The right can’t satire
A British troll’s bad Onion imitation is the highest form of alt-right comedy—and that’s pathetic
The alt-right is mourning the loss of “satirical” account Godfrey Elfwick following his permanent suspension from Twitter. Elfwick’s unparalleled comedic genius was too great a threat to the liberal crybully establishment, they claimed.
He had to be stopped.
Godfrey Elfwick, a British guy who writes fake Guardian headlines to own the libs, is a giant of rightwing comedy along with guy who wears dresses to own the libs and guy who spreads out his sphincter to own the libs.
His banishment from Twitter prompted tributes that were fittingly artless in their attempts at smart humor:
From the way they talk, you get the impression that this unfunny stooge really was their greatest comedic voice, and it’s kind of sad.
But joining the ranks of alt-right free speech martyrs like Count Dankula and Tommy Robinson is probably the best possible outcome for someone like Elfwick.
The shtick was already stale and unimaginative when he started, and Elfwick has long since squeezed out what little humor there was in the first place.
Referring to himself as a “genderqueer Muslim atheist,” Elfwick is the same parody of the left that alt-right has been running into the ground for half a decade now.
If you rehash lame jokes that incel bottom-feeders on 4chan have made millions of times—ex. “did you just assume my gender?”—you’re not a visionary. You’re a hack.
To call Godfrey Elfwick “satire” puts him in the same category as Mark Twain. At best, he’s a (slightly) more sophisticated version of what the alt-right calls “counter-signaling”— a type of e-mockery.
Godfrey’s 15 minutes have been up for a solid year now. After his first ban last summer, he faded into obscurity only to resurface briefly on a new account a few weeks ago.
But his meager shitposting career is worth revisiting as a case study for what makes rightwing comedy so bad
Conservative comedians tend to be conservatives first and comedians second—making a point takes precedence over making a joke.
They’ll even drop the pretense of tying to be funny if it gets in the way of whatever message they’re trying to get across, as Elfwick did in the tweet that allegedly got him banned the first time around.
Someone more talented than Godfrey would have found a way to make this statement without breaking character.
Instead of coming out and saying what he thinks, the satirical thing to do would be to take Lineker’s side and justify his exorbitant salary using some comically inane rationalization.
But comedy is hard.
Not truly funny
Satire is an art, and like other forms of art, it is only good insofar as it expresses some sort of deeper truth.
Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal” was so impactful because it spoke to an obscene social reality. The outrageous idea of the Irish selling their children to the rich as food merely exaggerated the real callousness of the wealthy elites to grotesque proportions.
The starting point of satire is the absurdity that exists in the real world, which the satirist then accentuates for comedic effect.
When Godfrey first gained notoriety with his #Wrongskin hashtag back in 2015, his trolling was at least relevant to a real phenomenon: the case of Rachel Dolezal. But it even then it wasn’t exactly satire because there was no added value. He simply imitated something that was already ludicrous to begin with.
Most of us only wish we could go back to a time when the most ridiculous thing one could imagine is a few people asking to be called xim and xher.
And to the extent that this was ever really a thing, it didn’t reflect a reality most people had actually experienced personally. I still have yet to meet a person like this online, much less in real life.
Today, we have deeper wells of absurdity that renew themselves on a daily basis—namely an oafish president who creates a readymade punchline for late-night talk show hosts every time he opens his mouth.
Things happen in the world that are more laughably surreal than anything the most brilliant satirist could conjure up, like that time the IDF Twitter account tried to deflect from the massacre of 60 Palestinians with a tweet that said “Hamas can turn anything into a weapon of terror.”
Its list of terror tools included things like “arson kites,” “disabled civilians” and the deadliest of all: “children.”
It takes real talent to make something like that any more absurd than it already is, but an even greater feat is to take that which is not funny at all — something tragic or depressing — and find something to laugh about.
Many a comedian developed a sense of humor as a way to deal with the pain of being fat or unattractive. Good satire is likewise a coping mechanism to make bearable life in an ugly world.
Its political ideology built entirely on a distorted view of reality, the right really has no compelling truths to tell through comedy.
