I don’t know when it first hit me that the world had gone nuts, writes Piers Morgan
I don’t know when it first hit me that the world had gone nuts.
It might have been when an American white woman named Rachel Dolezal self-identified as black on national television despite both her parents being white. That was nuts.
Or perhaps it was when Altrincham Grammar School for Girls in Manchester asked staff to refrain from calling female students ‘girls’ because it might offend transgender students – yet didn’t change the gender-specific name of the school. That was nuts.
Maybe it was when there were strident calls from radical feminists – who, like all radicals, destroy support for their cause by taking everything to absurd extremes – for James Bond to be female. That was nuts.
Or was it when students at Oxford University banned clapping at Student Union events in case it triggered anxiety? That was nuts.
Ultimately, I think the final straw came when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for the word ‘mankind’ to be outlawed because it was sexist.
There, right there, was the purest, maddest example of the world going completely stark raving bonkers, and it came from one of the most powerful men – sorry, ‘persons’ – on Planet Earth.
So yes, the world had gone nuts. It had become a place where common sense was ignored, weakness celebrated, strength denigrated, failure replaced by ‘participation prizes’, accountability abandoned in the rush to blame others, dissenting views instantly crushed by a howling, self-righteous mob and signalling one’s dubious virtue was absolutely paramount.
Why had the world gone this way? Who was causing this nonsense?
I don’t know when it first hit me that the world had gone nuts. It might have been when an American white woman named Rachel Dolezal self-identified as black on national television despite both her parents being white. That was nuts
The answer is a shocking one. For it’s us liberals who are responsible.
By ‘us’, I mean that I consider myself a liberal and it’s my fellow liberals who have been driving this frantically illiberal assault on the very things we’re supposed to stand for: freedom and tolerance.
Liberals believe that ‘society should change gradually so that money, property and power are shared more equally’. Above all, liberals are supposed to be ‘tolerant’.
Yet here they are, screaming, shrieking, hollering and hectoring us all into a world of staggering intolerance, and attempting to inhibit or silence our freedom of speech, particularly on our most pertinent societal issues.
HOW has this happened?
WHY has this happened?
WHAT will stop it?
When I began writing my latest book in late 2019, I assumed it would lead to me being publicly ‘cancelled’ the moment it was published. I’d be shamed, vilified, mocked, abused, bullied and no-platformed.
My book signings would be met with protests, possibly even threats of violence, and my media appearances to promote the book would be weirdly contentious.
This, after all, had been happening to anyone who dared to challenge the woke world view.
‘Woke’ is a word that modern liberals proudly use to justify their illiberalism – only they are awake enough to see how the world should be, while the rest of us imbeciles are too sleepily stupid to understand.
My criticism of Meghan has nothing to with her gender or skin colour. Nor is it ‘bullying’ to hold people to account if they’re on the public purse. As for the ‘obsessed’ charge, it’s true that I’ve written and said a lot of stuff about Meghan and Harry, but that’s because they’re huge global celebrities who keep doing things that dominate the news cycle, and every time I write about them, the columns get massive traction, suggesting enormous public interest
As with so many things, the term ‘woke’ has been hijacked and abused by modern illiberal society. The term was first used during the 1860 US presidential election with the ‘Wide Awakes’ movement spawned by young Republicans to oppose the spread of slavery.
Being ‘woke’ burst into modern popular culture in an essay in 1962 and was supposed to indicate someone having a sharp political awareness of systemic social and racial injustices – which is an entirely admirable trait.
But in recent years, being ‘woke’ has come to mean having an intransigent intolerance of myriad, often very trivial and pointless things, and the broadness of the ‘woke’ charge sheet is growing absurdly long and is often utterly ridiculous.
I’ve spent years in the eye of this illiberal liberal storm. I’ve loudly supported women’s rights, as well as civil rights, gay rights and transgender rights (apart from the absurd new trend of limitless gender self-identification), and I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body.
Yet that hasn’t stopped the woke crowd regularly and furiously branding me racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic. There’s no room for logic or reason in the world of illiberal liberalism.
