Poe’s Law states as follows:
Without a clear indicator of an author’s intention, it is often impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of such extremism.
David Quinn is perhaps the greatest satirist Ireland has seen since Jonathan Swift and at the same time the least recognised, which is a true measure of his genius. Anyone could set up a parody account on Twitter or Facebook, but David took it to a new level by setting up a real-life parody pressure group. He gave it a company name: Lolek Ltd, and then he gave it a public name, The Iona Institute, a title so gloriously grandiose and absurd that nobody noticed it was a joke.
Crucially, demonstrating a deep understanding of Poe’s Law, David Quinn avoided the temptation to provide a clear indicator that his work was satire, thus establishing himself as a comic genius, since this is where most satirists fall down. It is very, very hard to do this sort of comedy with a straight face.
Hiding in plain sight, David succeeded in convincing RTE, the national broadcaster, that his parody company was in fact a real institute with real credibility and real research supporting its views, instead of an in-joke between himself and five of his friends.
Over the years, in its sardonic and knowing way, the Iona Project has exposed the gullibility of journalists and the general public, suggesting one ludicrous proposition after another without anyone ever realising that it was all comedy. In many ways, Quinn has a great deal in common with Chris Morris of Brass Eye, who managed to convince everyone from Andrew Neil to Peter Tatchell that he was a serious journalist fronting a real news programme.
But of course, all great satirical works must eventually reach their natural end.
It happened to Swift with his modest proposal to cook and eat babies.
It happened to Brass Eye with its Pedophiles programme.
And inevitably, it happened to the Iona Institute when, for reasons only David Quinn can explain, he finally decided enough is enough. After a massively-entertaining season in which he lampooned the attitudes of homophobes, hate-mongers and the intolerant quasi-fascists that seethe beneath the surface of our little country, Quinn decided to provide Poe’s clear indication that his project was indeed satire, and he did it in such style that we can only stand and applaud.
Commenting on the proposal to allow same-sex marriage, Quinn’s Iona Institute warned that if the Irish public vote Yes, it will lead to straight men marrying each other and not having gay bum-sex.
Comic genius sans pareil. The only satirical equivalent that comes to mind is when Chris Morris suggested that gays can’t join the Navy because they attract torpedoes.
Mr Quinn, we applaud you, though I shed a tear that you have decided to bring down the curtain on this hilarious project.
At the same time, let’s not be too despondent. The Iona parody might well be over, but we haven’t heard the last of David Quinn. I predict that his comic genius will find a new way to shout out and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was already working on a new project.
This man is the future of Irish satire.