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Why Titania is perfect for our times

March 8, 2019   4 mins

It isn’t surprising that some people are finding it increasingly hard to discern satire from reality. On a perfectly average day NBC News can run a piece on transgender athletes with the headline: Trans athletes make great gains, yet resentment still flares. It’s a headline in which the word “yet” is doing a considerable amount of work.

The Associated Press report which followed that headline related one of the records now regularly being broken in women’s sports. That these gains (in college and professional sports) are coming from male to female transsexuals is a detail you can either celebrate or find troubling.  Though woe betide you if you choose the wrong reaction there.

For if you find such developments remotely troubling you will simultaneously find yourself in a majority and yet exiled. Martina Navratilova chose to raise her concerns about transsexual athletes, and instantaneously a woman who has been a trailblazer for women – especially gay women – in sport was accused of undermining LGBT rights and expelled from an LGBT activist group.

In a world where born-men beat born-women at women’s sports and everybody is meant to just shut up about it nobody could possibly be surprised if reality and satire begin to grow thin and one eventually begins to resemble the other.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the art of satire has developed a new platform and a new audience. In recent years, real satire has emerged not on the tired, stale and ‘safe’ platforms of the BBC and other mob-vulnerable old media platforms, but in places which allow people to be nimble, swift and independent as they hover over every necessary target of our time.

A couple of years ago, Twitter discovered the genius of Godfrey Elfwick. The “genderqueer Muslim atheist”, though born white claimed to be black, and became famous for his ability to fudge the boundaries between the zeitgeist and the inventions of his head. Among his masterpieces was his contribution to the Social Justice Warrior movement’s brief post-Trump election qualms over when and where to punch people you suspected of being Nazis. Elfwick answered this question with the statement: “I’d rather punch 300 innocent people and 1 genuine Nazi, than punch no Nazis at all”.

And then there was his response to the pussy hat protests:

“When the next generation ask: what did YOU do when Trump came to power?  I’ll proudly say: ‘I called him a Nazi while dressed like a vagina.'”

The boundaries between fantasy and reality sometimes blurred so close that Elfwick fooled even the wisest of minds. In November 2016, the Guardian published a piece titled “‘Alt-right’ online poison nearly turned me into a racist.” The anonymous author described his descent as starting at the work of Sam Harris until, “On one occasion I even, I am ashamed to admit, very diplomatically expressed negative sentiments on Islam to my wife.”

I must shamefully admit that I was among those who fell for this piece, assuming that the Guardian had only gone slightly further down a trajectory it had long been on. But the piece turned out to be the work of Godfrey Elfwick, who had ‘punked’ the Guardian into running a piece from an anonymous writer sending up an argument the newspaper so desperately wanted to hear.

Much more of this, of course, and a lot of serious people from all sides begin to look silly. And so, eventually, Elfwick became a victim of his own success and was barred from Twitter last summer for reasons that only a multi-billion dollar public platform could justify or successfully keep private. But from the rubble emerged Titania McGrath. For a time it seemed as though McGrath and Elfwick might be one and the same person.  But sources suggest otherwise, pointing to the fact that there may be more than one person on the planet able to use social media against Social Justice Warriors and the old media that seems so supine before them.

Like Elfwick, some of Titania’s critics assumed that her arguments must be for real, so close did they come to arguments seriously put forward by real people. Private Eye – the relict of what used to be British satire – even put Titania in ‘Pseud’s Corner’, unaware that Titania was heading for targets Private Eye could barely even see. She was there for her claim that people should buy her book Woke: a guide to social justice not for her own sake, but for ‘the sake of humanity.’

Her book is now out, and extends in long-form the style that Titania has perfected on Twitter. As her freshly revealed creator, Andre Doyle says:

“She is named after the queen of the fairies because I think all of this ‘woke culture’ is an utter fantasy world. The people who promote this hyper inclusive culture are fantasists.”

Titania is a creation of genius. The lady herself is truculent, privileged and incapable of self-reflection. She scythes her way through Twitter like an avenging SJW angel. Anybody who suggests that there are biological differences between men and women will find Titania coming down on them from the greatest height, berating them and demanding that Twitter remove them from the platform for “hate speech”.

The joke is partly on the platform, for Twitter has been willing to suspend people for precisely this sin, although Twitter executives have attempted to simultaneously deny and defend precisely these actions.

Like Elfwick, Titania has found herself the target of Twitter’s efforts to police its own platform. Last December she was suspended from Twitter for a day. She returned with a Tweet pointing out that her suspension demonstrated the systematic oppression of women in our society, and wrote a piece pointing out that after her 24-hour suspension from Twitter “I now understand how Nelson Mandela felt“.

Though in this latter piece Titania explained that “If anything, my ordeal was even more damaging. Mandela may have had to endure 27 years of incarceration, but at least his male privilege protected him from ever having to put up with mansplaining, or being subject to wolf-whistling by grubby proles on a building site.”

The way in which Titania has broken out from Twitter is a magnificent thing to behold. Finally, the plodding, establishment satire of recent years might have finally been subject to the disruption it has so badly needed. For decades in Britain, being brave in satire has consisted of making jokes about the Duke of Edinburgh, or saying “the Tories” or “Thatcher” and expecting a great panto boo followed by a forced laugh at whatever inanity follows.

Titania, like the now resurrected Elfwick, show what true disruption of a tired genre looks like. For just as the legacy media and social media make claims which are maddening, presumptuous and untrue, so these creations of the new media have emerged to shine a light which is not just funny, but fatally accurate and true.

Douglas Murray is an author and journalist.


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