In an interview with Front Page Confidential, UK comic Andrew Doyle discusses his alter ego Titania McGrath, her new guide to wokeness and why the intersectionalist scold may not be long for Twitter
Like Athena springing fully formed from the head of Zeus, Titania McGrath, the “radical intersectionalist poet” leapt to life on Twitter sometime in April 2018 to become the satirical apotheosis of woke culture, the politically-correct tyranny of our age.
Since then, according to her creator and ghost writer, British playwright and comedian Andrew Doyle, Titania’s been booted off Twitter for varying lengths of time by the online thought police, only to re-emerge with larger audiences eager to hear such enlightened pronouncements as, “Testicles are a social construct,” or, “We will only achieve true freedom in our society when everyone thinks exactly like me.”
Politicians, talking heads, entertainers, royalty — all bow before Titania’s woke bon mots, fired off as this latter-day Joan of Arc wages total war against toxic masculinity, fat-shaming, pronoun deniers, Brexit supporters, freedom of speech and comedy that makes you laugh.
Thankfully, Titania’s failing on that last front. Her book Woke: A Guide to Social Justice has been a smash in Britain, winning critical acclaim (though not from the lefties being lampooned), and is now available in the U.S. This summer Titania performed her first one-woman show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland, where she was portrayed by actress Alice Marshall. There’s reportedly even a Titania TV show in development.
Could it be that the culture is finally catching up with the 40-year-old Doyle, a former schoolteacher and Oxford grad who boasts a doctorate in early Renaissance poetry? Consider that former President Obama recently called out cancel culture, lecturing college students that throwing stones does not equate to effective activism. And The New York Times just ran a long think piece on a number of writers who have been “canceled,” kinda-sorta painting them as the new cool kids club and quoting Doyle as a member of the tribe.
Having profiled Doyle’s priggish, millennial sock puppet in September, Front Page Confidential reached out to Doyle, who granted FPC a Skyped audio interview. Doyle seemed in true intellectual fight mode throughout, though he apparently believes Titania’s days in the Twitterverse are numbered.
(Please note: The following transcription has been edited for readability and length.)
Straight Out of Kafka
Front Page Confidential: Did Titania appear to you in a dream? How did she form in your mind?
Andrew Doyle: I wanted to do an intersectionalist. I knew she had to be a young woman, because I wanted her to be a fourth-wave feminist, and I used to write these fake, bad poems under this other character, and I liked that idea of turning her into a slam poet. It just strikes me as that’s the sort of thing she would be … No, I didn’t dream of her. She came about a bit more organically than that.
FPC: Titania’s book, Woke: A Guide to Social Justice, is hilarious. Did you develop the book from Titania’s Twitter musings?
Andrew Doyle: It’s certainly the case that Twitter’s a great forum to try out ideas, so a lot of the ideas I had previously tried out on Twitter. In the book, I was able to extend the logic and develop them a little bit more.
[A]t least the Puritans of old knew that they were pissing people off, and understood why. I think the current woke set don’t understand that people don’t like being lectured, they don’t like being sermonized at. — Andrew Doyle
FPC: It’s also educational about the origins of intersectionality, so the reader can see that Titania’s not far from the mark.
Andrew Doyle: Right, exactly. That’s why I wanted to quote so many of the genuine intersectionalists in the book, so that that was clear, that it isn’t just a straw man. I’m not satirizing someone who doesn’t exist. And I think that was clear, in my choice of quotations.
FPC: Titania was recently released from “Twitter jail” for the umpteenth time. Doesn’t Twitter get the joke by now?
This morning I briefly transitioned to male to see whether toxic masculinity is real.
Within minutes I was catcalling, groping, interrupting women, playing Grand Theft Auto, brawling in pubs, spitting, shouting and aggressively spreading my legs.
Draw your own conclusions.
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) October 14, 2019
Andrew Doyle: I think they do, I think that’s now the problem. This is all supposition, because of course, as in Kafka’s The Trial, they won’t tell you what you’ve done wrong. You can appeal it, and you just get these very vague statements back, saying you’ve violated our terms of service. And if you say, “How have I done so?” You’ll get another email saying you’ve violated our terms of service. It is straight out of Kafka.
The people who make these decisions in Twitter are called the Trust and Safety Council, which is about as dystopian a name as you could possibly fathom. My suspicion is they do get the joke, and they’re looking for any opportunity they can to suspend the account. My prediction is that [Titania] will be permanently banned fairly soon.
FPC: Why is that?
Andrew Doyle: I think they see it as a threat. Twitter, Google, Facebook, YouTube, are all dominated by woke individuals … They have an army of woke robots, effectively, policing the content on their site. I give it six months, not even.
