An apology for checking the source of that article

Dear friend, we live in turbulent times, as I have pointed out earlier. It is in these times that I feel cynicism is our most potent weapon. To regard everything we are exposed to with suspicion, at least at first. Like an attractive person that jogs weirdly, things are usually more complex than they appear. That is why when I am presented with anything, however real it seems, my first reaction is one of doubt and scepticism. But this time in the middle of my doubting I forgot what is really important. Friendship.

I am sorry for checking the source of that article you posted. Last week, when we were sitting in our own homes, connected by Facebook as different men, as friends, I saw what you had posted. An article titled Proof That Anti Nationals Have Small Penises, popped up on my timeline and to my great surprise I saw that it was posted by you.

Maybe a normal person should accept this immediately as fact. Maybe that is how things are supposed to be. Perhaps at some level our brains are hardwired to believe things that look like news articles are in fact, news articles. We provide the benefit of legitimacy to things we read. It must be true, because it is on the internet with a nice picture that seems real, in language that is not terrible. Individual opinion seems like absolute fact, lies seem like the truth. Maybe if I had done this, things need not have become as crazy as they are.

I suppose I have become a bit unhinged of late. In my search for truth I may have become obsessed with meaning and what it means to really mean something. For every video of a cat falling between couches comes with an implicit contract of disagreement. Your lulz are not the same as my lulz which are not the lulz that were had at the moment. There is no one true lulz, and an absolute lulz is unknowable. It is with this knowledge and perspective that I wear the badges of “bitter” and “difficult” and “what is up with Kanan these days” with pride.

The fact of the matter remains that your article was hosted by the website AliaBhattVsSocratesJokes.com, which I do not recognise as a credible source. Why should a website that seems specifically created to share one type of jokes then extend to start sharing articles about anything? I had to investigate further. It appears that the website was formed on the basis of one single joke (which is honestly more basis than most websites), and the joke is this:

Socrates: I know that I know nothing.

Alia: Lol me too.

Thus from the fire of this terrible joke grew their website and soon a Facebook page, which seems focused exclusively on plagiarised content. My investigation further revealed that since then it has been posting listicles and opinion pieces for several weeks. These posts also show a very specific political leaning. Not left or right, but somehow, impossibly, back wing. That is, ideas and news that are regressive despite of whatever one’s political leanings may be.

Some sampling of their website reveals articles like Proof That Capitalism Is A Capitalism Scheme, Shocking: Karl Marx Wore Socks! and the confusing 8 Things Proud Nationalists Will Only Slightly Understand At First. These articles stood the test of scrutiny because my tests of scrutiny do not yet possess tools to tackle their content.

I was at a loss for how to proceed further. The more I delved into their website, the more I became unravelled. Several days passed and I began to seriously doubt my own existence. I knew I had to do something, but was at a complete loss for what that was. That was when I found a link at the bottom of their website, innocently titled “Contact us”. I had to click, I had to know, I had to understand. It gave me a phone number.

I was greeted by a woman’s voice.

“Hello! How can I help you today?” it said, her voice sending waves of calm soaring through my body. A balm for the anxiety of the last few days.

“Umm, I am calling about the website” I said.

“Has there been any problem in your enjoyment of Alia Bhatt Vs Socrates Jokes dot com?” came the cheery reply.

“Well…no. I guess not. I would actually really need to know something…” I said.

I felt the voice tighten, the veneer shake. Questions, it appeared were not usual. It occurred to me then that I was not really sure what I needed to know. Who ran the page? Who wrote the articles? Was there a source? How did they make money? There were too many questions to ask! Too many things that needed answers.

“Yes? What do you need to know?” said the voice.

I sighed. It was clear.

“I want to know…why” I said gripping my phone tightly. I felt my pulse quicken and my mouth grow dry. The line went quiet. That’s when I heard it, a small unmistakable sound. A sound that in isolation can rattle even the toughest of constitutions. A small laugh. It seemed like she had been waiting to be asked.

The voice gave me an address and a time. A bench in a public park in the dead of the night. Warning bells rang desperately in my mind but I ignored them. My desire to know far overpowered any idea of self preservation. I was already too deep into this, I was going to swim till I sank.

