Last week, The Irish Times published an opinion column online arguing that fake tan is racist, since it involves the “cultural appropriation and fetishisation of the high melanin content found in more pigmented people”. Trouble was, says Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph, the author didn’t exist – the article was a “cruel hoax” submitted by an anonymous prankster who reportedly wrote it using AI. Ireland’s paper of record apologised and removed the offending piece from their website. But the editors shouldn’t feel too bad. It was “no more ridiculous” than half the stuff that’s published by columnists every day.
Writers in The Guardian alone have managed to detect racism in everything from yoga (“Its Appropriation by the White Wellness Industry is a Form of Colonialism”) to gardening (“Weeding Out Horticulture’s Race Problem”). Other scourges of our age apparently include dancing (“School Proms Uphold Straight Privilege”), humour (“Is There a Single Comedian Out There Who Isn’t Fatphobic?”), talking (“Eight Words That Reveal the Sexism at the Heart of the English Language”), and Christmas (“Warning: Your Festive Meal Could Be More Damaging Than a Long-Haul Flight”). Each of these headlines appeared above a genuine article by a genuine writer. I hope that brings some comfort to those poor folks at The Irish Times. “When real left-wing opinions are indistinguishable from spoof ones, an editor can hardly be blamed for failing to spot the difference.”