FPC: That would truly be a loss. There are so many insane things being done in the name of intersectionality in the UK that Titania comments on. Like the attempt to “cancel” Brit talk-show personality Piers Morgan for his skepticism on the issue of gender identity.
Andrew Doyle: Yeah, people are trying to get [Morgan] fired. He’s not a transphobe. He doesn’t have a problem with trans people, he has a problem with the idea of automatic self-identification, and the demand that people should change the English language to suit a few activists. I think that’s a reasonable position to hold. But that’s being interpreted as transphobia. So he’s playing up to it and pretending to identify as a penguin.
FPC: And people don’t like that joke, right?
If @piersmorgan thinks it’s funny to identify as a penguin, then quite frankly he should be arrested.
But if he’s being sincere, I offer him my warmest congratulations. https://t.co/pD4Dz3uE21
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) October 16, 2019
Andrew Doyle: I think most people understand where he’s coming from … This is the thing about the woke movement, they’re a minority. They tend to be the very privileged minority. They tend to be in positions of power. If you look at our media, and I can only really talk of Britain, but our media, our journalism, the arts, it’s all dominated by woke people who get really surprised when they meet people who aren’t in those industries, and realize that theirs is the minority view.
FPC: They do seem particularly clueless on this point.
Andrew Doyle: It’s puritanical, but at least the Puritans of old knew that they were pissing people off, and understood why. I think the current woke set don’t understand that people don’t like being lectured, they don’t like being sermonized at. They don’t like being told how to live their lives, or what words they can say, or what jokes they can make.
But because they think they’re doing all this for good, they can’t see that. It’s a massive delusion. It’s very hard to address. You can’t argue with [the woke crowd] because they’re in the middle of this cult, and they can’t see what they appear like to most normal people. My approach is to satirize, and that’s the only thing I think to do, because they don’t listen to reason.
There’s a weird ageism in the woke crew … They’re more than happy to say no, you mustn’t body shame, you mustn’t do this, you mustn’t do that. But you can be as ageist as you like. — Andrew Doyle
FPC: But they understand that you’re using Titania to mock them.
Andrew Doyle: And they absolutely hate it. Of course if you’re being mocked, there’s no way you’ll find it funny, and the fact that so many other people are laughing at it makes you angry … The woke lot cannot see why people enjoy Titania. They can’t see it, because they’re so self-obsessed and so narcissistic. The fact that they hate it so much tells me I’m doing the right thing.
Monty Python Meets Count Dankula
FPC: One woke response to you or Titania is, “This is not funny.” The other is, “You’re an old white man.” What’s your reaction to that?
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is 50 years old. It’s incredible to think how far comedy has progressed.
The show should now be rebooted as six queer women of colour on a yoga retreat discussing the merits of intersectional feminism. pic.twitter.com/Bei1IPAW9F
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) October 7, 2019
Andrew Doyle: They’ve decided that anyone over the age of 30 is now old, right? Even if I were, what would be the problem if I were an old man? There’s a weird ageism in the woke crew. It’s like they have these blind spots. They’re more than happy to say no, you mustn’t body shame, you mustn’t do this, you mustn’t do that. But you can be as ageist as you like … We’ve had it in this country with the Brexit vote. The woke lot are basically saying why can’t these old people [who overwhelmingly support Brexit] just die? It’s incredible hypocrisy, and quite funny.
FPC: When I think of British humor, I think of shows like Monty Python, Absolutely Fabulous, Fleabag, and really scabrous, politically-incorrect for lack of a better term, humor. How does that jibe with the wave of wokeness the UK’s experiencing now?
Andrew Doyle: The head of BBC comedy made the point about Monty Python that they wouldn’t commission a show now with six white Oxbridge males. Part of the problem with the comedy industry is it is completely soaked in wokeness. It thinks that quotas are more important than quality.
I run a comedy club in London called Comedy Unleashed, and we do it once a month, and I have never booked on the basis of someone’s race, gender, or sexuality…I will book people if they’re good. And as a result, we do have probably the most diverse lineup of any comedy club. It just happens naturally, because when you apply meritocracy, you automatically get diversity. You don’t need to patronize people, and give them jobs on the basis of skin color. That’s a rehabilitative form of racism.
FPC: There’s a video you posted of the infamous Hitler pug video by Scottish YouTuber Count Dankula being shown to a live audience at your club, and everyone laughs because it’s funny. What’s the lesson there, do you think?
Andrew Doyle: Most of the people in that audience that night had not heard of Count Dankula. Most of the people there had not seen the video … It was actually a predominantly Jewish lineup that night, and again not by design, that was just by accident. And the thing is, the Scottish judiciary, the Sheriff’s court, decided that it wasn’t a joke, that it was designed to incite hatred against Jewish people. Well, we played it in a comedy club and people laughed. So they’re wrong. And I’m afraid some Scottish judge is the last person I would trust with critiquing comedy, or to be in a position to do so.
