This was the year of ‘woke’. Or at least the year that ‘woke’ made its biggest land grab. For anyone lucky enough not to have encountered the term, woke is essentially political correctness after a course of steroids. Its followers spend their lives punishing any wrong-think committed, which can include thinking something everyone thought until yesterday. And includes saying things that are true.
The main inspirations for the wokerati are anything to do with relations between the sexes, race, LGBT issues, and the last of these (Trans) in particular. In each case a legitimate rights debate is weaponised into a culture war.
This year started in the manner in which it meant to go on. In January, former policeman Harry Miller was contacted by Humberside Police after a member of the public reported him for allegedly ‘transphobic’ comments made on Twitter. His offence? The 53-year-old posted a limerick that questioned whether trans women are biological women. The police recorded it as a ‘hate incident’.
Demonstrators take part in ‘Women Demand Bread & Roses’ protest organised by Women’s March in central London, January 19
Meanwhile, Gillette, which had previously advertised razors under the slogan ‘The best a man can get’, decided men were the problem. In a fresh advertising campaign the company focused on ‘toxic masculinity’. They depicted men as bullying, boorish sexual abusers in the advert with a voice-over saying: ‘Bullying, the MeToo movement against sexual harassment, toxic masculinity, is this the best a man can get?’
Explaining their decision, the company said the advert was part of their broader initiative to promote ‘positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man’.
In other words, Gillette’s millions of customers had seemingly let Gillette down so far, and needed to do better.
Earlier this month Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling was the target of an international campaign after she defended a woman’s right to say that biological sex exists
In February, the world woke to the news that Hollywood actor Jussie Smollett, who is black and gay, had been the subject of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago. The woke had a perfect new martyr.
Fellow celebrities blamed Donald Trump for the attack which turned out to have involved two men who were known to Smollett and appeared to have been paid by him to fake a ‘hate incident’. The culprits were Nigerian body-builders, making them the least likely white supremacists seen in Chicago or elsewhere.
In March, Cambridge University summarily stripped the Canadian academic and internationally best-selling author Jordan Peterson of a visiting lectureship. The reason given was that, at a post-show meet-and-greet, one of Peterson’s thousands of fans was photographed wearing an ‘Islamophobic’ T-shirt.
Elsewhere, the university fired a young researcher because a mob of student activists claimed the researcher’s work was ‘racist’ (it wasn’t). And one of the universities grandest colleges removed a bell when it was discovered it could once have been rung on a slave plantation. For it is 2019 and even the bells have to be in tune with the times.
Dame Edna Everage may be one of the most famous comic creations of our time, but in April the Melbourne International Comedy Festival announced the ‘Barry Humphries Award’ was being renamed. Dame Edna’s creator had recently described Trans issues as ‘a fashion’ and called Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner a ‘publicity seeking rat-bag’. So Australia tried to ‘erase’ its most famous comedian.
In May in Britain it was the turn of John Cleese to be a target of the wokerati after comments he made in 2011 resurfaced.
He had remarked in an interview eight years prior that he thought London was ‘no longer an English city’. He tweeted that such a view was now shared by his friends abroad and ‘so there must be some truth in it.’
In a strikingly unfunny intervention, Sadiq Khan got involved. ‘These comments make John Cleese sound like he’s in character as Basil Fawlty,’ the London Mayor said. ‘Londoners know that our diversity is our greatest strength.’
Dame Edna Everage may be one of the most famous comic creations of our time, but in April the Melbourne International Comedy Festival announced the ‘Barry Humphries Award’ was being renamed
As every school child ought to know, June is compulsory Pride Month. In recent years the day has become a week, a month and perhaps at some point soon could become an all-year-round event. Banks and businesses fall over each other to join in.
Barclays, among other high-street banks, festooned its branches in rainbow flags for the month. While Marks & Spencer tried to go one better by creating an ‘LGBT sandwich’ (lettuce, guacamole, bacon and tomato) that was on sale for the month. Because it is very important to show your woke solidarity by eating a sandwich which, while horrible, at least signals all the correct opinions.
After all, holding the wrong opinions carries a cost.
It is very important to show your woke solidarity by eating a sandwich which, while horrible, at least signals all the correct opinions
In the same month, an ASDA worker was fired for sharing a video of Billy Connolly. While Scotland’s funniest comedian is allowed to make a joke about suicide bombers, it appeared that supermarket workers were not.
