THERE are some weeks when everything crystallises – when events fall into place and you see a pattern and an answer appear, even if the pattern and answer are horrible.

This last week has been one of those weeks – a week in which it became clear that we aren’t just living squarely in the Age of Unreason, but in a time when old-fashioned kindness and decency have been put out to pasture.

Let’s count the ways: there’s the suicidal stupidity of the anti-vaccination cult; the idea that no-one should call the police if there’s a domestic next door; the politically motivated defence of an MP who manhandled a female protestor like a bouncer kicking a drunk out of a club; and the wilful blindness of Americans to the horror inflicted on migrants at their border. Events both big and small over this last week are testament to the fact that we’re living in an age as cruel as it is stupid.

The Herald on Sunday neatly summed up the dilemma with the headline: "Stop believing social media and start listening to science." The headline was about vaccination, but it could have been targeted at any issue which besets us today. The real problem is that people have put down books when it comes to facts and picked up phones. They would rather listen to some ranting obsessive online over vaccination than their own doctor.

The World Health Organisation says the anti-vaccination movement is now one of the top ten global threats. Uptake of vaccination is declining in the UK. Countries which were close to eliminating measles have seen large outbreaks. There’s been a rise in cases in almost every region of the world. In France, which is now experiencing a measles outbreak, one in three believe vaccines are unsafe. Almost 20 per cent of French people think vaccines are ineffective.

The distrust of science walks hand in hand with the rise of populism. Don’t trust elites, don’t trust experts, don’t trust scientists, don’t trust academics, don’t trust journalists – that’s been the political message from Trump to Brexit, from Le Pen in France to Orban in Hungary. If someone disagrees with you – it’s just their opinion. It doesn’t matter if they have reams of research and a degree in the subject you happen to be talking about – your gut instinct is just as important as the contents of their brain.

Big surges in measles cases and deaths correlate to countries where populist parties are prominent. A study for the European Journal of Public Health found there was an underlying link between anti-establishment politics and ‘vaccine hesitancy’.

"It seems likely that scientific populism is driven by similar feelings to political populism, ie profound distrust of elites and experts by disenfranchised and marginalised parts of the population," wrote study author Jonathan Kennedy from Queen Mary University of London.

Many would argue that a parent who deliberately deprives their child of vaccinations – thereby risking the child’s life, and the lives of others – is unfit to be a parent, and social services should step in. Italy has responded in a less draconian fashion by banning unvaccinated children from schools. It’s common sense.

But if common sense is rapidly diminishing in this populist world of ours, decency isn’t far behind it. Boris Johnson – our own mini Trump – has a cadre of braying supporters who’d happily let him get away with anything. When neighbours called the police following a late-night altercation at the home Mr Johnson shares with his partner, Team BoJo didn’t think that perhaps it might be smart to remain quiet until all the facts were known. No, instead, they leapt to attack the neighbours who called the police.

Allison Pearson, who like our PM-in-waiting writes for The Daily Telegraph, said that Mr Johnson’s neighbours should be named and shamed. She asked on social media, "Anyone know who they are?" So just ignore a domestic – if it’s happening in the home of a man you politically support – and hound those who report potential crimes. Morality inverted.

We saw the same with the defence of Mark Field, the Foreign Office minister who pushed a Greenpeace protestor against a wall and grabbed her neck. It was ugly and pathetic – the woman was clearly no threat. There were comments that this was a fair use of force, that the woman could have been a terrorist – such claims were as stupid as they were lacking in decency.

No-one assaulted comedian Lee Nelson when he famously came up to Theresa May on stage and handed her a P45. The Greenpeace protestor was wearing a red dress and a sash saying ‘Climate Emergency’. She was hardly an assassin. But if the guy who’s on your team was the one who grabbed her around the neck, then you’ve got to defend him haven’t you? Morality doesn’t matter, just political expediency.

We’ve seen the same problems in Scotland too – on either side of the constitutional debate it doesn’t really matter that there might be the odd scoundrel or criminal in your camp, just circle the wagons and stand by your man. The same toxin infects Labour also – which is why it cannot deal with its anti-semitism problem.

In America, Trump supporters are similarly reinterpreting what their eyes tell them because it does not fit with their political world view. Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described immigrant detention centres as concentration camps. By any definition she’s right: parents and children are separated, people are kept in cramped and dehumanising conditions, there have been deaths. She didn’t say death camps, she said concentration camps. Nevertheless, cue hysteria. The backlash got more coverage than the concerns.

In order to further a political agenda these days, sense and decency have been put to the sword. It doesn’t matter if your guy is a scumbag, as long as they win. But the problem is that the law of osmosis will eventually apply – the more you defend a scumbag, the more you turn a blind eye to a scumbag, the more likely it is that you’ll turn into a scumbag yourself. In an era when the Rule of the Scumbag is killing off sense and decency, surely it’s only fitting that the people who cheerlead this destruction, are credited as the biggest scumbags of all.

Neil Mackay is Scotland’s Columnist of the Year