Stupidity is contagious – just watch the television news headlines

From mindless juries to Mantelgate, it seems a new virus is raging

Related Topics

TV nice-guy Ben Fogle has had a psychotic episode. The former Countryfile presenter was drinking at a pub in Gloucestershire when his drink was spiked. On arriving home, he told reporters, he freaked out, started doing Monty Python silly walks, and tried to climb out of a window. It is not easy to imagine the scene. In fact, as I watched the item on the news, I began to wonder whether I was not the one having an out-of-body experience. Ben said he became “hypersensitive” and genuinely worried that he was going crazy. That was exactly how I felt.

Suddenly, nothing on the TV news quite made sense. Or, rather, the sense it made was menacing and slightly strange. I imagined Ben on his involuntary trip – fogling, as it will now become known in the drugs underworld. His eyes started out of his head as a Labrador began to speak to him in rhyming couplets, and the Barbour jacket hanging by his front door started a ghostly dance. I knew at this point that I must be fogling too – that the news I was watching contained some great, eternal verity if only I could grasp it.

The bulletin continued. In an important court case, the jury had asked the judge if what they imagined could be considered as evidence. When he replied that it certainly could not, the jury had concluded that, in that case, it was unable to reach a verdict.

Suddenly a great drug-induced truth was there before me. It is absolutely fine, in 2013, to be very stupid. In the past, a person who was a touch slow would, if serving on a jury for example, try to conceal any confusion about what was going on.  Now, I realised with a dazzling, drug-induced clarity, stupidity was a basic human right like any other. It could be proclaimed as proudly in a courtroom as on a reality show or the vox pops of the TV news. Just because a person fails to understand something, there is no reason to take their view of it any less seriously.

I was really fogling out now, and began to wonder what would happen if our leaders tried this new stupidity thing in an attempt to win votes. Hardly had this terrifying thought occurred to me when the next item appeared on the news. It proved my wildest, most paranoiac fears! A novelist had written an interesting article about public perceptions of royalty. Not only did the tabloid press respond with the newly-fashionable stupidity, but so did both leaders of the Labour and the Conservative parties, harmonising their mindless disapproval like Don and Phil Everly.

At this point, I was almost climbing the wall with anxiety. What if stupidity was a Sars-like super-virus of the mind which made even the moderately bright become dunderheads – without knowing it? I switched channels to the Brit Awards in the hope of being cleansed and reassured by music. Here, surely, talent and originality would be rewarded – Amy Winehouse was up for a posthumous award apparently, while Richard Hawley and the Rolling Stones were on shortlists. But no, one after another, prizes went to the bland, derivative and undemanding, as if stupidity had the music business in its thrall too.

Back on the news, there were reports from a big trial in South Africa, with a limbless man, and a blundering policeman called Botha who turned out to be under suspicion for murder himself. I suddenly realised, with my fogling mind, that the entire news bulletin was being written by the comic novelist Tom Sharpe in a return to the wild and dangerous comedy of his early South African novels. Briefly, I felt relieved. Sharpe writing the news was at least better than the stupidity virus taking hold. Just then an item concerning Sally Bercow and Twitter came on. I made for the window.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before