In 1989's "Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast: A literary manifesto for the new social novel," author Tom Wolfe came up with something he called Muggeridge's Law:
While Malcolm Muggeridge was the editor of Punch, it was announced that Khrushchev and Bulganin were coming to England. Muggeridge hit upon the idea of a mock itinerary, a lineup of the most ludicrous places the two paunchy pear-shaped little Soviet leaders could possibly be paraded through during the solemn process of a state visit. Shortly before press time, half the feature had to be scrapped. It coincided exactly with the official itinerary, just released, prompting Muggeridge to observe: We live in an age in which it is no longer possible to be funny. There is nothing you can imagine, no matter how ludicrous, that will not promptly be enacted before your very eyes, probably by someone well known.
It was originally referenced in a blog post by Ed Driscoll in 2012 about a National Review parody of a Newsweek cover deifying Barack Obama, which was eclipsed by a real Newsweek cover a few years later that was even sillier than the parody.
Driscoll brought up the law again today to note that an episode of "The Big Bang Theory," in which desperately lonely Raj attempts a "relationship" with the iPhone's interactive Siri voice, has been eclipsed by a real story about a man who " 'marries' his laptop" and "sues for state recognition and a wedding cake."
The self-identified “machinist” says he married his laptop in a ceremony in New Mexico, and now he has sued to demand that a Colorado baker — who is already in court after refusing to bake for a same-sex marriage — must be compelled to make cakes for him and his computer “bride.” He also has filed a lawsuit demanding that Utah recognize his man-object marriage.
It's the latest battlefront in an increasingly thorny area of law, after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
An "increasingly thorny area of law." Did someone actually write that in all seriousness? Yes, he did, and even followed with "legal analysts said the case is a stretch" with an apparently straight face.
I suppose we all have our Muggeridge's Law moments. Mine came several years ago when there was an actual made-for-TV move called "The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island," the plot of which I'm sure everybody can pretty much guess from the title. It was notable mostly for the appearance of Martin Landau as the villain, surely the nadir of that fine actor's career. Once a show like that makes the air, how is it possible to even make fun of TV as a medium any longer? It has moved beyond parody.
You don't even have to search for such ludicrousness anymore. I have two stories here just from yesterday's prowling of my news sources.
1. Not being stupid is "cognitive privilege," says a writer at the Daily Iowan, which is just like white privilege:
We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one's intelligence. This is not to say that intelligence is the only factor that is important. All that is implied is that below a certain threshold of intelligence, there are fewer and fewer opportunities. These opportunities are being shifted upward to jobs that require heavier cognitive lifting or else are being replaced by robots. Thus, the accident of having been born smart enough to be able to be successful is a great benefit that you did absolutely nothing to earn. Consequently, you have nothing to be proud of for being smart.
We are getting ever closer to Kurt Vonnegut's dystopian short story "Harrison Bergeron" in which everyone the slightest bit better or more talented than anyone else is handicapped to the point where we are all exactly alike and on a level playing field. Note that I said "dystopian" — alas, not all would agree with that description.
2. Want to be happy? asks a story in The New York Times. Buy more takeout and hire a maid.
It's a question central to daily life: Do you spend money to save time or spend time to save money? Well, if happiness is the goal, you might consider opening that wallet.
That's the takeaway of a study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, whose findings suggest that spending money to save time may reduce stress about the limited time in the day, thereby improving happiness.
Yes, I'll go right out and do that. And, thank you, NY Times, for being so in touch with the average American's needs and wants.
If there is anything today that is totally, completely beyond parody, it is of course our politics. A few years ago, if you were going to, as Muggeridge suggests, write the most ludicrous, preposterous presidential election story possible, could you have even conceived of a reality TV talk show host being elected chief executive? Or would you have thought that was too outlandish even for satire? And would you have even considered concocting something as unbelievable as the lunatic, completely unhinged reaction of the Left to that president, the reduction of supposedly normal adult human beings to drooling, babbling imbeciles?
Even popular culture can't keep up with the absurdity of today's politics.
I see that the revival of the "Roseanne" TV series will feature a 9-year-old kind named Mark who will be will be “gender creative.” An actor is being sought who can play “sensitive and effeminate” and “display qualities of both young female and male traits.”