A primary obsession of woke ideology is ‘unconscious bias’ (we are all racist, sexist and homophobic whether we know it or not). Denying you are is merely more proof that you are. And in July, it was the Royal Family’s turn to tell us all about this bias when the Duchess of Sussex guest-edited Vogue magazine. Indeed, Prince Harry used the platform to talk about ‘unconscious bias’ and announced he and his wife would limit themselves to having only two children because of climate change. Though when it comes to the issue of privilege (another woke obsession), Harry and Meghan remained strangely quiet.
Come August and Goldsmiths University announced that it was banning beef. Because of climate change, none of the university’s cafes would serve it. Meanwhile, in America, there was a flurry of concern when the New York Metropolitan Opera house announced that it was planning a new staging of Porgy And Bess. While previous generations had praised Gershwin’s masterpiece, it was now accused of ‘cultural appropriation’ because Gershwin was writing about black characters while being guilty of being white.
In September, The Guardian newspaper decided to play the ‘privilege’ game in an editorial about David Cameron, whose memoirs had just come out. The former PM may have felt some pain in his life, the paper conceded, but this was only ‘privileged pain’. That is where woke ideology gets you. Weighing up the pros, cons, benefits and privileges of a father losing his severely disabled eldest child at the age of six.
In July, it was the Royal Family’s turn to tell us all about bias when the Duchess of Sussex guest-edited Vogue magazine
The new term started as it meant to go on. The pop singer Sam Smith, who had previously come out as gay and ‘genderqueer’ announced he was now ‘non-binary’. He insisted that all future references to him should use the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’ instead of ‘he’. With an online mob trying to whip everyone into line, the BBC, among others, immediately obeyed. Presumably from now on Smith will be nominated in awards ceremonies for ‘Best Group’.
Naturally the pandering politicians wanted in on this. At the PinkNews Awards in October, the Labour Party’s leader announced himself on stage thus: ‘My name is Jeremy Corbyn, pronouns he/him.’ As though he was likely to say ‘she/her’ or ‘a/dolt’. The gay press oozed sycophantic admiration. Everybody else rolled their eyes in bemusement. But other politicians worried about getting behind the times. That same month the then-Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson criticised the six men she claimed were conspiring to carry out Brexit. Summoning up her most derogatory insults, she called them ‘Six white men stuck in the past, conspiring to wreck our future’.
The pop singer Sam Smith, who had previously come out as gay and ‘genderqueer’ announced he was now ‘non-binary’
For, in 2019, both ‘men’ and ‘white’ had become acceptable terms of insult. A month later the electorate got a chance to express its opinion about what we used to call a ‘useless woman’.
By November Barack Obama had joined the voices starting to worry about where all this might be leading. ‘I get a sense among certain young people on social media that the way of making change is to be as judgemental as possible about other people,’ he said. He went on to explain why this wasn’t a good way to live. ‘The world is messy.’ The woke brigade were furious and America’s first black President was criticised for being a ‘boomer’ – that is, for getting old.
But interventions like his do achieve something. As did the Conservative win in our General Election earlier this month. It shows there is a backlash and that people are fed up with being ordered what to think.
That feeling is something Prime Minister Boris Johnson well understands. Not least because the would-be censors have come for him so many times, pretending he has said things he has not said and mercilessly misrepresenting things he has said. The fact the country gave him and his party such a resounding mandate on December 12 is some sign the tide might be turning, in this country at least. The Conservative Party has repeatedly suggested that it will take issues of academic freedom and police over-reach seriously.
But if there is a lot of work to do at the level of government, there is even more to do in the wider culture, to push back at these cultural Marxists.
Earlier this month Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling was the target of an international campaign after she defended a woman’s right to say that biological sex exists. And on Christmas Eve, after the new governor of the Bank of England was announced, the BBC ran the headline ‘Why didn’t the Bank of England appoint a woman?’
Madness like this is why, in 2020, alongside comedian Andrew Doyle, I am doing a tour of the UK called Resisting Wokeness. Our aim is to inject a bit of sanity, as well as fun, into an increasingly dark and divisive ideology.
This dementing game has to be undone. Men and women have to be allowed to get along. People of different races should be brought together, not driven apart. And gay people should be seen to be like everyone else, not as some mad, avenging, authoritarian furies.
Through May and June we’ll be in 11 cities up and down the country. Unless we all get cancelled beforehand, I look forward to seeing you there.
For tickets to see Resisting Wokeness: An Evening With Douglas Murray And Andrew Doyle, go to resistingwokeness.com/live-dates.