I was hardly alone in believing Trump couldn’t last seven weeks in the job, let alone seven months. Yet here he still is, while his aides keep falling like discarded, broken playthings.
When Bannon himself said it was the end of the presidency, it turned out he only meant that the more aggressive decision-making might now be toned down.
While Trump waved Bannon bye-bye (via Twitter, of course), with this thumbs-up for his right-wing propaganda website Breitbart News: “Fake News needs the competition!” As if Trump was capable of distinguishing fake from real.
With so much misunderstanding and misinformation trotting out on the information super-highway, it can be hard even for a grown-up to tell the thoroughbred from the pantomime donkey.
Is this life itself the real thing, or are we just a simulation created in some greater being’s experiment or game? Who can say for sure?
We’ve grown used to remarkably convincing CGI mammoths and dinosaurs wandering into our wildlife documentaries. And now with Sky Sports, “home of the Premier League”, also broadcasting an “Interactive World Cup” – football simulations played on PlayStation and Xbox – the line between real and pretend is getting very sketchy indeed.
Not that news, or reality, have ever been precisely what they seemed.
On the southern fringe of the French Alps lies the beautiful lake of Serre-Ponçon. It’s a favourite with windsurfers, kayakers, wild swimmers, sailors of small boats. But is it really a lake? It wasn’t there until the late 1950s, when a mighty 123-metre high dam was thrown across the Durance river.
As well as water sports, it powers 16 hydroelectric plants and provides irrigation to a huge area of land. Several villages were drowned in its creation, including one whose cemetery still stands at the water’s edge while the buildings lie beneath the ripples.
But is that really the priest, as his dress and his pose suggest? Who knows? It’s a great piece of story-telling about a real event anyway.
As is another shot from the same paper – surely staged – of an old woman washing clothes at the traditional outdoor village laundry while a massive concrete bridge towers high above her, still under construction.
The flooding of those villages sounds like a classic modern tragedy. But then there’s this.
The dam and the lake were first proposed in 1856 – not for sport or power, but to save the villagers, and others further downstream, from any repeat of the devastating floods of that year and 13 years earlier. Nothing in this story is not exactly as it first seems.
Now there’s the worldwide web – a wonderful, unprecedented storehouse of information, but one in which it can be all but impossible to sort the good from the dodgy. The matter-of-fact from the well-meant wrong-end-of-the-stick. Or worse.
A photo made it onto the front page of a respected US newspaper last week showing a protester savagely beating a fallen police officer. Or that’s what the caption claimed it showed. It went viral online.
In fact the picture was several years old. It had been cropped to remove the evidence that it was actually taken in Greece, not Virginia. The anti-fascist logo on the attacker’s jacket had been added digitally. Faked news.
I wish I could unsee the picture of a dog, apparently skinned alive, which cropped up in my social media feed last week. Very grisly, very upsetting. But was it quite what it seemed? There were small clues that it might not have been been – surely there should have been more blood if the poor animal had really been alive. Or is that just wishful thinking again?
The purpose of those who posted it was to gather shocked “signatures” for an online petition. A worthy cause, no doubt, but does it do any good in the real world to heap up names in this way?
Great claims are sometimes made for such petitions as democracy in action. But I suspect they have become merely a modern form of prayer. An appeal to a distant higher authority. An expression of wishes. Something to make you feel better by giving you the illusion of doing something when there’s nothing you can do.
Now let us pray – and sign petitions – for the US to change its gun laws, to scrap its nuclear arsenal, and to stop waging war.
We all know by now that many times more Americans are shot dead by small children than are killed or wounded in terrorist attacks. That simple fact, at least, is not fake news.
Putting guns in the hands of infants is a very poor idea. And right now we have two tired toddlers – Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un – stropping around the world playground with very big guns indeed. It’s high time their toys were taken away.