You mentioned Absolutely Fabulous, and Jennifer Saunders, who wrote and starred in that show, has said that she couldn’t do it anymore, because of the woke restrictions against comedy. It just wouldn’t work these days.
[Intersectionalists] can be very loud on social media. But at the end of the day they’re still a minority, because most people, if you tell them two plus two equals five, they’ll say, ‘No, it doesn’t, and I don’t care what you say.’ — Andrew Doyle
FPC: What you’re talking about reminds me of the latest Dave Chappelle comedy show, and the reaction to that. Here is a black male, and he’s obviously not some reactionary or fascist, but they were so pissed off because he didn’t toe the line.
Andrew Doyle: These people don’t understand that skin color and sexual orientation are just parts of what you are, like being left or right-handed, or the color of your eyes or something. This isn’t an identity. They’re so obsessed with identity, and identity politics. Like I never think about my sexuality as an identity. I don’t understand why you would.
FPC: And yet, it would be very easy for you to counter the critics by pointing out, hey, I’m a gay man, so what are you talking about?
ADVICE FOR ALL MALES…
If you have been falsely accused of sexual assault, you should plead guilty anyway in order to show your solidarity with the #MeToo movement.
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) September 7, 2019
Andrew Doyle: They’d say I’m not really gay because I don’t follow an intersectionalist line. It’s like they’ve decided that whiteness is nothing to do with skin color, that whiteness is an ideology driven by power structure, and therefore your skin color’s sort of irrelevant.
This is nonsense. This is because intersectionalists and critical theorists have no grounding in reality. They’ve bought into this stupid post-structuralist worldview, which has been outdated for 20-odd years in academia … And now it’s just gone mainstream. These aren’t really serious academics; they’re just frauds.
Grievance Studies Rewrites Mein Kampf
FPC: And yet, at least amongst the Twitterati, or whatever you want to call it, woke ideology is ascendant.
Andrew Doyle: But you get a false impression of [their] prominence … They can be very loud on social media. But at the end of the day they’re still a minority, because most people, if you tell them two plus two equals five, they’ll say, “No, it doesn’t, and I don’t care what you say.” This need to deny reality. I was at a conference the other day with James Lindsay, Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose. You know, the grievance studies people. Have you heard of their thing?
FPC: No, no.
Andrew Doyle: They’re three academics who have basically spent three years hoaxing major peer-reviewed academic journals, submitting articles to them, critical theory articles that were utter nonsense. For instance, they rewrote chapter 12 of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, in the language of feminist intersectional theory.
FPC: Ah, that’s brilliant.
Andrew Doyle: And that got approved for publication, it was published. They wrote another one about the sex habits of dogs in a park, and used black critical theory to make a point about rape culture. It was utter nonsense, but the fact that these were actually accepted in prominent journals, that tells you everything you need to know about the fraudulence, you see?
James Lindsay gave a talk at that conference, and he kept saying this refrain, “Reality is the thing you run into when your beliefs are false.” And I think that’s exactly right. That’s what will happen to the woke movement. They’ll run into reality … You can say that you can just decide to change sex overnight, but you still have the brick wall of biology to deal with.
I’m a liberal, I support anyone’s right to call themselves whatever they want, and do whatever they want to their bodies, including surgery. I think that’s none of anyone else’s business but their own. — Andrew Doyle
FPC: The idea that sexuality is a social concept is one the woke folk seem married to.
Andrew Doyle: Yeah. The sexuality question is interesting, because for years the gay rights movement was pushing for the “born this way” mantra. You know, we were born this way, and there is no choice about sexuality. And that is true. It’s probably either a biological thing, or it’s a hormonal thing, or it’s a social thing, or it’s a combination of all three. But the point is, the current LGBTQIA+ movement really emphasizes the idea of choice, and I can choose to be gender-fluid, or gender queer, or non-binary, or whatever, and it’s the opposite way of thinking of the gay rights movement. There’s a real tension.
FPC: That reminds me of one of Titania’s brilliant ideas: Assign numbers to babies, so that they can make their own decision at some point about their gender identity.
Before laughing at a joke, ask yourself:
• Does the joke avoid offensive subject matter?
• Is the comic representative of a marginalised group?
• Can you be sure the comic has never said or done anything problematic?
If the answer to any of these is no…
DO. NOT. LAUGH.
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) October 6, 2019
Andrew Doyle: This is not to say that there aren’t people who feel a genuine sense that they are not the gender they were born with, right? And because I’m a liberal, I support anyone’s right to call themselves whatever they want, and do whatever they want to their bodies, including surgery. I think that’s none of anyone else’s business but their own.