It’s not what you believe that matters so much as how you express your beliefs, the precise language you use and a total unquestioning compliance with the way they say you should behave.
Emboldened by social media echo chambers where they only expose themselves to thought processes they already agree with, these illiberal liberals have become modern-day fascists, demanding we all lead our lives in a way that conforms strictly to their narrow world view.
I have strong opinions about almost everything, and I actively dislike a lot of things that many might think are trivial and inconsequential, from papooses to vegan sausage rolls.
But I don’t want them banned, or to stop people being free to eat them. I just want to exercise my freedom of speech to say I think they are abhorrent stains on society. And I should be allowed to say so without the entire world collapsing in a fit of collective hysterical pique.
I wouldn’t mind the woke crowd so much if they were prepared to engage me in proper civilised debate – but they’re not. They don’t see any need to debate anything because they’re so utterly convinced that they are 100 per cent right about everything and hypocritically refuse to acknowledge the importance of discourse in a liberal society. If we all follow this path, democracy will surely die.
Politics is now so horribly toxic and divisive, it doesn’t leave room for anyone not on the extremities, and least of all old-fashioned liberals who believe in free speech.
Stephen Fry, speaking at the Festival For Dangerous Ideas in Sydney in 2018, said the same. ‘A grand canyon has opened up in our world,’ he said, ‘and the cracks grow wider every day. As it widens, the armies on each side shriek more and more incontinently at their perceived enemies across the divide, their gestures and insults ever huger, cruder and louder.’
And he concluded: ‘If someone is behaving like an arsehole, it isn’t cancelled out by you behaving like an arsehole. Be better. Not better than they are. But better than you are. The shouting, the kicking, the name calling, spitting hatred, the dogmatic distrust, all have to stop.’
Of course, he’s right. And I’ve been as guilty of this as anyone, frequently losing my rag on Twitter about everything from my beloved Arsenal to America’s inexplicable love affair with guns. But one thing I’ve learned, the hard way, is the more you scream down those with whom you disagree, the less chance you have of winning an argument.
This is not a lesson most people even want to hear, let alone heed.
Since Fry made his speech, things have got immeasurably worse. People are more entrenched, more hysterical, more abusive than ever before – and the worst offenders, by far, are the wokies and their intransigent illiberal liberalism.
They scream and shout about the intolerance of others, the infringing of their rights, the excruciating difficulties of their day-to-day existence. They are constantly ‘triggered’ by things that offend and upset them.
So, I began 2020 by constructing a book based around a burning desire to try to persuade my fellow liberals to stop behaving like arseholes, even if they think everyone else is, and start behaving like liberals again. To relearn the importance of freedom, particularly in relation to free speech. To regain a proper perspective on life.
Then came coronavirus – and everything changed. Locked down in our homes and unable to enjoy our normal freedoms, we re-established connections with family, friends, local communities and nature.
Celebrity culture was shunned for a new appreciation of more deserving, non-famous stars – health and care workers. And wokery was temporarily banished because nobody had the energy for it when really serious s*** was going down.
Then, to my horror, it slowly came creeping back and eventually exploded in a summer of madness after the despicable killing of George Floyd in America, at the knee of a cop.
The world took all leave of its senses, and illiberal liberalism rose up with even greater zealousness and ferocity than before the pandemic, tearing down – literally, in the case of statues – the very culture and history of great nations. It was as if we’d learned absolutely nothing from such a life-changing event.
I’ve changed during this crisis, as I think we all have – for good and bad. It’s made me re-evaluate a lot of things I thought, how I view the issues that had been sending everyone nuts, and how my own behaviour may have contributed to the problem.
And, ironically, the same people who had spent the past few years lambasting me began to laud me, and those who had cheered me from the Twitter rooftops began to castigate me.
As someone who has been a diarist for 25 years, I concluded that the best way to explain that change was in real time, as it happened.
This, then, is an account of how, thanks to a devastating pandemic, we’ve been given the wake-up moment of our lives, and why we cannot, must not, go back to sleep.
