Times caption: Titania McGrath’s Twitter profile picture
A piece by Rosamund Urwin in yesterday’s Times:
A Twitter sensation renowned for sending up “snowflake culture” has spawned publishing’s latest mystery: just who is Titania McGrath?
The spoof character, whose first book, Woke: A Guide to Social Justice, is out this week, satirises the preoccupations of left-wing millennials hyper-alert to social injustice. She is Viz’s Student Grant for the social media age.
McGrath, who also pokes fun at the language used by the left to discuss diversity, describes herself as “a radical intersectionalist poet committed to feminism . . . and armed peaceful protest”. She claims to have duped The New York Times with a letter by her poetic alter ego, “Whitey”, about white privilege.
She even seems to have fooled fellow satirists: Private Eye recently printed her entreaty to readers to buy her book “not for my sake, for the sake of humanity” in Pseuds Corner, where the magazine mocks pretentious writing.
McGrath joined Twitter only last year but already has more than 180,000 followers. However, the identity of the wit behind the account has been kept secret. Even her book publicist claims not to know. So is it possible that Twitter’s “wokest” woman is actually a man?
Speculation about the identity of McGrath has so far focused on Lisa Graves, a comedian and graphic designer who was previously one of the writers of another parody woke account, Godfrey Elfwick. Graves’s name is even on the book’s jacket, as the holder of the copyright to McGrath’s author photo, which is a digitally created image.
However, some fans are suspicious that Graves is being used as a smokescreen. Some are pointing the finger instead at another, male, satirist: the former teacher turned funnyman Andrew Doyle. He is a columnist at the online magazine Spiked and a co-writer of YouTube video rants by the spoof TV reporter Jonathan Pie. Doyle says he is left-leaning politically, but he has also challenged the espousal of identity politics. He and McGrath share a literary agent, Matthew Hamilton. The pair have the same obsessions and similar tone and phrasing, even though they approach subjects from opposite sides. When approached by The Sunday Times, Doyle denied he was responsible for the account but said he was “flattered”.
An acquaintance of Doyle said: “Andrew prides himself on being subversive. He is charming in person and obviously very funny. I could see that he would consider Titania McGrath adds value to Jonathan Pie.”
The book hints its author is a man. “A male could not have written this book,” says McGrath in the introduction. “Males can never achieve peak wokeness due to their fundamental toxic masculinity.”
Doyle has said on the YouTube channel Triggernometry that his comedy “punches up” at “woke culture”. He criticised the way that this mindset has infected the comedy circuit, highlighting the speech that opened the Edinburgh festival last summer by the director of the festival’s comedy awards, Nica Burns. The same speech is mentioned in McGrath’s book: “Such major figures in the comedy industry are right to . . . remind us that the purpose of comedy is to educate the masses in matters of social decorum and the limits of free speech.”
It is possible, too, that more than one writer is responsible for the account.
There is a long history of writers using pseudonyms, but in the internet age their identities rarely remain hidden for long.
The Harry Potter author JK Rowling was unmasked by The Sunday Times as Robert Galbraith, her pen name for the Cormoran Strike series of detective novels. The half-Syrian blogger Amina Arraf, known as “a gay girl in Damascus”, was a 40-year-old straight American man. The blogger Belle de Jour, who wrote about her life as a high-class callgirl, was revealed to be a research scientist named Brooke Magnanti after speculation that a string of writers, including Toby Young, were responsible.
B Traven, who wrote The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, is a rare case whose real identity has never been confirmed.
Who pulls the strings of the Twitter puppet?
Day job Former teacher; now a comedian.
The clues His influence on the book seems clear: the phrases and references mirror talks he has given. He is friends with the other main suspect, Lisa Graves.
Day job Satirist and graphic artist.
The clues Graves has form, having previously run — but not created — a spoof “woke” account under the name Godfrey Elfwick. She must be in on the joke: she created the photo of McGrath. But she seems too obvious. Given that the author is supposed to be a secret, should their name really be on the book’s jacket?
On Isis The media’s coverage of Isis is underpinned by deep-seated Islamophobia. If it isn’t, how come they never say anything nice about them?
On gender We should give all newborn babies numbers rather than names until they are ready to determine their own gender identity.
On race Hey white people. If you really want to understand your privilege, try identifying as black for a month. You wouldn’t believe the disapproving looks I get when I tell people I’m an ethnic minority.
On Jussie Smollett, the US actor who allegedly faked his own racist and homophobic assault It is absolutely *essential* that we believe Jussie Smollett. If we don’t, other people who haven’t been attacked might not have the courage to come forward.
On last week’s row over Comic Relief’s work in the developing world Next month I’ll be touring the deprived areas of Africa to teach poor black people about intersectionality and the problem with white saviours.
On sexual assault It is NEVER OKAY for men to give CPR to an unconscious woman. “Resuscitation” is just a fancy word for “rape”.
You can subscribe to The Times here.
If everyone who read this gave us £5.00 – or even better, £5.00 or more, monthly – we could change the world. £5.00 monthly would entitle you to Bronze party membership, details here. Benefits include a dedicated and signed book by Mike Buchanan. Click below to make a difference. Thanks.