A new piece on Graham Linehan in the Times could be another sign that the tide is turning on the trans debate.
It implies a partial return to sanity that a mainstream newspaper has published a largely sympathetic portrait of someone so allegedly controversial that a production company tried to take his name off his own musical.
One positive of the article – by Andrew Billen – is that it does not attempt to play down the extent that Linehan has suffered as a result of his views (a common tactic amongst the ‘cancel culture doesn’t exist’ crowd). Billen paints the picture in stark detail:
Although the trans wars have claimed many jobs, friendships, families and, some claim, lives, the damage it has inflicted on Linehan is huge. In television he was rightly regarded as a genius with three classic sitcoms to his name: Father Ted in 1995, set in priests’ lodgings on a backward Irish island; 2000’s Black Books, starring co-creator Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey as booksellers; and in 2006 The IT Crowd, about a corporation’s tech nerds. His work is absurdist, character driven and taboo teasing but ultimately generous about humanity — and hilarious. Yet now he has virtually no income, no television career and has lost his old media friends. What he regarded as his pension, a Father Ted musical, is unlikely ever to be performed, at least not in his lifetime. “I think,” he says, “they’re waiting for me to die.”
The cancelling began, he calculates, after a cancer operation when he woozily tweeted about transgender people. He cannot remember what he wrote, but it was probably in line with the thousands he has written since, tweets that have ensured he is too toxic to work in today’s “liberal” media and showbusiness. Even if he does turn out to be on the wrong side of history, as the hostile clairvoyants forecast, to lose so much seems a disproportionate punishment. And many, probably including most of his 555,000 Twitter followers, think he will emerge on history’s winning side. It is argued that real cancellation in our supposed cancel culture is rare: commentators from Jeremy Clarkson to Ricky Gervais make good money from saying the allegedly unsayable. Linehan’s cancellation, however, looks real to me.
The article also clarifies Linehan’s views on the trans issue, which of course are far more moderate than the activists would have us believe.
He takes issue with me when I suggest that he does not like trans people. “Trans is so loosely defined. It seems to cover both Eddie Izzard and a 16-year-old girl who’s got dysphoria,” he says. “There’s got to be an understanding of the difference between a transsexual who has been through something immense in their lives and someone who’s putting on black fingernail polish and trying to get into the ladies’.”
So does he object to an adult man calling himself a woman?
“No, not at all. As we keep pointing out, we are only talking about places where conflict arises. My point has never changed. It’s about women in prison, women in rape crisis centres, women in changing rooms. It’s about children. It’s about homophobia. It’s about an incredible new form of sexism that I think is the worst ever. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen this kind of hate and aggression towards women.”
One of the most infuriating revelations is the way Linehan was treated by Hat Trick Productions, particularly managing director Jimmy Mulville. I already knew they had tried to take Linehan’s name off the Father Ted musical, but Mulville’s attempted justification for this is appalling:
[Linehan] believes Hat Trick was terrified of its younger members of staff. This is a claim Jimmy Mulville, Hat Trick’s managing director, strongly denies in a phone call to me in which he agrees that, although in need of revision, the show was “really funny” and a “surefire hit” in the West End. He also agrees Linehan was its “linchpin”. He and his colleagues reached the conclusion, however, that Linehan’s involvement would make the show impossible to stage in the current climate.
“I said, ‘We’re not getting at you. We’re trying to save the work and the only way we save the work now is by disassociating it from you, tragic as that is,’ ” Mulville says. “I know writers really well. It’s hard for writers to do that. And I said it would take an enormous amount of personal courage and humility, but the only way that we go forward is to make a statement. We had statements prepared where we said, we believe in Graham’s right to speak his mind and that he’s sincere in his beliefs.”
But Linehan regarded Father Ted: The Musical as his pension.
Mulville says: “That was my expression: ‘This is your pension. I want to make sure that you have this [settlement] because I think you deserve it. What has happened to you has been awful.’ I don’t believe in the cancel culture. I hate cancel culture. I think it’s non-redemptive. I think people are not given second chances and it’s a horrible aspect of the modern world. But it’s reality.
“It’s tragic that we live in a world where people are put in these positions, where groups of people don’t want to work with them, but that is the real world. That’s the realpolitik of the whole thing.”
As I stated in a recent Tweet, Mulville is claiming to be against cancel culture whilst utterly capitulating to it, and in fact engaging in it. Linehan replied, claiming that even my scathing summation didn’t go far enough:
We seem to have entered a strange stage of the cancel culture era where people know the practice is wrong, and many speak out against it, yet appear unable, or in this case shamefully unwilling, to stop it from happening.
With the trans debate, however, we may be somewhat closer to a sensible outcome. We’ve seen the ‘Isla Bryson’ case topple Nicola Sturgeon, the Tavistock clinic closing, and the absurdities and horrors of the radical trans movement exposed to millions in Matt Walsh’s What Is a Woman? documentary.
Still, much as with the recent attacks on Matt Walsh for being ‘too mean’ to professional attention-seeker Dylan Mulvaney, there remains a reluctance amongst many to mount an appropriately robust counter to what amounts to the systemic mutilation of children. We get a glimpse of this in the squeamish middle-class tone policing in Billen’s otherwise favourable profile on Linehan. The piece ends with the odd line:
My optimism dims. Linehan’s trans jokes are less all-vanquishing kryptonite than hand grenades thrown into a minefield.
Billen is also concerned that, God forbid, Linehan may carry his new-found scepticism over into other arenas:
I worry myself when he starts talking about how the “lies” told about gender may lead people to doubt vaccines and global warming. In one interview, which he does not quite disown, he said he was no longer even “100% on climate change any more”.
In other words: don’t go too far Graham, or you may find your next profile is not in the Times but the Daily Sceptic.
Stop Press: Graham Linehan’s comments under the Times article have been deleted. It would never happen at the Daily Sceptic Graham!