For the past five months The Spectator World has been running an anonymous column called Wokeyleaks by a disillusioned social-justice warrior from within the entertainment industry. Wokeyleaks provides an encrypted email address (email@example.com) to which whistleblowers can leak stories about the most shocking and ridiculous aspects of woke culture.
So far, we’ve covered the woke hypocrisy of corporations such as Youtube, Microsoft and Mercedes Benz who tweet their undying support for Gay Pride Month in the West, while staying shamefully silent about gay rights on their Middle Eastern accounts. We’ve covered the British spy agencies who are woke-policing their employee’s conversations and the billionaire attendees at the Saudi Aramco-sponsored World Economic Forum, who fly into Davos on their private jets to chat about climate change. We’ve even had a leak from a whistle-blower within the defense company Northrop Grumman where arms dealers are being given microaggression training so that no one gets triggered while they flog bombs to brutal regimes.
But what started off as something tongue-in-cheek is becoming quite a serious tip line. Until now I’ve been writing these articles under the pseudonym ‘They/Them’ or ‘Edward Snowflake’ because I didn’t want to get canceled (and also because it’s funny). But as The Spectator prepares to publish more Wokeyleaks scoops, it’s probably time I come clean.
I’m Heydon Prowse and I’m a lefty comedian. I decided to write Wokeyleaks because I have watched in silence as my fellow lefties have been gradually driven insane by fanatical wokeness (some names and locations were been changed in order to maintain my anonymity). People who only a few short years ago I would have agreed with on most topics have been behaving in a way that I find both baffling and alarming and worthy of at least a tiny bit of mockery. I’ve watched as these champions of democratic values arrogantly tried to overthrow a democratic referendum. I watched as they preached tolerance and kindness while trashing the lives and careers of people they disagreed with. I watched as they disingenuously recast every Capitol Hill rioter as a Beer Hall Putsch stormtrooper and every BLM rioter as an angel of divine justice. I watched as social justice celebrities took money from the worst corporations on the planet to help them wokewash their brands.
Increasingly it felt cowardly and intellectually dishonest not to speak up. I’m reassured by the fact that I know that I’m not alone. So many people I speak to within my lefty circles seem to agree with me that there is something at best extremely silly and at worst quite destructive about this new brand of woke fanaticism. Yet they are all afraid to say anything publicly.
It has been said that it is harder these days to come out as right-wing than as gay, which is worrying enough as a sign of our society’s growing intolerance for diversity of thought. But what’s even worse in Britain is being mis-winged as a Tory when it isn’t how you identify. Yes, the very people that scream intolerance if you misgender someone will also happily denounce you as a fascist should you raise any concerns about the direction their movement is going in.
So, for the benefit of my Twitter tribunal, here are my liberal credentials. I have voted either Labour or Green my entire life and I campaigned on the doorstep for Jeremy Corbyn at the last two elections (the last one more out of habit than anything else). Most of my career has involved social justice in some shape or form. I have volunteered all over Europe in refugee camps. I have spent almost 15 years making campaign films for charities such as Greenpeace, Oxfam and PETA. I have made a number of comedy series and documentaries for the likes of the BBC and Channel 4, all of which could reasonably be described as left-wing. Probably the most well-known of these was the Bafta-winning The Revolution Will Be Televised in which I pranked and satirized the right-wing press and right-wing politicians like Boris Johnson, George Osborne and Tony Blair.
I’m proud of the campaigning I’ve done. But something has changed in the tone of social justice in the last few years. It has become callous and increasingly arbitrary. I have seen my peers turn on each other for ethical peccadillos and then watch impassively as the lives of their erstwhile friends and colleagues were damaged or even destroyed by bloodthirsty online mobs. Then with almost Kremlin-like levels of disingenuousness, I would listen as these very people denied that cancel culture even exists.
I know a thing or two about cancel culture. I have denounced and exposed politicians, civil servants, corporate executives and political extremists. In 2009 I got the Tory MP Alan Duncan fired from his ministerial position when I snuck a secret camera into the Houses of Parliament and secretly filmed him saying that MPs were ‘forced to live on rations’ when he was responsible for Conservative reform of the expenses system.
But something changed in 2010 when I made an undercover film exposing a civil servant working in Prince Andrew’s UK Trade & Investment department. What he did was wrong, but when it came to the moment of truth in which I would destroy this man’s career, I got cold feet. The story was being published in the Daily Telegraph and I asked the journalists there if we could anonymize the individual and make the piece more of a critique of his department. I felt that allowing some mid-level employee to be the fall guy was not only cruel but, conveniently for UKTI , it would also stymie any further debate around the issues raised in the story.
I was overruled. The story ran with the guy’s name in it and he lost his job. I spent a lot of time imagining what the whole thing might have done to his life. Did he and his family struggle financially as a result? What did it do to his future prospects of employment? The experience forced me to ask myself why I was doing what I was doing. Had I actually done much to change the world for the better or was it more about promoting my own brand as some kind of hero of the people?
Performative social justice has always been highly popular as a form of entertainment, though it used to be something that celebrities indulged in rarely, perhaps during career lulls or when Comic Relief rolled round. But the explosion of social media has changed things in three important ways. Firstly, it has commodified social justice as a highly shareable (and profitable) form of content. Secondly it has turned social justice into a kind of online computer game, making it easy to forget that there is another human being on the other end of your tweet. Thirdly it has created so many famous people (or at least people identify as such) that they could reasonably be considered as a new societal class –— the fameoise if you will.
The fameoise are a growing population of social media influencers who are almost all social justice warriors. They have come to believe that their retweets and likes are some kind of score they have achieved in their fight against the forces of injustice. They have completely forgotten that what they are actually doing is a form of entertainment. People now follow the trials and tribulations of their favorite social-media-justice warriors in the same way previous generations would follow the stars of a daytime soap opera.
And these new stars are often no less vain and self-serving than their celebrity predecessors. So, the temptation to get behind a cause simply because it looks good and may accrue followers is strong for them. But there is no one to fact-check or analyze the actual impact of the campaign. Any half-decent charity would always do a post-campaign analysis, but with untethered online social justice, who is doing this? Social justice has the tendency to take credit for any wins and ignore any losses. In this way it is a little like prayer — or perhaps ritual sacrifice is a better analogy.
Jeremy Corbyn’s time as Labour leader is the perfect example because really it was a social justice campaign more than it was a political run at office. As a result, his supporters had a wildly unrealistic conception of how well he was doing. All the retweets and rallies had melted their brains. Losing at the ballot box is a pretty good indicator that you’ve failed to meet your KPIs, but most social justice campaigns don’t end in an election.
There is good that has come from vigilante social justice (is anyone shedding a tear for Harvey Weinstein?), but relying on the power of the mob can be a divisive way to achieve political change. We have to ask ourselves if we are happier and more equal now as a society than we were five years ago before all this began. I think the answer is pretty clear.