The internet and strange people…

‘… if the internet era has taught us anything, it’s that a remarkable number of people out there are completely bonkers’ (Michael Deacon, The Sunday Telegraph, 5th October 2014).

As Michael Deacon goes on to point out, before the internet came along the completely bonkers had no outlet. Apart from writing letters to newspaper editors: mad scrawls which staff would wince at and then bin. Maybe that explains the hack’s traditionally cynical view of life.

But if there are so many bonkers people out there, bursting with conspiracy theories and pet hates, maybe they aren’t so bonkers after all. Because being bonkers suggests having views that are far beyond the realms of the ‘sane’ majority. Bonkers mindsets become normal mindsets if enough people have them.

The quickest way to see bonkersness in action is to look down the comments thread of a website discussing any topic one could possibly regard as ‘controversial’. Making highly personal or abusive remarks, ranting off-subject, swearing – these are some of the common ways in which bonkers behaviour manifests itself. ‘Trolling’ is a suitably nasty word for the nastiest form.

As you may have garnered, the way I interpret it, bonkers is bad. Not to be confused with eccentricity, which is quite good so long as it’s unselfconscious.

Call this an odd, even bonkers, idea if you like, but could the internet force us to stop dividing the world up into nation-states and instead recognise just two groups: the rational and the bonkers?