LBC caller struggles to explain to James O'Brien what ‘woke’ means

A man opposed to “wokeism” apparently wasn’t alert to what the term actually means, when he picked up the phone on Friday and decided to accept LBC host James O’Brien’s invitation to give its definition.

For those unaware, it actually means – per Merrian-Webster - being “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues” such as racial and social justice.

Sounds like a good thing to actively be, no?

Not for one LBC caller, known only as Carl, who proudly proclaimed that he was “anti-woke” and has that fact displayed on his Instagram profile.

Asked what it means by Mr O’Brien, Carl said: “To me, it means people who seek offence where it doesn’t exist. They look for the tiniest little thing and cling on it.”

At first, Mr O’Brien appeared to agree with him: “Well, everyone would be anti-that, wouldn’t they? … Someone who’s hypersensitive and pedantic, that’s annoying and boring for everybody.

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“Maybe we should work an example. When and where do you come across this sort of wokeness to which you are so passionately opposed?”

Carl, who used to work for a local authority before becoming self-employed, went on to criticise his former employer for having “a few hours a week dedicated to these sort of woke agendas” in the form of courses and internal training.

He said: “So we’d go on these courses, and all be in a room, and it would be some topical discussion about something that’s happened lately. So what would happen, the powers that be would say, ‘Oh, this has happened in America, we better send everyone on a course.’”

Mr O’Brien replied: “For example?”

“I don’t quote examples, really … I can’t,” conceded Carl.

“But that’s the point, isn’t it, though? So something that actually happened, that’s all … The example is these courses that you went on and the rooms that you sat in and the speeches that you listened to, so just tell me what they were about,” the presenter said.

He then told the ‘anti-woke’ individual to take his time as Carl asked to “let me think”. A silence followed which took so long he had to check if James was “still there”.

He was, and he was still waiting for an answer.

Eventually, Carl gave the example of “preventing barriers to staff progression” for people “from certain religions, cultures [and] races”, completely abandoning his previous example of something which “happened in America”.

The caller said he wouldn’t mention it because “most of your listeners know what I’m referring to”, but when another prolonged period of silence followed, things weren’t looking good.

“Just keep an eye on the tape – the emergency tape that kicks in when we have periods of silence that go on,” Mr O’Brien quipped, before guiding Carl through his line of argument once more to get to the bottom of it all.

If your head is hurting reading this, you’re not alone – ours is too.

Reverting back to his “staff progression” argument, Carl said: “I didn’t [need any lessons], I went to work to work. I didn’t go into work trying to be nice.”

“Oh, so these are courses encouraging people to behave and be nice that you object to? That’s what you mean by woke? That’s what all my other callers have already said.

“You’re very lucky, you’re already very well behaved. What about people who aren’t? Surely they’d benefit from these courses, Carl,” Mr O’Brien asked.

Stuttering a little bit, the caller responded: “Well, they are the ones that should be marginalised.”

Oh dear.

“You want to marginalise people now? Isn’t that woke? You want to marginalise people who aren’t very nice. That’s what everyone else has told me is woke,” the broadcaster continued.

After Carl said he wanted people to are “nasty and horrible” to be marginalised, Mr O’Brien pointed out that that’s what woke means, telling him that “you’re pro-woke, mate, you’re not anti-woke”.

When the caller reverted back to the council courses – again – the radio presenter stressed: “What’s the course … I want local authorities to be run in a way that is forward-thinking and progressive, and if some people – not you, because you don’t need these courses – but if some people are holding back the rest of the organisation then I think giving them some training is a wonderful idea.

“Go on, just tell everyone the thing that they already know that you’re talking about but you’re not prepared to say out loud because otherwise people might think you’re a bit woke. You’re frightened of causing offence, are you? Isn’t that what woke means?”

Carl replied: “I’ve been cowed into silence by you lot … You know who you are. It’s your curtain twitchers, it’s your ones who look out of their windows and look for offence where it doesn’t exist.”

And there it is.

“Are you going to give me an example of filling in the gaps or are we just going to wave goodbye to each other and fill in the gaps for ourselves,” asked Mr O’Brien, bringing the frustrating conversation to a close.

“I’ll let you fill in the gaps,” Carl responded.

Well, then.

The video, displaying what was a clear victory for Mr O’Brien, has since been praised on social media:

Mr O'Brien himself also issued a further comment on the issue on Twitter:

Who knows, Carl may have had his eyes opened during that discussion and may finally be woke, but we won’t hold our breath.

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