That night I leaped over the fence of the abandoned Municipality Park. I walked to where the voice had asked me to come, and found the bench next to an old rotten sign. The words faded, the sign bent with abuse and neglect, I could still determine what it read. In cheerless black letters, illuminated by a stray streak of yellow lamplight.

“Laughter Club”

I sat on the bench, shivering in the cold, waiting to hear. What if I had made a mistake coming here? What if this too, was a joke? My bowels rumbled unpleasantly, sending false signals of impending movements. But I did not move. I was here for the truth. I closed my eyes to focus, and when I opened them, I saw a figure stepping out of the shadow in front of me.

I had no idea how long she had been standing there. I extended a hesitant hand forward and she shook it. I had never felt a human body so cold, her fingers seemed to be drawing warmth out of my being, emptying me of feeling, of strength, of soul. I recoiled my hand in a gasp of pain and watched her smile grow wider.

She took the seat next to me on the bench and looked straight ahead. “I hear you’ve been asking questions?” she said. I recognised her voice, it was the voice on the phone. I scanned my eyes slowly over the park, looking for escape. Ways I could jump, routes I could run, bushes I could hide in, but everywhere I looked I just saw shadows. How many shadows here held more watching eyes?

It was like she read my thoughts. “I wouldn’t” she said, looking straight at me, her smile still not fading.

“Why?” I asked her again. “Why are you doing all of this? Why are you doing any of this!” the cold made me shiver. Maybe it was fear.

“You should be thanking me” she said calmly.

“Thanking you?” I said incredulously. “Why should I be thanking you? You’re dumbing down everyone! You’re just putting outright lies and just plain bad jokes out there!”

“Sit” she said plainly. I had not realised that I had stood. I sat down slowly, feeling the weight of all the shadows drawing close around me. The eyes in the shadows, the quiet breathing in the dark.

“Thinking is the scourge of our time. Whipping unhappiness into the timid, filling souls with futility, with anger, with hatred, with malice. Why should a mind be burdened with any of that?” she said simply.

“You’re saying people shouldn’t think? That’s absurd!” I realised I was standing on the bench now, and began to sit down. I needed to learnt to control my body midst protest.

I am not saying anything. We are.” She snapped her fingers and suddenly all the shadows gained form. Hundreds of hooded individuals appeared, surrounding us, all wearing the same smile she wore. A smile of unreal happiness. A smile with no warmth, that brought no pleasure to the wearer or the observer.

“These are all the humour pages in the world” she said. The hooded figures all rumbled in agreement. “You think you are so upright in your quest for the truth, but you miss the real quest. The one we are on. The one for happiness.” I felt my body beginning to go numb. This couldn’t be! She continued “If everyone believes everything, if anyone believes anything, if no content or jokes belong to anyone, if everything has no origin or conclusion…then nothing is real.”

I watched her eyes grow large and her face distort, I couldn’t recognise who was speaking anymore. After that the voices all spoke as one.

“If nothing is real…then everything is fine.”

She reached out and touched my hand. But I did not feel cold. I was already cold. A feeling was entering me, I couldn’t tell if it was understanding or the thick sludge of surrender. She leaned close to me and whispered in my ear.

“Let go…”

She held out my hand and the screen of a phone in the other hand. It was their Facebook page. My whole body seemed to shake, yet I was paralysed. I could not move. I could not think.

She moved my hand closer to the phone.

“The world is not yours to fix…” She moved my hand closer to the phone. “It’s so easy to let go…It will all be over…”

She now spoke to me as I spoke to myself. From within. She had taken hold of me, I could not fight. She pulled my hand closer to the phone.

“You can do it….why resist?”

My hand was almost touching the phone now, cold, numb, head.

“Like us on Facebook…

I touched the screen of the phone and felt the world dissolve. I suppose I had collapsed. Maybe I fainted. I woke up drenched with sweat with my hand gripping my phone. The body of the phone bore little indents from how hard I held it. The screen showed that I had shared almost every link from every humour page. 3 Reasons Journalism Is The Worst Thing Ever, Shocking: Eating Meat Causes Time Travel, This Actor Is Not A PIPE!

I began to laugh. I am sorry for checking the source of the article you posted, dear friend. I understand.

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