The closest Godfrey Elfwick ever came was briefly touching on the issue of inequality — comparing Lineker’s salary to that of a nurse — but even then it was an insincere, clumsy attempt to play gotcha with a “virtue-signaling” liberal
Also, it’s hard for the alt-right to sustain the lie that it’s some kind of counterculture defined in opposition to the establishment when their side is in power. Still, they bend their minds into knots to convince themselves that by taking shots at trans people, immigrants and other marginalized groups, they’re somehow “sticking it to the man.”
Know your mark
The other great weakness of rightwing comedy is that the right doesn’t know their subject well enough to ridicule it, so it doesn’t ring true.
Many times the right will mock perceived hypocrisy or inconsistency in what they think the left believes, when all it really shows is that they’re clueless about the argument being made. “If so-called privilege exists, then how come Beyonce makes more money than a white hobo? Checkmate.”
They have no real sense of what their opponents think. Their idea of “know your enemy” is referencing some (usually fake) quotes by obscure thinkers almost no one on the left actually reads — like Saul Alinsky or Theodore Adorno — as if they hold the secrets of how the left operates.
The result is comedic critiques that are hollow: a caricature of a caricature.
The jokes become increasingly unanchored from the subject to the point where they only refer to a flat, featureless stereotype. Every leftist woman is a blue-haired Trigglypuff; every man a noodle-wristed soyboy.
How could humor with such a foundation ever be anything but hackneyed? There is a lot about the left that is ripe for parody if the right could only be bothered to learn enough about it to make fun of it properly.
By contrast, left-leaning comedy account Krang T. Nelson caused an uproar with his “antifa supersoldier” tweet because it contained a joke that effectively skewered the pathological silliness of the right’s hysteria about an imagined “antifa civil war.”
Krang wasn’t out to start a hoax or make conservatives look foolish. He just made a statement that was so over the top that the humor should have been self-evident, but it hit so close to the insane fever dream that actually plays out in the skulls of conservatives that they took bait he wasn’t even offering.
Elfwick’s fans have compared him to Sacha Baron Cohen, but Cohen actually has an ability to understand his marks and manipulate them to comedic effect.
All it takes to “trigger” people is knowing what they find offensive, which is something well within the grasp of the average prepubescent Youtube comment section dweller.
It takes another level of talent to tease out the cartoons people really are underneath. The sickest burn Elfwick ever pulled was duping some gullible reporters into believing he was transracial, i.e. something actual events had already predisposed them to think plausible.
In his new show “Who is America?” Cohen gets politicians to buy a story that was on its face utterly ridiculous — that he represented an Israeli program to arm toddlers called Kinderguardians — and convinced them to read nonsensical statements about how children can see in “slow motion like owls” because signals travel faster “up the Cardi B neural pathway to the Wiz Khalifa.”
Cohen did his homework. He knew some of these people had pushed against legislation that would prevent young kids from accessing guns, and he set out to test how far they would go.
The real comedy lies not in anything Cohen’s characters say or do, but in the way he deftly baits the subjects, like gun lobbyist Larry Pratt, into showcasing what amoral creeps they really are:
COHEN: We actually found out that in schools it’s not only important to arm the teachers. It’s important to arm certain gifted children.
PRATT: Ah…that’s great.
COHEN: The only thing that can stop a bad man with a gun is a good boy with a gun.
PRATT: Yeah, or a good toddler… [LAUGHS]
COHEN: Women need a gun. My wife…She have a gun. She shot me once. What can I do? You know, I get horny in the middle of the night. But it’s not rape if it’s your wife.
PRATT: [SHAKES COHEN’S HAND & LAUGHS HYSTERICALLY] This isn’t going to be on the tape that we send to the Hill, right?
For Elfwick’s fans lamenting the absence of their favorite troll with eulogies like “There will never be another like him,” I have good news: there are hundreds upon thousands of mediocre chumps out there who are just as creative and funny as Elfwick, which is to say not very.
And to Godfrey — if by any chance you’re reading this — cheer up, man. There’s always Gab. Lots of people use that, right?