In the first of a poignant three-part Instagram video detailing Sam Smith’s “quarantine meltdown” last week, the multi-platinum award-winning singer reassured fans that they were self-isolating and suffering from “a bit of a headache and allergies”.
For those who missed it, last year Smith announced “I am not male or female. I think I float somewhere in between”, and asked to be referred to with the pronouns “they/them”. not “he/him”. So you might need to bear with me on this next bit…
By part three of Smith’s video, they seemed to have deteriorated quite considerably, and was pictured sitting on the doorstep of their £12 million Hampstead home in floral pyjama bottoms, sobbing into their hands.
Just a month ago, this would have been a masterful post, perfectly choreographed for Smith’s ‘woke’ followers and entirely in keeping with the victimhood culture he has become a figurehead for. When “body issues” were the celebrity sympathy tool du jour, the 27-year-old Brit “bravely” spoke out about “battling” those, and was later hailed “a hero” for coming out either as non-binary or genderqueer (at the time, they weren’t really clear which).
So it stood to reason that Smith would be one of the first to whinge about being incarcerated in a five-bedroom Grade II-listed mansion. However, last week the self-pitying post fell flat, with many not only refusing to indulge Smith in the way they always had, but either criticising them for being “narcissistic” at a time when people were losing loved ones, or ignoring them altogether.
Then, over the next few days something strange started happening. Stranger even than apocalyptic streets, empty supermarket shelves, and telling your mum you love her on Mothering Sunday by staying as far away from her as possible. Every time a piece of woke nonsense fought its way into the news or social media, it got slapped down or ignored. As Covid-19 spread, so too did a new condition: Rapid Onset Woke Intolerance. Was this fast-acting, fatal superbug going to kill off ‘woke’?
When Hollywood – led by Wonder Woman actress Gal Godot – tried to do what it has always done best and make it all about their own virtue by releasing an execrable rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine, people across the world rose up to decry it as “a clusterclump of hyperfamous people with five seconds’ too much time on their hands” and “proof that even if no one meets up in person, horribleness can spread”.
When people tried to raise a sexist stink about the new BBC adaptation of Malory Towers that premièred on iPlayer last night (and might single-handedly safeguard the mental health of many a parent over the next few weeks), it didn’t get any traction. Neither did preposterous accusations of “racism” against the British novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford, who revealed at the weekend that the working title to her A Woman Of Substance sequel had to be scrapped by publishers after fears “Blackie and Emma” might be misinterpreted.
And on Sunday, when actress Jameela Jamil, one of the most widely-recognised faces of woke culture and an online social justice warrior, blasted Great Britain for its shameful lack of diversity, adding that US chat show queen Oprah Winfrey would “never have made it in the UK”, everyone just rolled their eyes and moved right along.
It’s not just celebrities who have been tone deaf to real life for too long, but millennials and everyone else who has bought into “the cult of me”. In the letters and emails I receive after criticising PC or ‘woke’ culture, one phrase is repeated constantly: “That generation needs a war.”
Nobody would wish this war on anyone, but it is a war and that means that all the grievances we’ve taken to stoking since the advent of political correctness in the late 1970s should be recalibrated with the numbers of ill, dying and dead in mind; every pathetic attempt at victimhood juxtaposed with the harrowing images of overflowing NHS wards we’re seeing every day on the news.
We needed to cultivate those false “offences” and micro-aggressions before now because we were spoilt and bored and had nothing bigger to think about than how we were portrayed on a bathroom door sign, or whether or not we should report a male co-worker for calling us “love”.
But the coronavirus has shown all that up for the bilge that it is, even robbing the woke brigade of some of their favourite language. Because when people talk of “self-identification” now, it’s not about whimsical notions of whether you’ll be going into work tomorrow as Alex or Alexandra, but whether or not you believe you’re infected with a disease virulent enough to necessitate the erecting of makeshift morgues.
And if anyone in hospital today tries to tell one of our heroic health workers that “actually, I identify as pansexual, because more than anything I tend to fall in love with a person’s energy, so these are the pronouns to use…”, I’d love to hear how they get on.
It’s a curious fact that after 9/11, the misuse of the word “like” stopped in New York overnight. Curious, yet understandable. Punctuating your sentences with the meaningless preposition had become a way of distancing oneself from reality, and nothing could have been more real than the assassination of 2,977 people. Ultimately, “like” survived, of course, just as “woke” may do.
But for now I hope Rapid Onset Woke Intolerance continues to spread.
Read Celia Walden at telegraph.co.uk every Monday, from 7pm