David Beckham's Metatarsal
Instant Experts. Just add 'Likes'.
In 2002, an effete, sarong-wearing footballer called David Beckham got injured while playing a game of football. According to the internet, it was a Champions League match against Deportivo La Coruna at Old Trafford.
This was important to a lot of people because they considered Beckham's footballing talent to be vital to England's chances in the World Cup that was just about the start.
Helpfully, a million men called Darren, all wearing nylon t-shirts that showed off their Celtic tattoos, could have their despair tempered by knowledge. And we all know that knowledge is power.
The media duly obliged, publishing primers left, right and center about the minutest details of one dim man's hurty foot.
We learned that it was a metatarsal bone in Beckham's left foot which was broken. No, I'd never heard of it before either.
If we know anything now it's that there's no shortage of experts seeking the limelight and a hundred of them rushed to the stage to explain that he will be okay for the world cup if he's treated this way or that way. A handful showed up to dissent and say he had no chance of recovering in time. Bone-doctors had the conch, and the instinct of people up and down the land was to become - courtesy of the instructions provided by the media - an ersatz bone-doctor.
Happily, in 2002, the Internet was still alien to most of the people who gave a fuck about football. So arguments raged only in pubs, sitting rooms and TV studios across the land. They should use a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Ice baths. Acupuncture. Reiki. Arnica. Anticoagulants.
What we witnessed was the deification of experts and the overnight transformation of people with a City & Guilds in pipe-bending into visiting fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons. Every cunt in every pub and on every TV programme was suddenly an expert.
It's something we've seen several times since then, and it's not going to get any better. You probably remember in the spring of 2020, everyone became experts on 'the R number', computational statistical modelling, PCR tests and cycle counts, airbourne and fomite transmission, virus genetics, mRNA etfuckingcetera. ‘FOLLOW THE SCIENCE’ screamed people with a Bachelors degree in Micronesian nose poetry.
Most recently, events in the Ukraine have seen Youtube-educated imbeciles emerge to pronounce on affairs with ‘Putin bad, Zelensky good, the West better’ as the starting point for their ritalin-addled prognostications.
The difference was with David Beckham's sainted foot, by the time we were able to sort out which experts were right and which were wrong, it didn't matter any more. It NEVER mattered. He played in the World Cup. England were shit anyway. We all moved on.
But this time - both for the Wuhan and now for Ukraine, the stink of festering instant experts is going to linger. In a world of social media, the Dunning-Kruger effect is the dominant cultural force.
You only have to look at the continual furore about Wordle. It’s a beyond-simple word game dreamed up by some guy for his girlfriend. It got popular, it got bought. Every single day now, there are social media howls of outrage.
“That’s not even an English word!!” claim a million fuck-knuckles, when the truth is that they simply never heard of the word, in spite it being in every single English dictionary on the planet for the last 50 years. Or else it’s a word that’s “too political” or “imperialistic” or “racisexihomotransphobical”. All of which is simple bluster to excuse the fact that these dipshits couldn’t deduce a 5-letter word in 6 iterative guesses. But they think we should take their protestations seriously, and listen to what they think about mRNA technology or Eastern European geopolitics, because their teachers and their mummies told them they were special little darlings.
Fifteen years ago, everyone - even I - thought the internet, smartphones and social media would be the end of centralised power and distributed ignorance. What fucking idiots we were.