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
The world seems relatively quiet this morning, though there’s a disconcerting story coming out of China, where health authorities say they’re investigating 27 cases of a new strain of viral pneumonia in the city of Wuhan.
Friday, January 3
It hasn’t taken long for 2020 to live down to 2019’s often bafflingly insane standards of ‘woke’ absurdity.
A judge today ruled that ‘ethical veganism’ qualifies as a philosophical belief protected under UK law, worthy of the same legal rights and protections as, say, religion or other protected characteristics, like race, sex, pregnancy, maternity and sexuality.
Of course, the news was greeted with raucous celebration by the more radical and preachy members of the vegan community, which has spent the past two days haranguing people like me into giving up meat for the dreaded ‘Veganuary’.
Finally, they’ve got what they want: legal validation for their war on carnivores. Kale-munching is no longer a lifestyle choice, it’s a right.
Inevitably, crafty commercial minds have realised there is money to be made from all this nonsense.
A year ago this week, Greggs, the high-street bakery chain, announced on Twitter: ‘The wait is over… #vegansausageroll.’ I was incredulous. Who the hell had been waiting for a vegan sausage roll? And how can a sausage be vegan anyway? Sausages are meat products.
I tweeted back at Greggs: ‘Nobody was waiting for a vegan bloody sausage, you PC-ravaged clowns.’
‘Oh, hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you,’ they instantly replied. Of course, all hell broke loose as the world’s vegans rushed to abuse and shame me, playing right into Greggs’ greedy little hands.
Saturday, January 4
President Trump has taken out the second most powerful man in Iran, its military leader General Qasem Soleimani, whose convoy was blown up by a US drone strike.
This stunning move follows a series of recent Iran-inspired rocket attacks on US bases in Iraq. I’ve been friends with Trump for 13 years, since I competed in, and won, his inaugural season of Celebrity Apprentice USA.
Four sitting presidents – one in 12 of the 45 men who have held the office – have actually been murdered. I remain very concerned that Trump may become the fifth, such is the viciously violent vitriol aimed his way by those who should know better. It was Madonna who started this disturbing trend by screaming at the Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 that she thought of ‘blowing up the White House’, although she quickly backtracked, claiming her remark had been taken out of context and that she had spoken in ‘metaphor’
It’s not easy being friends with the President of the United States when he’s as divisive as Trump. I’ve been pilloried in the media for it, abused mercilessly on Twitter, and even been subjected to verbal tirades in the street.
But I’ve stayed friends with him because I like him, and he’s been good to me. And contrary to popular myth, I’ve never let it stop me criticising him in print or on air when I feel the need to.
I see both good and bad in Trump, and right and wrong. In some ways he is one of the least Right-wing Republican presidents ever. For example, he was the first one to reference the LGBT community in his inauguration speech.
He’s presided over a very successful economy, achieved record low unemployment levels and launched what many see as an entirely justified trade war with China – a country that has been economically ransacking America for several decades.
And yet a minute cannot pass without the ‘woke’ community being mortally offended by Trump. He seems to turn many liberals into permanent gibbering wrecks of blazing fury.
I’ll never forget a video that went viral the week after Trump’s stunning election victory.
It lasted about 15 seconds and consisted of Yoko Ono emitting a long, strangled, mournful, high-pitched scream like a malfunctioning kettle exploding. Her agonised reaction perfectly epitomised the ludicrously over-the-top global meltdown by the planet’s celebrities to the result of a fair, open and democratic election.
Four sitting presidents – one in 12 of the 45 men who have held the office – have actually been murdered. I remain very concerned that Trump may become the fifth, such is the viciously violent vitriol aimed his way by those who should know better.
It was Madonna who started this disturbing trend by screaming at the Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 that she thought of ‘blowing up the White House’, although she quickly backtracked, claiming her remark had been taken out of context and that she had spoken in ‘metaphor’.
The way for liberals to beat Donald Trump is not by wishing him dead or screaming about him 24/7.
