This week I slithered out from the cocoon of my Twitter timeline to wiggle toes in the calming pool known colloquially as the Real World. I didn’t like it, and rapidly slithered back whence I’d came.
After all, my Twitter timeline is a safe place, its denizens being exclusively anti-Trump and anti-Brexit, its late nights an ideal forum for printing out everyone’s profile picture, gluing them on to lollypop sticks, then forcing them to have sex with each other.
It was my Twitter timeline that, on my behalf, noticed that Cookie Monster – type II diabetes, only cuddly – was appearing on something called The One Show, a shiny Remembrance Day poppy pinned to his fur. Twitter found this rather amusing, what with Cookie Monster being (and I hate to split hairs) a fucking puppet and all.
Like Pob or Rod Hull’s Emu, Cookie Monster may have many fine attributes; his capacity to relentlessly ingest hardened, baked foodstuffs, for example, has triggered a trail of awe and admiration as long as the ribbon of crumbs his messy mastication invariably leaves behind. Yet nothing in Cookie Monster’s résumé hints at anything beyond existing in the present tense. Indeed, so morbidly blasé at the prospect of long-term dietary damage is Cookie Monster that surely it must have planted a question – in the enquiring minds of The One Show’s viewership, at least – as to his suitability to understand the basic tenants of both future and past, let alone lead a solemn, light entertainment commemoration of the Glorious Dead.
The Real World, however, saw things differently. Cookie Monster was appearing on British TV in early November, and therefore – as with Thomas the Tank Engine, that iguana from the David Attenborough show, and the cast of any Bergerac episode first shown in March 1983 – a poppy had to be on display, lest the resultant outrage be as severe as any caused by Hitler or that woman who repeatedly urinates on the village war memorial.
Of course, Cookie Monster wearing a poppy wasn’t quite the weirdest thing the Real World got up to this week. The American Dream revealed itself in a blaze of celestial light – only the naked flesh wasn’t as pink and rosy as my Twitter timeline had previously hoped for. The peal of opinion pieces concerning the US election has been as loud as loud can be, the spill of (digital) ink already a deluge – David Remnick, writing in The New Yorker, celebrated reality’s new socio-political orthodoxy with a howl of carefully-plotted anguish virtually unheard of in modern mainstream journalism (“Fascism is not our future… but this is surely the way fascism can begin”). And to an extent, the commentariat’s shock that a twenty-first century electorate has fallen prey to demagoguery is as reflexive as it will be long-lasting, the sustained Brexit heartache a recent example of what plays out when the yoohahs take control.
Yet above any deflation resulting from this crude rewriting of political convention, Trump’s White House ascendency feeds in to a wider narrative that’s difficult to bear. One that suggests that, as a species, we’re not quite as nice and cuddly as we like to think we are. That atavism is as strong a motivation as altruism, and that when we process data via polarity – a yes/no referendum say, or an election between a flawed, mainstream candidate and someone who Patrick Bateman models himself on – not only is any nuance of understanding an early victim; black and white become right and wrong as well. Majorities become absolute, however slender that majority was, and any deviation from the new orthodoxy becomes thought-crime. Voted Remain during Brexit? “You lost; shut up you traitor.” Voted for Hilary? “You should be thrown in jail with her.” That puppet on a chat show sofa without a poppy? He despises those who gave their lives in order that every puppet on a chat show sofa should have to wear a poppy.
It’s enough to make one retreat to a Twitter timeline. Permanently.