‘What did you do in the coronavirus crisis, dad?'
‘Well son, I’m glad you ask. I helped make a very important video, entitled ‘You Clap for Me Now’. It used a technique we call passive-aggression to make people realise what horrible racists they had been towards immigrants. The video was really a poem, set to rousing piano music. The Guardian wrote about it and it got millions of shares. Most of them were 'outrage' shares, from people who hated it, but that's because Britain is racist.'
'Wow dad, you are a hero! Were you a key worker, too?'
'No son, I'm an entertainer and an online 'slacktivist.'
That, I imagine, is how in the future Tez Ilyas might converse with his progeny, if he has any. Tez features in the 'You Clap For Me Now' video that is doing the rounds on social media. His turn involves him pointing out that migrants 'bring food from your soil', as if he himself were a farm hand, when of course he's not. He's that rare thing: a comic who isn't very amusing when he's trying to be funny, but is utterly hilarious when he's being serious.
Or perhaps the makers of the side-splittingly earnest 'You Clap For Me Now', are all in on the joke. The poem, written by Darren James Smith, a content producer for Bridge Studio, a creative agency for News UK, is so atrocious that part of me wonders if it is all a wind-up:
So you clap for me
All this love you are bringing
But don't forget when it is no longer quiet
Don't forget when you can no longer hear the birds singing
Or see clearer waters
That I crossed for you
To make lives filled with peace
And bring peace to your life, too
Come all you Gretas,
see what we have learned
It only takes the smallest thing
To change the world.
I'm sorry, what? It's all so vague and self-congratulatory: we clap ourselves now. During this crisis, there has been a lot of sanctimonious upper-middle-class blather about better appreciating the gig-economy underclass — the people, often foreigners, who bring us parcels, our takeaways, drive our buses, or those who wipe our bottoms when we get old. It's all a bit nauseating, but at least there is some reason behind it. We do depend on hard-working migrants to live our comfortable lives.
But the Clap For Me video turns that virtue-signalling into virtue-hectoring. It suggests that British people commonly refer to Asians as 'a dirty disease' and black people as 'foreign invaders'. That immigrants in Britain are always being told to go home. But we all know that racism is about as socially acceptable as defecating in public. Still that didn't stop Sayeeda Warsi asking: 'Once this is over will we remember them or will we go back to bigotry as usual?' Or countless others robotically retweeting the video with some fatuous remark.
This video purports to be a cry from the hearts of various workers, but it was of course made by media people. The producer is Sachini Imbuldeniya, who seems to be creative director at News UK's Bridge Studio. It's an online smash, of course, but that's because petty moralising spreads like the plague.