It is by using everything in the American democratic system to defeat him by fair means not foul. That means at the ballot box.
Thursday, January 9
In a statement released on their glitzy new website, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex revealed they’re relinquishing life as ‘senior Royals’ with all the tedious duty that entails, and instead want to be a ‘progressive’ force within ‘this institution’.
In other words, they want to be super-woke Royals (with all the ‘do as we say not as we do’ hectoring hypocrisy they’ve already brought to that status) who get to keep all the trappings of Royal life without any of the hard, boring bits.
I’ve seen some disgraceful Royal antics in my time, but for pure arrogance, entitlement, greed, and wilful disrespect, nothing has quite matched this nonsense.
If I were the Queen, I would unceremoniously strip these deluded clowns of all their titles with immediate effect and despatch them back into civilian life.
Friday, January 10
I posted a MailOnline column attacking Harry and Meghan’s statement, and it was met with people either furiously agreeing with me, or furiously disagreeing and accusing me of being ‘obsessed’ with Meghan because she’d ghosted me, ‘persecuting’ her, ‘damaging her mental health’ and claiming, most absurdly, that I was only attacking her because she’s black.
My criticism of Meghan has nothing to with her gender or skin colour. Nor is it ‘bullying’ to hold people to account if they’re on the public purse.
As for the ‘obsessed’ charge, it’s true that I’ve written and said a lot of stuff about Meghan and Harry, but that’s because they’re huge global celebrities who keep doing things that dominate the news cycle, and every time I write about them, the columns get massive traction, suggesting enormous public interest.
At the same time, I can’t pretend the way she personally treated me hasn’t informed my view of her now.
I was dropped like a stone the moment she met Harry, after 18 months of friendly communication originated by her, and a very cordial meeting, at her request, in my local pub when she pumped me for advice on how to handle the media.
It would surely influence anyone’s thinking if someone they considered a friend suddenly ghosted them without explanation.
Monday, January 13
The fallout from Harry and Meghan’s Royal resignation has grown unbelievably toxic. Like everything else these days, you must either love them or hate them, there can be no middle ground.
And social media has turned into a vicious battlefield with me at the centre of much of it. The narrative has firmly positioned Meghan and Harry as victims, and people like me as the heartless tormentors.
I’m particularly enraged by the specific growing narrative that the only reason Meghan’s been so harshly criticised by the media is because we’re all a bunch of racists living in a racist country. I just won’t accept that.
From the moment Meghan came on the Royal scene, and it was revealed she was from a mixed-race background, she was welcomed with warm, open, tolerant arms by a wonderfully multi-cultural and diverse modern Britain that was thrilled to finally see a non-white member of the Royal Family. She was showered with almost universal praise, especially when the engagement was announced.
I haven’t seen a press so united in joy for anything Royal since Diana became Charles’s girlfriend.
As I wrote in The Mail on Sunday the day after the wedding: ‘It’s hard to overstate the significance of this ceremony, beamed live around the world, to black people everywhere. To borrow the words of Martin Luther King, this was a day when little black girls could watch TV and genuinely share little white girls’ long-held dreams of one day marrying a Prince.’
These words, I would politely suggest, do not indicate the thoughts of a racist. Yet that is what I, and others working in the media, have now been shamefully branded for daring to criticise Meghan for her – and Harry’s – erratic and spectacularly ill-advised behaviour since the wedding.
My criticisms have been centred around their hypocrisy: Meghan having a $500,000 celebrity-fuelled baby-shower party in New York, including a lift on George’s Clooney jet, on the same day she and Harry tweeted a plea for people to think of the poor; the ridiculous lengths they went to hide basic details of their baby Archie’s birth from the public that pays for much of their lavish lives; and the way they used Sir Elton John’s private jet like a taxi service after repeatedly lecturing us all about the importance of watching our carbon footprint.
None of this was racist, either overtly or subliminally. The reality is that Meghan and Harry have brought this ugly situation entirely on themselves and should somehow find the strength in their faux-victim-ravaged, virtue-signalling, self-obsessed souls to admit it has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with their fragile egos and a simmering feud with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who will always be more important in the Royal Family as they will one day be King and Queen.
