‘Humanity has lost its collective mind’
It has always been a truism of history that the end of an era is never known to the people who are living in it. No musician stumbled out of bed on New Year's Day 1730 and said to himself: "Oh well, that's the end of the Baroque Period!" Nor did the last young Roman Emperor think as he wandered off into exile in the 5th century AD: "Oh, so this is what the Middle Ages looks like?"
But it may well be that when future historians look back on the 13th week of the year 2019 they turn to each other and say: "Ah-ha! So that's when reality died!"
In the space of just 48 hours, there were been four extraordinary events on all sides of the globe that will be critical in determining whether or not humanity had lost its collective mind. This will of course be determined by how humanity responds but it is fair to say that based on the early results and every known precedent, I am far from optimistic. For anyone who ever wanted a solar system of stupidity, this is a phenomenal alignment of the planets.
The first is One Nation's excruciatingly idiotic attempted guns deal, captured spectacularly and unequivocally - albeit arguably unethically - by a journalist from Al Jazeera.
Whatever the grey area around how two of Pauline Hanson's top lieutenants were busted hocking Australia's world-beating firearm laws to the National Rifle Association, the fact is they were busted. If an undercover cop had behaved in the same way, it would be a clear case of entrapment and be thrown out of court. You cannot entice a suspect into committing a crime and then prosecute them for doing what you talked them into. But this isn't a police case, it is a political case, and the political hacks involved were effortlessly exposed for the moronic, amoral and treasonous little boneheads they are.
Having said that, I doubt it will change a single vote.
Pauline Hanson's One Nation is sitting where it is in the polls after its eponymous leader has already declared Australia was being "swamped by Asians", worn a burqa into the Senate, accused Aboriginal people of cannibalism and got elected a senator who now hangs out with neo-Nazis. If this hasn't already turned voters off them you'd need a road map and a cut lunch to find a way that two boozed up numbskulls begging for coin from the US gun lobby would suddenly spark a revolution. Hell, it hasn't even stopped the Nats from preferencing them.
People constantly made the same mistake with Trump, breathlessly predicting with every new scandal that this would be the death of the Donald.
This was a guy who got elected President of the United States of America after he was caught on tape - also undeniably and unequivocally - saying of nice young ladies that he'd just been introduced to: "Grab 'em by the pussy." For the sake of clarity, I'm going to repeat the key word in that sentence: AFTER.
Yet even after he was elected to the most powerful office in the world it was thought that he would somehow be miraculously dislodged by revelations about campaign finance irregularities (what president hasn't had some?) or extramarital affairs (see previous).
This brings us to the second global phenomenon of the past week, namely the findings of the Mueller investigation that was supposed to expose the Trump campaign's myriad links to the Russian government. Instead, it found nothing and what little other dodgy behaviour it did find it simply passed on to Trump's own attorney-general to decide what to do with, which was also nothing at all.
When it came to the obstruction of justice allegations, it wasn't so much that Trump hadn't obstructed justice but that he hadn't done it corruptly or surreptitiously. On the contrary he couldn't stop bragging about it.
Is Trump a liar? Provenly. Is he a narcissist? Unquestionably. How do we know? Because he tweets every thought that goes through his head at every hour of the day and night. And any that he might happen to miss he blurts out to anyone with a microphone while he's standing in front of a chopper.
It's a bit like the old joke about the guy who goes to confession and tells the priest he had sex the night before.
"Oh well," says the priest genially. "That's not so bad. I know people do it."
"Yes, but the thing is there were two of them," the guy says.
"Oh," says the priest, a little shocked. "Well, I suppose that's the world we live in these days …"
"And they were sisters," the guy adds.
"Oh my!" says the priest sternly. "Well that's really not on. You need to say 10 'our fathers' and 20 'Hail Marys' for that."
"Oh no," says the guy. "I'm not a Catholic."
"You're not a Catholic?" says the priest. "Well, why are you telling me?"
"Why?!?" the guy replies. "I'm telling everybody!!!"
Donald Trump is that guy. The left keep thinking there'll be some miraculous revelation that will force him to confess everything but the truth is it's all already out there in plain sight. He's been telling everybody for years.
The truth is Mueller could've come back saying Trump was corrupt as sin and in it with the Russians up to his neck and it wouldn't have made any difference. As it turned out the most exhaustive probe into the most serious accusation against him - effectively one of treason - failed to lay a glove.
And just like the NRA expose won't change a single One Nation vote, you can bet London to a brick that the Mueller findings won't change a single anti-Trump vote. People on both the hard left and hard right have long ago decided what to believe and thanks to the internet there are limitless sources to convince them that what they believe is the truth. Facts don't matter in the information age.
Indeed, the very phrase "bet London to a brick" was once a euphemism for being so certain of the facts that one could place the most powerful city in the world on a proverbial roulette wheel despite one obviously not having London to bet in the first place. Ah, such innocent times.
