April Fool’s Year

Dan Perry
6 min readApr 1, 2024

One day is not enough for the level of idiocy currently happening in the world

People always declare that things have never been so bad, but is that really so? Statistics show that humanity has never seen so much peace and prosperity and health. So whence all the angst? How does nothing seem quite right? Why is that fly buzzing loudly in my ear?

Wait! Could it be true?

Are we getting dumber? For young men especially, is that even possible?

Many feel that yes, it clearly is. That is our “lived experience,” a great new system for conviction without proof. And there’s a reason why we have this feeling: the folly is more striking when contrasted to the other march, of progress. It was one thing for a Dark Ages peasant to poke a beehive with a club. It is another to walk off a cliff while staring at the phone.

Our current level of individual and societal folly, compared to humanity’s concurrent achievements, is such that marking it with a single day might not suffice. April Fool’s Day — tomorrow — is not enough.


Therefore, I am proposing that we declare 2024 to be the first-ever April Fool’s Year. I’m not talking about practical jokes. The purpose would not be to celebrate our idiocy: rather we would study it. Attempt to learn its ways. Perhaps a team of experts, focused only on this issue and holding meetings about it, will be appointed someplace like Vienna.

I did not arrive at this recommendation lightly. In order to ascertain whether our folly of today is greater than what preceded it, I consulted “The March of Folly” by Barbara Tuchman, an American writer who won the Pulitzer Prize twice, and so you know that she had wisdom. I have known several Pulitzer judges, and every one of them could read.

This 1984 book is in my view a global finalist for having the best title ever. No less importantly, it is a compelling exploration of how throughout history, governments and organizations have repeatedly and insistently pursued policies contrary to their own interests. Her four case studies are the Trojans’ acceptance of the Trojan Horse (do you want to argue with Tuchman?), the Renaissance Popes’ refusal to address corruption, the British mishandling of the American colonies, and the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. In each instance, of which three are real, leaders ignored rational advice, leading to disastrous and absolutely foreseeable consequences.

Tuchman attributes this to a combination of hubris, shortsightedness, and an inability to learn from past mistakes. She argues that this pattern persists due to the prevalence of groupthink and the influence of vested interests. This is where I think she starts to overcomplicate. The answer is found in one word, and she nailed it in the title.

I note that Tuchman had to reach back over three millennia to come up with her four examples of grand failings. These days, you wouldn’t need three minutes. It would be difficult to pick only four cases from the headlines.

Shall we quickly take a look?

Donald J. Trump: It is not for nothing that when The Simpsons decided in 2000 to joke about America going insane, an incoming leader laments in passing the legacy left by President Trump. The combination of the words sounded inconceivable — something like President Bozo the Clown. Who’s laughing now? Two impeachments, scores of felony indictments and rivers of nonsense later, Trump could actually get elected a second time! It is a nightmarish tableau that defies logic and reason, and underscores our susceptibility to propaganda, misinformation, tribalism and total bullshit. Since I don’t believe in burying the lead, let me just say that this first entry is the greatest possible evidence that we are in an April Fools’ Year. In potentially repeating such a colossal mistake, the American public takes the Tuchman folly model to entirely new orders of magnitude (and yes, I know about the border crisis, the woke overreach, and all the rest of the excuses; but no.)

Autocrats: Vladimir Putin, Ilham Aliyev, Aleksander Lukashenko, Kim Jong Un. How can these dictators be? It’s a perplexing marvel. Technology has advanced to unimaginable heights so that the transparencies of oppression stare us all in the face and yet these autocrats, with their iron grips on power, seem to mock the very laws of nature. Putin has brought incredible levels of death and destruction to Russia, in order to make the world’s biggest country a little bit bigger; he threatens nuclear war. It’s a bewildering spectacle to witness how despots continue to make millions miserable, given that they have the vulnerability level of any other homo sapiens. Human beings can be felled by a virus, or a blow to the temple, or an insect bite, or really any passing breeze. That a handful of criminals succeed in causing unimaginable damage is a sobering reminder of the complexities and contradictions of human nature, and also of the importance of paying attention to real news.

Islamic Radicalism: Few things are less convenient than being an Islamic radical. The prayer routine is brutal and your chances of being killed are rather high. The young men that seem drawn to it are denied those precise things that most young men are programmed to pursue. And it is very safe to say that if you’re an Islamic radical, nobody will like you but a few other Islamic radicals (and perhaps the British left). Yet it refuses to go away. As with support for Trump, the excuses are as numerous as they are unconvincing. The battle against this virus seems like a never-ending saga of Whack-a-Mole. Crush Al Qaeda here and get ISIS over there, wipe out ISIS in Mosul and next they blow up concert halls in Moscow (unless it was Putin), beat back the Taliban then and get them back tomorrow, still threatening to stone to death some women. Now you have Houthis messing with the Suez Canal, caring not if they are killed. And in the wider Islamic society from which this disaster springs forth, do we find clear and consistent condemnation? No, we do not. Some of it comes from contrarian pride; some from cowardice; some from actual sympathy; and some, my friends, from folly (because jihad is coming for them too).

Social Media: And then there’s the poisoned chalice that simultaneously connects, isolates, and divides us. While it promises to bring people together and facilitate communication, its unchecked proliferation has led to a myriad of societal ills, from the spread of misinformation to the erosion of privacy. Mainly, though, it has turned the brains of many youth into mashed potatoes. Social media is almost certainly the reason why there is a huge disconnect between the views of Gen Z on capitalism, democracy and liberalism and those of even the just slightly older millennials. Every bad instinct, from racism on down, is enabled and amplified. We have watched this happen — we have handed the keys to the kingdom of the mind — to a handful of unaccountable tech moguls, and in one case to a company from China. The United States has so failed to regulate the excesses of tech that the only hope right now lies with the European Union. Does that make you hopeful?

Western Self-Loathing: The bizarre phenomenon of Western self-loathing relates directly to the above, and underscores the paradoxical nature of modernity. We are dealing here with a mania that blames the West for all the ills of the world — when in fact the West is that corner of humanity most inclined toward introspection, probably because in its model of democracy one can disagree with power without being jailed. This is why, despite the valid criticism anyone might deploy, immigration in the world generally happens in one direction only: toward the West. This, even as isolated and Instagram-addicted young people in the West spiral into existential angst about their unprecedented options. Perhaps the most absurd reflection of this is the support among Western youth for Hamas, a jihadi group that would happily kill them all, and whose bad intentions are far more real than the those of the North Vietnamese discussed in Tuchman’s book.


Yes, we have been even dumber in the past. We used to burn witches at the stake. But we have very possibly never been quite this absurd.

Is it a fool’s errand, to challenge folly? Even the longest march will in the end run out of steam.



Dan Perry

Journalist and comms professional who led the Associated Press in the Middle East, Africa, Europe & Caribbean. Author of Israel & the Quest for Permanence.