Tuesday, January 14
Today, Good Morning Britain’s excellent meteorologist Laura Tobin wore a very striking pair of skin-tight red trousers, so I jokingly complimented her for ‘parading around in hot-pants’.
We get on well and often exchange such light-hearted ‘banter’.
I was immediately accused of being ‘sexist’ by several viewers on Twitter, so I read out their criticism and said: ‘When a female presenter parades herself in skin-tight leather trousers to do the weather, you are going to get people going “wow”.’
But some viewers were having none of it.
‘Piers Morgan showing that making women feel uncomfortable in the workplace for how they dress is still with us in 2020!’
Another seethed: ‘Piers just went into creepy perv mode over Laura’s trousers. Very disturbing viewing.’ Various online newspaper stories erupted about me ‘humiliating’ Laura, until she eventually addressed them on Twitter, saying: ‘Lots of reaction to my trousers today, I’m not humiliated by Piers Morgan.
‘They’re just a pair of trousers! I thought I was being stylish!’
All of this just left me exhausted.
One of the problems with the feminism debate these days is that some women want to have their hypocritical, sexist objectification cake and eat it, too.
When each new series of Poldark comes out, the amount of drool spewed by women over lead actor Aidan Turner could fill an ocean, and his half-naked body fills the front pages.
No man I know gives a damn about the way Aidan’s objectified, and I bet he doesn’t either, but if we did the same to a female TV star now, radical feminists would rip us to shreds.
Thursday, January 16
James Bond will remain a man. This shouldn’t be a sentence I ever have to write, but sadly I do.
The news was revealed by Barbara Broccoli, who has run the 007 movie franchise since the death of father Cubby, in an interview with Variety.
‘James Bond can be of any colour,’ she said, ‘but he is male. I’m not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it.
‘Get out of the way, guys!’ demanded Pierce Brosnan, who played 007 four times, ‘and put a woman up there! I think it would be exhilarating, it would be exciting!’ Curiously, I don’t remember Mr Brosnan suggesting this when he was 007.
‘I think women are far more interesting than that.’ Thank God for that.
Broccoli spoke after suggestions that the latest Bond movie, No Time To Die, began with James now retired and temporarily replaced as 007 by a black woman, played by Lashana Lynch, and that Bond would not have to ‘navigate the #MeToo movement’, which apparently involves him becoming a hyper-sensitive, emotionally aware wokie who cries in front of women rather than beds them.
The campaign to neuter the most masculine icon in movie history reached an entirely predictable nadir with a call for him to become female.
‘Get out of the way, guys!’ demanded Pierce Brosnan, who played 007 four times, ‘and put a woman up there! I think it would be exhilarating, it would be exciting!’ Curiously, I don’t remember Mr Brosnan suggesting this when he was 007.
If Pierce Brosnan needs someone other than me to explain why this is a dumb idea, then he should ask Rosamund Pike, who co-starred with him in Die Another Day.
‘James Bond is a character that Ian Fleming created,’ she said, ‘and the character is a man. It’s a very masculine creation. Why should a woman get, sort of, sloppy seconds? Why should she have been a man and now it has to be played by a woman?
‘Why not be a kick-ass female agent in her own right?’
Exactly. By all means create your own super-spies, ladies, but for Christ’s sake, leave our guy alone.
Friday, January 17
The actor Laurence Fox is at the centre of a firestorm after appearing on BBC1’s Question Time panel and getting into a fierce debate with a mixed-race audience member who called press coverage of Meghan Markle ‘racist’.
‘It’s not racism,’ replied Fox. ‘We’re the most tolerant, lovely country in Europe. It’s so easy to throw the charge of racism at everybody… and it’s really starting to get boring now.’
‘What worries me about your comment is you are a white privileged male,’ said Rachel Boyle, a comment that prompted widespread groans and boos from other audience members.
