Titania McGrath pwns The Independent

This Independent article by Liam Evans (click on screenshot below; I’ve also saved it in the Wayback Machine here), is a strongly worded piece by an apparently woke person of color offended by “reactionary comedy”, with the tirade supposedly triggered by a Fin Taylor show that included an anti-#MeToo sketch called “When Harassy Met Sally”.  (This appears to be a real sketch by Taylor.)

A few quotes from author “Liam Evans”:

Satire is a powerful tool. Tyrants have always feared ridicule, because there is nothing more likely to undermine authority than the sound of derisory laughter. But male comedians like Taylor taking pot shots at women who have had the courage to speak out can hardly be described as “punching up”. As a comedy aficionado, I’ve seen a disturbing rise in this kind of victim-bashing on the circuit over the past few years. It’s got to the point where I have to research the acts on any given lineup very carefully before booking a ticket.

. . . “Alt-right comedy” might sound like an oxymoron, but the immense popularity of internet “sh*tposters” such as PewDiePie and Sargon of Akkad has persuaded some comedians that there is money to be made from belittling social justice.

Speaking as a person of colour in an irredeemably racist culture, I’m sick of being accused of hypersensitivity by straight white men who are blind to their own privilege. What makes them believe that comedy should just be for them?

The hallmark of a good satirist is the ability to expose the follies of the powerful and the corrupt, not to embolden them at the expense of those of us who are already marginalised.

After decrying Ricky Gervais and Dave Chapelle, “Evans” goes on:

Perhaps it’s time for the comedy community to reflect. Danish comedian Sofie Hagen has successfully toured with “reduced-anxiety” performances in which all toilet facilities are gender-neutral and audience members can contact her in advance if they have particular needs.

The success of Hannah Gadsby’s game-changing masterpiece Nanette has also proven beyond doubt that woke comedy is commercially viable.

And yet the likes of Gervais, Chappelle and CK still fail to recognise that they no longer have to rely on shock tactics to appeal to a modern audience. As role models to a new generation of comics, they have a responsibility to be mindful of the damage they can do to an already divided society.

I would go so far as to argue that some of the jokes I have heard on the comedy circuit of late constitute actual hate speech.

. . .The battle for equality will not be won by activists alone. We all need to play our part. Sometimes this will mean risking the accusation of being a “prude” or a “killjoy”, but this is surely a price worth paying.

Such tactics are designed to silence us, to make us feel ashamed for standing up for those who might not be able to stand up for themselves.

It takes an astonishing degree of entitlement to claim the right to free speech without accepting the consequences of one’s choices. In a country poised on the brink of a far-right resurgence, is a cheap laugh really worth the risk? The kind of jokes that reinforce negative stereotypes and normalise bigotry should no longer be tolerated in our society. This really isn’t too much to ask.

Okay, so we have a humorless Pecksniff decrying free speech and “alt-right comedy” as instantiations of “hate speech”. It also includes the word “woke.” It sounds a bit like Titania McGrath, doesn’t it? Or does it? After all, often Titania’s satire works because it’s very close to the real thing, if not indistinguishable from it.

Well, it’s certainly Titania, who apparently has tricked The Independent. Here’s what “she” said (Titiana is the alter ego of Andrew Doyle), and if you go to the original article, her “coincidence” is true.

So how did a reputable newspaper get fooled by someone who doesn’t exist? Probably because Titania’s hoax was ideologically compatible with the editorial view of The Independent, and claimed to be written by a “person of colour”. Shame on them for not doing their fact-checking! Tip to newspapers: always verify the existence of a new author, or any author!

Because The Independent is likely to pull the piece, I archived it at the link above.

h/t: Al

27 Comments

  1. KD33
    Posted December 11, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    The NYT has published more than one opinion piece with almost identical content.

    • EdwardM
      Posted December 11, 2019 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Can you point us to one?

      • KD33
        Posted December 11, 2019 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        This isn’t the one I had in mind, but it’s in the same vein:

        I’m trying to track down an earlier, more blatant one, with lots of mentions of Louis CK. Will link if I can find it.

  2. Richard Sanderson🤴
    Posted December 11, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Poor Independent. It is a Pound Shop Guardian, these days, and the Guardian is a poor shell of its former Liberal self. A bit like Friendly Atheist…

    Oh, give me the confidence and chutzpah of a mediocre woke comedian or critic….

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted December 11, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    He has gone under deep cover! Now surely we won’t know if we should laugh at or laugh with a ‘woke’ article. But we can still laugh either way.

  4. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 11, 2019 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Here’s what “she” said (Titiana is the alter ego of Andrew Doyle)

    [donning “outraged of Tonbridge Wells costume, and turning the keyboard to writing in green ink on lavender paper] Isn’t that a little suspect? A (presumably) white (presumably) male (presumably) journalist donning the guise of a female in order to poke fun at himself and his alter egos? At least Social Warrior Grayson Perry has the honesty to wear “women’s” clothes when making fun of society and art.

