurdist emblem of a refusal to deal. But now that deluded lady would slot right in at the BBC, CNN, Guardian et al. In fact to live in the mainstream western culture of today we need to be able to believe a lot more than six impossible things before breakfast. We need to plug into an entire matrix of the unreal, never happened, never could happen and purely ridiculous.
There is now almost no point of contact between the world described in daily mainstream news and social commentary and the actual veridical experiential world in which real people really live. The most basic “facts” upon which they operate are almost completely false. They produce hours and hours of comment and analysis based on events that never occurred, words that were never said, a history that doesn’t exist. It’s not about explaining reality any more, it’s about making it up.
In this world Russia is an “outlaw” for helping to defend an elected government in Syria, and the US is an emblem of law-abiding decency while it has spent 70 years carving up the world and murdering people it doesn’t like – and moreover is currently enabling terrorists and illegally occupying a swathe of Syrian territory.
In this world Putin, having cleaned up a good deal of the lawless mafia-rule that characterised the Yeltsin years, is a “kleptocrat” and a “gangster” while Yeltsin was a “democrat.” Facing an election with 60-80% popular support, Putin is a “tyrant” who needs to fix the vote in order to win. With reckless disregard for even the basics of narrative consistency he is portrayed by turns as an ignorant “thug” and a political mastermind. So brilliant he swung the US election using 13 lowlife trolls and a restaurateur, and so mindbogglingly stupid he had Boris Nemstov, the political nobody, gunned down for no reason right outside the Kremlin so that even more stupid western analysts could say “Putin must have done it because it was right outside the Kremlin!”
In this world Navalny, another political nobody, polling 2% popular vote is “the opposition”, cruelly silenced by being ruthlessly convicted of the fraud he almost certainly actually committed, and
sent to the Gulag given a suspended sentence and the freedom to bullhorn his remedial-level “anti-corruption” narrative (designed primarily for western consumption and TV soundbites btw) to all twelve of his regular followers.
In this world even mass-shootings are starting to look like movie versions of themselves, and the victims interview each other, exchanging cliché mass media talking points, and improbable personal narratives that sound like Facebook statuses, while waiting to die.
Because reality is something even those living it in its rawest form can no longer process or recognise for what it is.
So, we have to salute Mr Pozner for his refusal to partake in this increasingly macabre farce. Maybe we should all follow his example, be like Alice, just walk away from the Mad Hatter’s tea table and let the lunatics continue to sit there, babbling empty memes at one another. They probably won’t even notice we’ve gone.
(and yes I know the White Queen and the Mad Hatter are not in the same chapter or even in the same book)