The infinite monkey theorem and the meaning of irony

The infinite monkey theorem and the meaning of irony

The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of Shakespeare. A now-extinct variant of the same theorem said that, “if you give a million monkeys a million typewriters, eventually one of them will produce Hamlet” – this idea however was killed stone dead by the overwhelming evidence to the contrary contained in internet blogs.


The problem with most blogs is that they start in a blaze of excitement but quickly run out of things to say. Also, 95% are based upon the entirely false premise that the writer has a great sense of humour because either their mum/wife/husband/dog/probation officer dutifully smiles every time they unleash their Wildean wit or they fundamentally can’t distinguish between people laughing with them and laughing at them. Also, using ‘lol’ or ‘:-)’ at the end of a sentence not only means that you have failed to realise that if something is genuinely funny or entertaining, you don’t need to put a large signpost next to it, but also qualifies you for guaranteed early extermination when I finally become planetary overlord.   


Conversely, I have a sort of twisted respect for the JEP as the challenge of producing forty pages of product almost every single day on an island where absolutely nothing of interest happens 90% of the time would drive me to drink in no time at all. I’ve even toyed with the idea of helping out by applying (possibly under a different pseudonym) to become a JEP columnist, so that i) people have the chance to see what a reasoned (as opposed to ill-informed and kneejerk) opinion looks like, ii) the muppets who write letters to the editor which inadvertently advertise their complete stupidity get the public humiliation they so richly deserve and iii) the JEP’s libel lawyers will finally earn their pay.


However, neither most blogs nor the JEP even begin to compare to the British press in terms of sheer insanity. Now, we here at Gallery aren’t dependent upon using shocking headlines in order to sell more copies for the simple reason that we don’t actually charge you for the near-orgasmic pleasure we bring to your grateful eyes each month. Certain national newspapers, however, have tendencies that any psychologist would immediately recognize as paranoid schizophrenia, which results in them displaying on alternate days the persona of a mummified maiden aunt and a sex-crazed teenager, depending on the subject in question. Others continually flip between front page splashes saying “YOU MUST HATE THIS” and “YOU MUST FEAR THIS”. Sometimes I think you’re supposed to hate and fear things at the same time, but I get easily confused with all the hype and inaccurate reporting.


I’m not the first person to point out the hypocrisy in a newspaper revelling in publishing intrusive photos of any female celebrities who put on weight while simultaneously running endless columns wondering why so many young girls are developing anorexia or bulimia, but has anyone else noticed that considering their well-publicised views on paedophiles, certain tabloids pay a suspicious amount of attention to what Tom Cruise’s four year-old daughter is wearing Every. Single. Day?


Also, it’s not a particularly edifying spectacle when the destruction of some poor b*gger’s entire life or career is ruthlessly effected under cover of a spurious ‘public interest’ – the implication being that if you’re even the tiniest blip on the celebrity radar (or even worse – a footballer), your every word and deed is subject to a level of scrutiny that would almost certainly embarrass a high court judge. Take the recent furore involving the chap who was head of the FA – all he really did was try to impress a potential girlfriend, and the next thing he knows she’s off to Max Clifford with a tape recording of their dinnertime chat (and presumably some industrial detergent to help her get rid of the disgusting stench caused by her actions). The entire World Cup bid is then seriously damaged and all for what? Was it really in the public interest? Or was the real public interest in this case precisely the opposite – ie ensuring that England has the best possible chance of hosting a World Cup for the first time in fifty years?

Worst of all in my view is when a tabloid sermonises by providing completely made-up quotes attributed to ‘a pal’ or ‘an onlooker’. Simply Google the name of a tabloid and “a pal said” and it immediately becomes clear that each pal is conveniently spouting the opinion of the newspaper in the absence of any actual reporting effort having been put in. 


Huge amounts of entertainment can also be had where a hack simply cuts-and-pastes ‘facts’ from Wikipedia – even when they are clearly rubbish. Recently, a Wikipedia entry for a little-known football team was edited so as to include the following nugget: “A small but loyal group of fans are lovingly called ‘The Zany Ones’ – they like to wear hats made from discarded shoes and have a song about a little potato”. When the team was drawn against Man City in the UEFA Cup, the Daily Mirror promptly published a story about the ‘shoe-hat wearing fans’. Even better, under the rules of Wikipedia, the original non-fact could now be verified by a citation reference to the Mirror’s article!


Of course, the problem is that when faced with such an appalling fourth estate, someone who actually wants to hear unbiased reports on things that actually matter is left with virtually no option, apart from reading this column. And that is the meaning of irony. 

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