    Didn’t the Indescribablyboring get brought-out recently? No, sorry, it was it’s love-child, the “i“, brought out by the Daily Flail. Well I’m sure that’ll bring that organisation’s renowned fact-checking competence to the table. It is such a wonderful newspaper that it creases and scratches and your fingers go through it.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted December 11, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Oi! Careful what you say! For a start, it’s Tunbridge Wells, not Tonbridge. And next, the tired old cliche of TW being the epitome of retired-colonel conservatism is at least 50 years out of date. We’re a lot more hip and trendy these days, I can assure you.

      Still, I take your general point. Not sure about the Daily Mail though. Does it actually exist? I always assumed it was a satirical creation in the pages of Private Eye.

      • JezGrove
        Posted December 11, 2019 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        Royal Tunbridge Wells, surely? One just can’t get the staff nowadays, you know…

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 19, 2019 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        Does it actually exist? I always assumed it was a satirical creation in the pages of Private Eye.

        That’s quite a back-handed compliment to … probably, Peter Cook?

  5. Divalent
    Posted December 11, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Are you sure this is really a hoax piece? The 4th letter of every sentence does not spell out what Titania said it does.

    And there is a Liam Evans listed in the British Comedy Guide with a profile that predates this article (which BTW, was published back in Feb of this year).

    I saw this as Titania making a “Poe” point (as she often does; for example, when she quoted that recent ACLU tweet about good holiday conversation topics, and thanked them for letting her operate their twitter account).

    • Divalent
      Posted December 11, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      Link to Liam Evans profile at the British Comedy Guide:
      https://www.comedy.co.uk/profile/liam_evans/
      If this is Titania, then she is playing a long game, as this profile was created more than 2 years before this article appeared.

      • KD33
        Posted December 11, 2019 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        It certainly does spell out Titania McGrath – try again. For help, go to the tweet link where someone shows it graphically.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted December 11, 2019 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      According to my count the 4th letter of every sentence certainly does spell out what Titania said it does.

      The Liam Evans you point to sure doesn’t look like a POC to me, but these days, who knows.

      • Divalent
        Posted December 12, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        Duh! I was looking at 4th letter of every paragraph. My bad. So that is pretty iron-clad evidence that it is a hoax. Well done, Titania.

    • moleatthecounter
      Posted December 12, 2019 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      Yes it does spell that out actually – I checked this in Photoshop before I sent to Professor Coyne. I took screen shots of the article and actually masked off all letters other than the fourth in each sentence. Time-consuming I know, but I wanted to be sure!

      Cheers, Al

  6. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted December 11, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know what it is about Titania McGrath but I’ve never found her/him actually funny. There’s no spark, no surprising imagery or absurdist set-ups. It’s just incredibly predictable stuff.

    It does the job of satire I suppose but it’s leaden stuff in terms of comedy.

    • Posted December 11, 2019 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for saying this. I agree. Partly, it’s that McGrath’s works are too close to non-satire posts. And the rest is that it just isn’t funny but sad.

    • Posted December 11, 2019 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      It is odd how comics can tickle the funny bone by depicting stupid and inane people. They can rely on getting big laughs when doing a parody of deeply flawed politicians, for example. When you think about it, the inspiration for laughter vanishes. This sort of comedy is strange in that way.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 11, 2019 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, analyzing comedy is a lot like dissecting a frog in biology class — you learn a lot about the subject, but it ain’t much fun, specially for the patient.

    • mikeb
      Posted December 12, 2019 at 4:25 am | Permalink

      I agree. Or should I say, “Me, too”?

      Titania mimics stupid people, which is a tiresome technique.

  7. JezGrove
    Posted December 11, 2019 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Embarrassing for The Independent, but sadly not the only fake news this week in the UK – and at least not likely to sway the result of Thursday’s general election.

  8. Jimbo
    Posted December 11, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    My how I love a good sting operation, in this case from a bullet ant.

  9. Posted December 11, 2019 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    As the Bard wrote oh so long ago: hoist with [their] own petard.

  10. Invisible Airwaves
    Posted December 11, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Petition to Nature denouncing the term “quantum supremacy” because the word “supremacy” reminds them of white supremacy:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03781-0

  11. Jimbo
    Posted December 11, 2019 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Invisible Air,
    My goodness, Nature is trying to create woke QM.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted December 12, 2019 at 3:59 am | Permalink

      ‘Nature is trying to create woke QM’

      The link is to a letter to Nature and expresses the [admittedly absurd] view of the authors of that letter. It is not fair to conclude that it expresses the view of Nature any more than views expressed in comments here necessarily represent the views of Professor Coyne.

  12. Charles Sawicki
    Posted December 12, 2019 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Endless Titania dope slaps. “She” can prove authorship in so many coded ways! Great stuff! Imagine the ulcers induced in woke editors worried that they have been fooled again and made to look stupid when they can’t differentiate the real woke from the satire.


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