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Inane and Insane

Is our world crazier than ever?

By Thomas Chatterton Williams | October 24, 2018
Rodrigo Ferrari (Flickr/Studio 45)

Last week, Kanye West, music and fashion mogul and proud MAGA hat owner, traveled to Uganda to record his forthcoming album, Yandhi. Upon arrival, he took a meeting (we no longer even stop to question why) with the Ugandan president Yoweri Musveni. In similar fashion to his tête-à-tête in the Oval Office days earlier, West gushed about the ideas brimming in his mind, the ways he imagines he can help the head of state improve his challenged country. As the Daily Beast reported, West feverishly explained to Musveni that “he wanted to turn Uganda into Wakanda,” the prosperous and powerful imaginary African kingdom depicted in the movie Black Panther. And as he did with Trump, West presented Musveni with a pair of his signature tennis shoes.

I found myself staring stupefied at my phone after reading about this encounter, half laughing and half marveling at the mix of insanity and inanity that filters into our news feeds. This was neither the craziest nor the most urgent story of the day—for that, look to the horrific murder and dismemberment of a prominent journalist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Yet it nonetheless encapsulated something deeply significant about the way we live now.

I tweeted, mostly in jest, that I was confused as to whether the world is in fact crazier now than it’s ever been, or whether, thanks to technology, we’re just seeing more of it. As Barack Obama is fond of pointing out, for most of us, there has never been a safer, more stable era to be alive. But one Twitter user responded with an excellent point: “If a person behaves like a nut and no one witnesses it, do they make the world crazier?” Today, we are all walking around with the means of recording and broadcasting things that would never have been disseminated in the past. The world may have always been this strange, but the constant act of bearing witness to all that craziness is something novel and disruptive indeed.

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