How a small group of dunces may create an extinction event that may wipe out the human race.

I’m proud I could endure a full 10 minutes of the movie 65. That’s a small feat for many people, but not for me. After all, I’m a weak man of faint heart, especially regarding stupidity. A star-faring civilization’s healthcare is such that a guy (Adam Driver) must embark on a two-year space expedition to earn the money needed to treat his daughter’s illness. Yep. No universal healthcare for you, Walter White, sorry, Adam Driver.

I may be from star-faring civilization, but you’ll still have to pay for your ambulance trip, sweety.

But, the utter boneheadedness of the plot and the impending catastrophe that awaits Adam Driver on, what is apparently revealed as planet Earth 65,000,000 years ago, just moments before the dinos went poof due to the asteroid crash-landing in Mexico, lends a great parallel between the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event and a Social Media extinction event that we’re experiencing right now.

When dunces clump in a critical mass, an extinction event is inevitable

Just like small asteroids by themselves don’t pose much danger to our species, isolated dunces don’t pose much danger either. Ignatius Jacques Reilly, in John Kennedy Toole’s low-brow 60s tragicomedy A Confederacy of Dunces, lives an appropriately miserable existence. He is what we’d today call a QAnon aficionado: a lazy, obese, misanthropic, self-styled scholar who lives with his mother, can’t keep a job, and believes, among many other things, all cops are communists.

It’s a lonely existence with just a few equally nutty cakes in his orbit that he is able to converse with and relate to. Not nearly enough to create a critical mass and cause any social disturbance apart from crashing a car. You see, back in the 60s, people like I.J. Reilly didn’t have Twitter to easily meet other dunces. They weren’t given a platform. They lived a marginal existence on the fringes of society where they belonged.

Like asteroids in the Kuiper belt, they were mainly harmless, far away from each other, and unable to congregate. It’s when they started to clump together and grow in mass due to gravity that they became a massive danger. 

An artist’s impression of an asteroid

Social media created a platform for dunces and gravity pulls for I.J. Reillys of the world to clump together and create a critical mass of morons that are admittedly small in scale relative to non-dunces but pack tremendous kinetic energy. A 10-mile diameter asteroid, such as the one that Adam Driver and the dinosaurs must face in 65, is much smaller than the Earth, which is about 8000 miles in diameter. Yet it was enough to have wiped out 75% of all species on Earth.

In our tragic techno-optimist naïveté we’ve created asteroids we call Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, that may soon create an anthropogenic extinction event, and all we can do is look in the sky in amazement at how we didn’t see it coming sooner.

The king of dunces