Lisa Graves

My part in Godfrey Elfwick’s downfall

My part in Godfrey Elfwick's downfall
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Godfrey Elfwick was a reassuring presence on Twitter. The parody account of the right-on hipster was the perfect antidote to the online mob who shout down those who don't sign up to the prevailing groupthink. But now, Elfwick is gone: banned from Twitter after a petty spat. It's a big loss – and for those increasingly fed up with the factionalism on the site, another reason to wonder whether continuing to use Twitter is really worth it.

So who was Elfwick? For his fans – and there were plenty of them – the self-defined demi-sexual genderqueer Muslim atheist was at his best when people fell into the trap of believing that he was real. Perhaps his crowning moment was when the BBC did just that: interviewing him on the World Service, in character, accusing Star Wars of being homophobic and claiming that the whole film series – which he admitted that he hadn't even seen – was 'unbelievably racist'. The hapless BBC producer who booked Elfwick to appear on the radio wasn't alone in failing to spot the joke about Elfwick though:

It was no surprise that Elfwick soon gained notoriety; he quickly became a parody of the far-left ultra PC conscious subculture which has insidiously sprung up all over the place. Elfwick's take on the topics of the day was often difficult to distinguish from the online virtue signallers who like to display their good will, even if, in reality, it counts for little:

It wasn't only those on Twitter who were parodied by Elfwick: his character also showed up some of those in the media who are prone to react irrationally:

Elfwick’s latest departure – albeit now, sadly, permanent – is not the first time he left Twitter behind. Godfrey’s creator (who wishes to remain anonymous) continued to run the account until it grew so big that he simply couldn’t see the point anymore. For him, a famous 'troll' was redundant. He deactivated the account in 2015, and left Twitter for a while. In his absence, many people were asking why and where he had gone. I felt the same – and as a friend of Godfrey’s creator, I asked him if he would mind me bringing Elfwick back. He agreed and, perhaps fittingly in the spirit of today’s identity politics, I became Godfrey Elfwick along with his original creator who ran the account with me for the next few months. But being Elfwick was no easy task. Those who didn’t see the funny side would often run to Twitter to report harassment, even if this, in reality, was simply because their tweets had been quoted along with a sarcastic response.

Godfrey’s final downfall came about as the result of a swear word. When the Twitter account – as well as my personal one – ended up getting blocked, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, the simple fact is that satire of those on the left makes some people feel uncomfortable. In recent years, there appears to have been a marked effort to eliminate the ‘wrong’ kind of satire. The majority of mainstream comedy now takes aim at the right. Political correctness, too, has become more and more authoritarian. This stifles debate, comedy and all sorts of creativity.

In the end, Elfwick was a victim of just that: he took aim at the more extreme end of leftist ideology because, quite simply, it needs to be mocked. Given the admission of Twitter's boss, Jack Dorsey, that the site is left leaning, it's hardly a surprise. But without Godfrey Elfwick, Twitter is a lesser place.