Reality

Real Stories from This Month That Are Too Weird to Be Believed

We're living in a bad cartoon.

by Sam Kriss
18 July 2017, 10:58pm

(Sipa USA/SIPA USA/PA Images)

It's been brewing for a while: a Trump presidency was a punchline on The Simpsons; it was prefigured in 1989's Back to the Future Part II; it was always a warning, a piece of unsubtle and un-nuanced satire. The absolute worst-case scenario, the dumbest thing that could possibly happen.

Late last year, Glamour magazine named Bono – Bono – one of its Women of the Year. (Bono, for the record, is not a woman.) Surely that was the high-water mark; surely nothing as momentously dumb as that could ever happen again. Of course it could. Reality is now always, at every point, exactly as stupid as it's possible to conceive of it being.

Last week, Donald Trump Junior attempted to rebuff accusations that his father's presidential campaign was willing to collude with the Russian government by publishing emails that demonstrated how his father's presidential campaign was willing to collude with the Russian government. He then hired a layer best known for defending mob bosses.

Everything that happens now is just a bit too on-the-nose. We're living in a political cartoon. Here are some stories that you might have missed that prove just that.

JK THE PRIDE ROLE MODEL

What happened?
To mark this year's London Pride, famous gay rights advocates GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 announced JK Rowling (who, for the record, is not LGBTQ) as a #PrideRoleModel, because "her books inspire people's imagination".

Why is this weird?
A few things are notable here. Firstly, Britain's big three spy agencies declared that they had to "team up" to announce a straight woman as a hero of gay pride. Presumably, none of them had the intelligence capacities to just name a random famous person by themselves. Secondly, organs of the British state, such as the Home Office – which oversees MI5 – have an appalling record on gay rights, deporting LGBTQ asylum seekers and advising them to "pretend to be straight", or sending them to deadly persecution for "failing to prove" that they're gay. Thirdly, it's impossible to even think of anything more ridiculous than a consortium of murderous spy agencies naming the first straight celebrity they could think of as their Gay of the Year.

How realistic is it?
This whole fiasco is just simply not plausible; I refuse to believe it actually happened. It's a BBC4 sitcom. No imaginary scenario can match its sheer witlessness. Union Carbide names Alexander Litvinenko as its unofficial ambassador for chemical safety. Nigel Farage names the Archbishop of Canterbury as "one of the good Muslims". Nothing comes close. Nothing will be dumber than this, until the next dumb thing happens and pushes forwards the furthest bounds of human stupidity.

A Mesopotamian cuneiform tablet (Photo via ouhos OU History of Science Collection of Flickr)

PRICELESS ARTEFACTS ILLEGALLY BOUGHT BY CHRISTIANS WHO OWN PEN SHOP

What happened?
American big-box arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby – the sort of place that sells decorations that say "Live, Laugh, Love" – had to pay a $3 million (£2.3 million) fine because it conducted an illegal trade in antiquities smuggled out of Iraq. This included cuneiform tablets, displaying the writing used in ancient Mesopotamia. Isis is known to make money from the sale of similar stolen items. The owners were previously best known for denying birth control coverage to female employees, and the family owners are also setting up an enormous "Museum of the Bible" in Washington, DC

Why is this weird?
It's strange that the story hasn't had more attention, because it's really the perfect story; the absolute summation of our weird and philistine age. Six-thousand years ago, humanity discovered the secret of immortality. The act of writing is a kind of bargain against death, a way for your words to survive forever in dead material. And these cuneiform tablets did survive, for 6,000 years. And then they fell into the hands of a big shop that sells pens.

Hobby Lobby say the company "was new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process... This resulted in some regrettable mistakes. The company imprudently relied on dealers and shippers who, in hindsight, did not understand the correct way to document and ship these items."

How unrealistic is this?
In the 19th century, imperialism decided that all of human history belonged to its Western inheritors, to be carted off to the great museums. Now, history is over. The first faint stirrings of literary consciousness can now belong to a chain of large squares, based in Oklahoma City, with lots of different types of scissors in them. If there is any justice at all, then none of this can possibly be real.

TOP BREXITEER GOES ON IMAGINARY WALK

What happened?
Daniel Hannan, the Tory MEP and fervent Brexiteer – previously described in this space as a "living Slenderman costume" – claimed to have gone on a country stroll. He tweeted "15 miles up and over Hampshire's sloping fields pausing for a pie… God I love England in May," with a lovely picture of a field.

Why is it weird?
The Brexit brigade love England. They love it so much that they're pushing it into a cataclysmic world-historical decline. But Daniel Hannan makes up for it by tramping around the place in his boots, enjoying the fine summer air. Or so he would have you believe. In fact, it was recently shown, the photos from his nice springtime walk in Hampshire are actually stock images of Wales.

This wasn't the only time he did this. A few months later, he posted a now-deleted tweet, reading, "And then, suddenly, the dandelions. Ah, the sweet sounds and sights of summer and the sun" over a photo of some dandelions. His whimsical joy upon seeing the flowers might have been genuine, but the flowers themselves were not. They were, in fact, a picture from an industrial rubber plantation in Germany.

Daniel Hannan, the MEP who campaigned himself out of existence, seems to have now transcended physical space altogether. His country strolls are imperceptible and trackless. He sniffs the flowers of the unreal.

How realistic is it?
Reality is gone. All that remains is a succession of images. They might look like blossoming trees and relaxing country paths, but you know what these images really represent? It's death. It's only and always death.

@sam_kriss