Editor’s Note: This article is part of “Uncharted,” a series about the world we’re leaving behind, and the one being remade by the pandemic.
As I skipped from live-stream to live-stream on Instagram, examining the multi-splendored way in which lighting can be weird and banter can be pointless, I came across the radio show of a friend from high school. He was giving a sage and stoned-seeming monologue about how, right now, we may not be able to “answer” problems but we can at least “respond” to them. Then someone he knew called in to his broadcast. The screen split in two, and this new speaker began talking about “the Oprah conspiracy.” This phrase sent me to Google, where I found that Oprah had just denied a preposterous rumor that she’d been arrested. That rumor had been spread by the conspiracy group QAnon, which generally has been spouting theories that the coronavirus is a hoax cooked up by the global elite to cover up unspeakable crimes.
That any noticeable faction of people would so impugn Oprah is yet another sign that we are living through extraordinary and disturbing circumstances, the likes of which have never been seen before. Yet, as the deadly consequences of the coronavirus pandemic ripple worldwide, it’s unsurprising to see paranoia set in. One clear fact, however, might comfort the conspiratorial mind: The celebrities definitely, definitely are not in charge right now.
For evidence, turn to the instantly infamous clip of stars singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Or rather, don’t turn to it; you’ll be happier having not watched. The Wonder Woman actor Gal Gadot rang up a famous crew including Natalie Portman, Jamie Dornan, Sia, Pedro Pascal, Zoë Kravitz, Sarah Silverman, Leslie Odom Jr., Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Norah Jones, and Cara Delevingne to record clips of themselves singing lyrics about a world without war or possessions. Most of these people are not vocal talents; most of them very much enjoy that we live in a world of possessions. Literally and figuratively tone-deaf, edited with the finesse of a middle schooler making a vacation slideshow on 2002 software, this “Imagine” somehow made a global pandemic feel even more hopeless than it already does.