‘Oh God,’ sighed Fox. ‘I can’t help what I am, I was born like this, it’s an immutable characteristic. So, to call me a white privileged male is to be racist. You’re being racist.’
Fox has been hounded mercilessly ever since, in the most disgusting and vicious way. All because he refused to accept the media coverage of Meghan Markle has been racist. He may not have personally experienced the kind of racism a black person endures, but that surely doesn’t disqualify him from discussing it.
Even more worryingly, there have been calls to ‘cancel’ Fox’s acting career. And incredibly, they’ve come loudest from minority representatives of the actors’ union Equity, which fired off a series of accusations on Twitter.
‘Cancel culture’, as it’s become known, is one of the worst things about modern society, and it’s driven by the same woke liberals who profess to stand for tolerance.
They would do well to listen to Barack Obama, who is celebrated by liberals but finds cancel culture ridiculous and harmful.
He warned: ‘This idea of purity and that you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke – you should get over that quickly. The world is messy.
‘There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting might love their kids.
‘One danger I see with young people, particularly on college campuses… there is this sense sometimes of the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people and that’s enough.
‘Like, if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right, or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself. That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.’
Thursday January 30
The World Health Organisation declares Covid-19 a ‘global public health emergency’.
An hour later, my youngest son, Bertie, posted a photo to our father and sons WhatsApp group of a man in a full white hazmat suit walking outside his halls at Bristol University.
One of the students had gone down with flu-like symptoms and been taken to hospital.
Friday, January 31
Today heralded the denouement of perhaps the most seismic and contentious story of all, with Britain’s formal withdrawal from the EU. As someone who voted Remain but believed passionately that once my side lost the vote we had to accept the result, I’ve been dismayed to watch fellow Remainers spend the past three-and-a-half years shrieking in fury and refusing to admit defeat.
It’s been an unedifying, ugly, visceral spectacle, and what’s made it particularly distasteful is that so many of these ‘Remoaners’, as they’ve been dubbed, identify themselves as liberals.
Today, as Brexit becomes a legal reality, the cacophony of incessant liberal whining fills the air like a toxic stench. It’s been an issue that’s ripped Britain in two, dividing families and friends, turning mainstream and social media into seething cesspits, and leaving everyone drained, fractious and indignant.
As with those other extraordinarily polarising subjects, Donald Trump and Meghan/Harry, Brexit is not something you’re allowed to be neutral about. It’s imperative to take an unyielding position and stick to it, even if facts emerge that contradict things you believed.
Yet on Brexit and Trump, I’ve found myself in a curiously middle-of-the-road place – voting against the former but wanting it delivered to safeguard democracy, and being a good personal friend of the latter who wouldn’t vote for him but wants to cover his presidency in a fair, non-partisan, critical-where-he-deserves-it manner.
None of this has gone down well with the Brexit or Trump tribes. Nuance or impartiality just doesn’t cut it any more in political debate.
As for Meghan and Harry, I admit to viewing the pair of them as disingenuous, virtue-signalling, hypocritical, selfish, narcissistic brats.
Has some of my criticism of them been too aggressive? Probably.
Has it been unfair? On occasion, perhaps. So, am I part of the tribal problem?
Yes, I guess I am. I have a dog-with-a-bone personality that can be a force for good, or perhaps not so good, depending on what bone I am gnawing on – from campaigning against the Iraq War when I was editor of the Daily Mirror and waging a lengthy battle for better gun control in America when I worked at CNN, to trying to oust Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, or just feeling very irritated by vegan sausage rolls.
The only common denominator is that once the bone’s in my mouth, I find it very hard to stop gnawing, sometimes to my own detriment.
But at 11pm tonight, as Brexit became official, I felt nothing but a weary sense of relief and hope, perhaps forlornly, that we could all finally stop shouting at each other and find some common purpose.
© Piers Morgan, 2020.
Abridged extract from Wake Up, by Piers Morgan, published by HarperCollins on October 15 at £20. To order a copy for £17, with free delivery, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193 before October 11.