IT started with a photograph of a sick little boy. Four-year-old Jack, admitted to Leeds General Infirmary with suspected pneumonia, was pictured lying on a hospital floor – where he remained for 13 hours until he was given a bed. Cue the right outrage that this is what the UK NHS has been reduced to. Cue another bout of outrage when Boris Johnson tried to avoid talking about it by snatching a reporter’s mobile so he could attempt to squeeze in one more chorus of “Let’s get Brexit done” before the interview wrapped up. (At one point we would have expected more from the leader of a nation, but those days are long gone.)

Little Jack’s ordeal was soon eclipsed by another row. Health Secretary Matt Hancock, dispatched to the hospital to deal with fallout from the incident, was greeted by a handful of protesters. Two prominent journalists reported that Mr Hancock’s aide had been punched by an activist, citing a "senior Conservative source". Footage emerged showing that no such altercation took place and outrage was redirected at the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg for taking Tory spin at face value. Dismay that a senior journalist had been so irresponsible were more conspiratorial speculation about Ms Kuensberg’s motives. And, amid the row, we forgot what started it all: a photo of a sick little boy.

The saga did not end there. A post, apparently written by a woman claiming to be the friend of a nurse at the hospital, claimed the photo of Jack had been staged. The hospital had already confirmed the parents’ account and the woman responsible for the original Facebook page said her account was hacked, but the fake rebuttal was repeated by hundreds of social media accounts in eerily similar language. The editor of the Yorkshire Post, the newspaper who originally published the photo of Jack, issued a gentle reminder that we cannot trust everything we read on Facebook. A small flicker of common sense prevailed.

It is hard to look upon this whole vile, lying mess with anything but disdain. How credulous social media masses take fake Facebook posts as gospel and how, sometimes, senior journalists do exactly the same thing. How quickly it distracted us from the plight of that little boy and our Prime Minister’s refusal to even look at a photograph of him. The internet has created a new-age battleground where elections are won and lost but, looking at the last 48 hours alone, it is hard to feel anything other than thoroughly depressed. There can be no winners here; no worthy ones, anyway.