What concerns me is the cultural narrative, the idea of changing language to suit a very, very tiny minority. And the way in which this has been weaponized against biology, and the study of science, and reality. You don’t need to do that. It seems very heavy-handed and counter-productive, and certainly divisive. And I think it’s doing a lot more harm than good for trans rights, personally.
FPC: Can someone be arrested in the UK based on misgendering?
Andrew Doyle: It happened. Someone was arrested for deadnaming someone on Twitter. If you search for it, it’s online, they were arrested in front of their child, and they spent the night in a cell. The police in this country arrest 3,000 people a year for offensive things said online. More than 3,000 people, actually. That’s a lot more than Russia does; about five times more. Although 3,000 sounds like a lot, in the grand scheme of things I suppose that’s not a lot, but it’s not a negligible amount.
The police have an official policy where they investigate non-crime. They want non-crime hate incidents to be reported; it’s on their website. If you go to the government’s hate speech website, if you go to the crown prosecution services website, there’s whole sections on non-crime hate incidents. And the police have absolutely no business doing this. I don’t care what the police think about pronouns, you know? Fuck off, I don’t want to hear from you about that. I want you to be doing your job.
I think your First Amendment is brilliant, I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s the thing that guarantees your freedoms, and I envy it. — Andrew Doyle
But this has become a way to signal your virtue, which is ironic because most of the people who announce their pronouns on social media tend to be the most vicious of all. You’ll notice yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labor Party, he started his speech by saying, “My pronouns are he/him.” Which is what Kamala Harris did, wasn’t it? The other week?
FPC: Right. Though Kamala chose the female pronouns.
Andrew Doyle: Nobody needs Jeremy Corbyn to announce his pronouns. If there’s ever a man whose pronouns you can be damn sure of, it’s him. There is no confusion about Jeremy Corbyn’s gender identity, is there? So what’s the point of saying it? It’s the very definition of virtue signaling, which isn’t a phrase I like to use. But why else are you saying it other than to say, “Look, I’m one of the good guys.”
FPC: But there’s a big difference between conformity imposed by a mob and conformity being imposed by the police.
Fantastic to see the police getting involved in #PronounsDay and standing up against misgendering.
Knife crime may be bad, but at least it can’t be retweeted.pic.twitter.com/8amu6XsUDT
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) October 16, 2019
Andrew Doyle: That’s the thing. Because ultimately, even when you’ve got the mob on your back, as I often do, even when you’ve got the Twitter lot after you, you can still make choices, can’t you? You can still choose to ignore them and speak freely, and that’s the choice I make. And there is a cost to it, insofar as you lose friends and you get a lot of abuse online … But when the police are involved, that to me is a total red line. You can’t claim that that is just the consequences of your free speech, if you’re getting arrested
FPC: The lack of a First Amendment in Britain and Europe seems to be a real problem.
Andrew Doyle: Oh yeah. No, no, that’s absolutely right, we do not have a written constitution … We do need, I think, a codified constitution, but the trouble is I wouldn’t trust any of the people in power to write it, so I don’t know how we’re going to get it. I think your First Amendment is brilliant, I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s the thing that guarantees your freedoms, and I envy it. Your system seems to be better than ours.
FPC: That’s the fail-safe mechanism. Because when you look at what happens on college campuses in America, you can envision this happening across the entire country if you didn’t have that First Amendment.
Andrew Doyle: Imagine if you didn’t have those protections, that constitutional protection. Imagine that. It would be utter chaos. We don’t have free speech in our country, so we need to fight to restore it at the moment. I mean, we barely have democracy. We have a parliament that’s been spending the last three years trying to overturn the biggest democratic mandate in British electoral history, so we have problems.
FPC: The weird thing about this is that the wokeness, the shaming, so forth, it seems to mostly work if you’re already a part of the left already. Because if you’re a conservative, they just write you off.
Andrew Doyle: They do tend to just write off anyone who has conservative opinions as evil, and therefore fair game for abuse and public shaming. And that’s, for me, at the heart of my problem with the woke movement is that it legitimizes bullying.
Has Dakota Fanning ever been forced to flee from a war-torn country?
Does she pray towards Mecca five times a day?
Has she ever driven an Uber?
So why the HELL has she been cast as a Muslim refugee?? 😡😡😡
Stay in your lane, bitch. https://t.co/g7AWXLmxdX
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) September 5, 2019
FPC: Like this thing that happened to Ellen DeGeneres recently, where she sits beside George W. Bush and all of a sudden she’s responsible for Abu Ghraib.
Andrew Doyle: I think those of us with a public platform have a responsibility to actively resist this guilt by association nonsense, insofar as the problem at the heart of all this political tribalism is [that] people are not talking to each other.
So I think it is incumbent on people in the public eye to be seen in public with their political opponents, to be seen talking to those people, and to not be afraid of this idea that if you talk to someone who has views that are the opposite of yours, somehow those views are contagious.