Whoever’s creating the news agenda has really gone far beyond the realms of the possible and believable.

Suddenly everything starts to make sense: we are living in a video game. Elon Musk, part Silicon Valley billionaire genius, part cartoon super-villain, said as much a month or two ago. Musk, who founded the Tesla electric car phenomenon and has other side-projects like colonising Mars, reckons there is a "billion to one chance that we're living in a base reality". Given the extraordinary advances in the sophistication of computer gaming over the last few decades, he says, it was all but inevitable that in just a few more decades "the games will become indistinguishable from reality". And if so, why would we think we weren't some kind of synthetic universe ourselves, someone else's experiment?

I am happy to admit that my attraction to this idea may be exacerbated by a recent diet of quasi-legal cold remedies and the phantasmagoria of the film festival. But it's not just me, is it? It seems as though just about everyone is walking the streets in a daze. Many of them are hunting Pokemon, I'll give you that, but the rest of us are trying to process 2016's psychedelic carousel of news.

Whether it's a quirk in the coding, a glitch in the matrix or an act of mischief by one of the bored aliens running our simulated world, some kind of switch has been flicked. According to one theory doing the rounds, it was only when David Bowie died early in the year that we realised it was him holding the universe together. The unravelling, in the Anglosphere especially, has been staggering: Donald Trump, a multifarious shuffling off this mortal coil, led by Muhummad Ali and Prince, bonkers pre-Brexit Britain, rife indiscriminate killings, Donald Trump, bonkers post-Brexit Britain, culture wars, class wars, actual wars, Donald Trump.

Boris Johnson appointed Britain's new foreign secretary. Seriously. The Brexitalidocious former London mayor and human bouncy castle has insulted so many of the countries in the world that even those he hasn't insulted feel insulted for having not been insulted. There was something reassuring about the boringness of the Australian election, but that, too, turned into a cliffhanger. I've been watching the Danish political TV drama Borgen to escape from the much stranger real world of politics: the last episode centred on the thorny predicament of whom to appoint as the Danish EU commissioner. Soothing as a warm bath.


It's little wonder so many Brits and Americans, among them a US Supreme Court judge, have announced they want to move to New Zealand. Just be warned: there's a severe shortage of housing, which is only made worse by the influx of Pikachus, Squirtles and Charmanders.

And Donald Trump. The property mogul turned reality TV star has proved a more effective demagogue than almost anyone predicted. Evolutionary physiologists of the future will record that the jaw bone of the adult human fell permanently by around an inch over the course of his political rise. The mayhem of the primary campaign, bespeckled with talk of colossal walls and religious bans, exhortations to violence and penis size, had the air of Bugsy Malone, a great pastiche of the mobster genre: funny and thrilling, yet always and self-consciously a send-up, with the characters played by kids and the guns firing marshmallow.

But there they are at the Republican National Convention, with Trump the actual Republican nomination, and maybe it isn't marshmallow after all. Here's a man who even Brexit self-caricature Nigel Farage thinks has gone too far in his Islamophobic rhetoric.

One official speaker compared Hillary Clinton to Lucifer; another issued what to many looked like a Nazi salute. A Trump spokesperson helpfully clarified that contrary to the yearnings of one of the candidate's advisers, it was not campaign policy that Clinton should be shot by a firing squad.

Disbelief had long since become the default mode of viewing by the time it emerged Trump's wife had plagiarised several full sentences from Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic convention in 2008. After the Trump camp delivered every imaginable contradictory explanation, a little-known ghost writer admitted responsibility. When people started speculating that the ghost writer might not actually exist, that hardly seemed, in the scheme of things, an unreasonable suspicion. In a big week for ghost writers, another Trump scribbler, the man who wrote The Art of the Deal, said this: "I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilisation."

It's no longer so much a question of whether to laugh or cry, as whether to cry or scream uncontrollably.

An article by Princeton history professor David A Bell, published yesterday by Foreign Policy, suggested we do appear to be at a "vertigo-inducing ... moment in history when time itself seems compressed, when so many shocking and important events crowd together that it becomes almost impossible to keep track of them". Pointing to similar periods in history, he warned, that at such times "the flames of violence and disruption can suddenly spread, and even whip up into a firestorm".

Oddly - or suspiciously, perhaps - Professor Bell did not consider the possibility that we could be living in a Muskian computer game. But given the precariousness of the day, I urge all to join me in prayer at the altar of the alien overlords, with a synthetic entreaty: could we just chill the bejesus out for the rest of the year? There's already plenty of material for people putting together the 2016-in-review, if that's what you're worried about. Let's have a current events armistice. A newsxit. A cup of tea and a lie down. Ageing pop stars especially.