Our columnist takes aim at columnists.
By the time you read this, Donald J Trump will have taken the oath of office and become the 45th President of the United States.* A noteworthy fact is that he’s actually the 44th President – Grover Cleveland was elected on two occasions and for reasons lost to the sands of time, is counted twice. But that’s not the most noteworthy incident – that honour goes to the simple fact that Donald J Trump, most famous for being a reality TV star, is the new leader of the free world. Right now, opinion columnists the world over are hypothesising about what the world will be like under President Trump. If the past 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that opinion columnists are terrible at predictions. They were sure that the Brexit referendum would fail. They were sure that Hillary would win. They were positive that Georgia would pick Matty in The Bachelorette. Against all the odds, sound reasoning, hot editorial takes and better judgement, none of these things happened. Trump will be President. Britain will be an island. And Lee and Georgia will be gracing the cover of magazines for weeks to come. It’s here that I’ll make a realistic prediction – the columnists will have learnt nothing. They’ll be bashing away saying what tomorrow will be when few of them have turned their editorial ability to two more pressing questions – what just happened and what is happening now? Unless we can figure them out, then not only do we not know what will happen next, we’ll be woefully unprepared. OK, so what just happened? Basically, the internet. Humans have access to vastly more information than they’ve ever had before, or could ever possibly hope to process, let alone retain. We spend less time than ever thinking about things. We just consume, before moving on to the next click. At the same time, information can be pumped into the world by anyone. Some of it is yelling opinions at people. Other parts are insults that would be deemed unfit for civil society only 10 years ago. Some of it’s good, by people who apply journalistic rigour. Some of it’s opinion, without factual underpinnings, but dressed up as good information. And some of it’s fake made to look real. The result is that we have no agreed set of facts upon which to base our decisions as people and as societies. Simultaneously, this technological leap has created a truly global economy. Instead of a company competing within a state, it’s competing with businesses on the other side of the world. This has been great for some – tech and media companies have become billionaire factories. The people at the top are better off than they’ve ever been. But the people at the bottom are sinking. Some jobs have changed countries. Many more have been replaced by technology. A lot of people are worse off while they have seen others soar. And they’ve seen politicians focus almost entirely on themselves while doing little for the people who need help. So, with trust in institutions such as government and the news media at an all-time low, no reliable information with no time to think about it, acute economic uncertainty and a world in a truly chaotic transition between the past and the future, some desperate decisions have been made. In the case of Trump and Brexit, the choice was made to believe those who said they could go back to the past. They chose the candidates who, with a healthy dose of blaming outsiders, swore to unscramble the most complicated one-way omelette ever created. A not entirely unreasonable decision, because in a world of nothing but shit, why not choose the shit that smells the best? And what’s happening now? Many people are waiting for their bet to pay off. Columnists are telling people what their odds are, while powerful opportunists are using this moment of chaos and misinformation to look after themselves. We still have no agreed set of facts. And a man whose highest previous accolade was membership of the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall Of Fame is now the leader of the free world. We’re in uncharted waters, to say the least. What’s next? Don’t ask me – I’m just a columnist. But I wish Georgia and Lee every happiness.
“TRUMP’SINTHEWWE HALLOFFAME–AND NOWHE’SLEADEROF THEFREEWORLD.”