This brings us to omnishambles phenomenon number three. Today a gang of random renegades who actually do control the capital are literally betting London to a brick on an outcome that is the most random and uncertain in modern history. And that gang is called the UK Parliament.
For about two years, Prime Minister Theresa May has been trying to negotiate a Brexit deal that nobody really wants, least of all her because she never wanted Brexit in the first place. And every time she brings a Brexit deal to the parliament, the parliament overwhelmingly rejects it because about a third of them thinks it goes too far and a third of them thinks it doesn't go far enough.
Now the parliament that couldn't agree on anything has decided to roll the PM and take over because apparently it thinks that the two most vehemently opposed sides can agree with each other even though neither side can agree with the side closest to it and the humourless borsch-heads of Brussels have consistently stated they would have no agreement with either side even if they did.
Even just trying to follow this line of logic can cause physical injury to your brain so I like to think of it as a piece of musical theatre. Let's call it West End Story. On one side we have the Jets led by Boris Johnson, a leader who is charming, charismatic and highly intelligent. His only flaw is that he is utterly insane. On the other side we have the Sharks led by Jeremy Corbyn, a leader who is surly, dogmatic and dense. His only flaw is that every one of his parliamentary colleagues would rather stick their face in a microwave oven than have a conversation with him.
This brings us to the Ringo of our f*cktastical fab four: Jussie Smollett.
I have said it before so I may as well say it again: No man in America has done more to help Donald Trump get elected in 2020, nor indeed done more to promote the fight for homophobia and white supremacy, than this self-indulgent, self-obsessed, delusional narcissist who was so utterly deranged as to think it was a good idea to do what he did and so utterly dumb to do it the way he did.
First, to the facts, as rare and irrelevant as they are these days: There is no question that Smollett arranged and paid for a racist and homophobic hate crime to be committed upon himself by persons he knew and paid to do it. We know this because the fake perpetrators confessed, the police had this and an overwhelming body of evidence, a grand jury indicted him and even the state's attorney who inexplicably dropped the charges said the police were right.
Effectively the prosecutors just said "Yeah but nah" and let Smollett walk free, upon which he immediately proclaimed his absolute innocence - even though the very fools who let him walk free made clear the opposite was the case.
As a result this self-appointed black rights activist made liars of the black American police chief and the black police officers standing behind him, all of whom he had already tried to a make a fool of. He also incurred the righteous fury of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, best known for helping to elect the United States' first black president.
All of these men are true heroes in the fight to advance African-Americans and Smollett shat all over them. But it's even worse than that.
The key weapon in any racist's arsenal, the white supremacist A-bomb, is that there is no racial disadvantage at all. That in fact all these claims of oppression and hate are coming from overprivileged douchebags who are trying to use this perception just to benefit themselves.
Most of the time this is rampant rubbish and it has no power when some skinhead or suit is just saying it because it's obviously untrue. But get a clear-cut provable case of someone from the other side actually doing it and those bastards can hang their argument on it from here to kingdom come. To quote the great George Michael, who actually did do great things for gay people: "All we have to do now is take these lies and make them true somehow."
And what did Smollett do? You guessed it. He took the lie and made it true.
This is the greatest free kick anyone anywhere could give any racist homo-hater and the state attorney's office just ran up and planted it clean between the posts.
And this brings us to the saddest and most dangerous thing about all these atrocities of idiocy. None of what is true will matter. None of it does already.
Hanson supporters will still support Hanson because anything Al Jazeera or the ABC does is a set-up.
Trump haters will still hate Trump despite the Mueller findings because it was politicised, or rigged, or squibbed, or there are other inquiries, or what about the time when …
The Brexit vote must be overturned because the people didn't know or the people have changed their minds or the people got it wrong.
And the Jussie Smollett case needs to be retried or reopened or whatever it is that can be done because it is so blatantly rubbish.
All these things are true and all these things are false. But the undeniable fact is that we have people so disenchanted with established political and national institutions that they are prepared to go anywhere, vote any way and believe anything in an effort to shake them into their everyday reality.
Much of it is delusional but the real question is how deluded these institutions have become to make everyday people so wildly furious. Major political parties that knife their own prime ministers every term, major banks that bleed dead customers for fees, major religions that cover up child abuse; an Australian justice system that specialises in locking up poor black kids and letting go sex offenders, an American justice system that specialises in locking up poor black kids and letting go rich black actors, a UK parliament that kneecaps a PM for their own incompetence and then kneecaps her for being kneecapped, an Australian parliament that the UK parliament jokes about being even more boorish and brutal and dysfunctional than theirs.
Forget fake news, now we've got fake politics, fake government, fake democracy, fake life. Our most critical institutions, the very structures that underpin our society, have become sad parodies of themselves.
And the most terminal symptom is that many within these institutions think ordinary people don't believe in them because they are too stupid or delusional to sort between fact and fiction.
Maybe. Or maybe those people within the institutions have so thoroughly trashed them that there is simply nothing left to believe in.
Continue the conversation @Joe_Hildebrand