Did Godfrey Elfwick write that ridiculously funny Guardian article?

by Michael Nugent on December 2, 2016

Godfrey Claim I outlined in an article yesterday why I believe the recent ‘online poison’ article in the Guardian is an excellent hoax parody.

The more often I read it, the more convinced I am that it is a hoax. But my reason is because of its content: it is ridiculously funny, incoherent and inconsistent, and it covers all of the right angles relevant to the issue to match the formula of an excellent hoax.

My reason for believing it is a hoax is not simply because the online prankster Godfrey Elfwick has claimed that he wrote it. As always, I am open to new evidence to rationally challenge any of my beliefs.

I’ve always enjoyed the Godfrey Elfwick pranks, whoever is using the pseudonym at any given time. But the evidence that he has provided that he wrote this is far from conclusive. It is just as consistent with the Godfrey ethos that he is happily trolling the rest of us, by opportunistically claiming responsibility for a hoax that somebody else perpetrated.

This matters, because we need to remain skeptical about claims made without reasonable evidence, regardless of where they come from and regardless of what arguments they are supporting. And it is significant because Godfrey’s initial claim to have written it was liked 4,600 times, shared 2,600 times and replied to over 600 times.

So let’s look at the evidence that Godfrey has provided, together with similar evidence that the hoax was perpetrated by Andy Kaufman, perhaps the greatest prankster in living memory.

A photograph of a printout of part of the article

When Godfrey repeated his claim to have written the Guardian article, Twitter user Benpool challenged him to prove it.

Godfrey 5

Here is what Godfrey uploaded as evidence that he wrote it.

Godfrey 3

Here is similar evidence that Andy Kaufman wrote it.

Kaufman 3

A screenshot of a set of dated computer files

Twitter user Pier Bove then challenged Godfrey to provide time-stamped evidence.

Godfrey 6

Here is what Godfrey uploaded: a directory titled ‘Godfrey’s Stuff,’ which suprisingly contains only seven items in the last ten months.

Godfrey 1

Here is a similar upload from Andy Kaufman’s computer, titled ‘Andy’s Stuff,’ with similar files from the same dates.

Kaufman 1

Arguments for and against Godfrey and Andy

The strongest argument for either is that they are both capable of writing such a masterpiece of parody, and of getting it published.

The strongest argument against Godfrey is that his time-stamped ‘evidence’ dates the file as being last modified on 31st October. That is a week before the US Presidential Election, the result of which is cited in the Guardian article.

The strongest argument against Andy Kaufman is that he is dead. Against that, some people believe that he faked his death as his ultimate hoax. And, who knows, some media outlets today might treat that claim as seriously as the Guardian did its ridiculous ‘online poison’ article.

Conclusion

I still believe the article in the Guardian is a hoax. I have outlined my reasons in my earlier article: the content is ridiculously funny, incoherent and inconsistent, and it fits the formula of an excellent hoax parody. Assuming that it is a hoax parody is also the most charitable interpretation. If it is genuine, then it reflects much more poorly on the author than if it is a hoax.

I am not basing my belief that it is a hoax on Godfrey Elfwick claiming that he wrote it, or on the possibility that Andy Kaufman may have faked his death. Skeptics should be as cautious about these claims as we are about the authenticity of the article. We should not believe anything without sufficient evidence, particularly when it is claimed by a self-proclaimed prankster.

As always, I am open to new evidence to rationally challenge my beliefs, whether that is provided by Godfrey Elfwick, Andy Kaufman or — ideally — the editorial team at the Guardian.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 hugh December 2, 2016 at 2:38 pm

I thought the skeptical and rational position was to doubt any evidence or claims made by internet trolls in the first place?

You and other Sam Harris’ fanboys got duped by this Godfrey account.

Truth is, you don’t want to admit that Sam’s rhetoric is full of hateful and bigoted stuff.

So now you hope that some dumb internet troll is being truthful with you.

Good luck with that.

2 tehy December 2, 2016 at 2:53 pm

lol

i personally do doubt that Elfwick wrote it. The thing is, the piece isn’t a hoax, it’s a desperate attempt to deal with a growing, online phenomenon: left-liberal people discover that Sam has a lot of good points and gradually their mindset shifts. So what can they do to counter it? They have no arguments, because Sam IS right. So they can be like Hugh and say that Sam is “hateful and bigoted” except he isn’t, but that’s really the only possible argument to muster up against it. Therefore, all you can really do is show people saying over and over that it’s racist, it’s evil, slippery slope fallacy, and all this other junk. Well, the Guardian is a failing rag and Sam’s star is in the ascendant, so…

3 hugh December 2, 2016 at 3:00 pm

How awful of we left-liberal people to call out bigotry.

By the way, I’m still waiting for the explanation of how Sam’s wish to profile muslims is a good idea.

Unless you are some alt-right neo nazi, in which case don’t even bother responding.

4 Mike December 2, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Being critical of Islam is not bigoted. There is a reason that the countries led by Islam are the ones that oppress it’s women and homosexuals to no end. Because Islam calls for it. Obviously not all Muslims are terrorists, but it’s pretty clear that most terrorists tend to be Muslims. Rather than just labelling someone a bigot, actually listen to what they are saying. This is why no one takes liberals seriously anymore, and I am one.

5 tehy December 2, 2016 at 6:09 pm

“How awful of we left-liberal people to call out bigotry.”

See what I mean? In response to the argument that it’s not really bigotry, people like Hugh can only re-assert their original assertion while providing zero proof of such. Because they have no argument. Well, at least Hugh attempts to start one, though he doesn’t quite finish…

“By the way, I’m still waiting for the explanation of how Sam’s wish to profile muslims is a good idea.”

Hmm, nice to see a request for open dialogue

“Unless you are some alt-right neo nazi, in which case don’t even bother responding.”

never mind lol

If you actually think that profiling members of a religious group, when the leaders of that religious group can be found in large numbers calling for the religious group to commit crimes, when that religious group can be found citing their religion and their God as justification for those crimes, is “bigoted”, then you have no argument. Which is why all you can do is say so over and over and over ad infinitum.

6 lvlln December 2, 2016 at 7:33 pm

Michael Nugent: I believe this article is a hoax, for reasons completely unrelated to Godfrey Elfwick’s claim that it’s his hoax. In fact, I don’t believe Godfrey’s purported “evidence” that he produced this hoax and put just as much belief in it as the idea that the dead Andy Kaufman produced this hoax.

Hugh: What kind of skeptic are you that you credulously believe Godfrey’s claims of this being his hoax?

Everyone else: Hugh does not seem to have a basic understanding of English reading comprehension.

7 Ashling December 2, 2016 at 8:39 pm

@ Borabosna, would you have any reliable citations for the stats you’ve given above? Thanks

8 Michael Nugent December 2, 2016 at 9:17 pm

Borabosna, I have unpublished your comment as it contains a lot of statistics about sensitive issues but without any sources. If you supply reliable sources for the statistics I will be happy to republish the comment.

9 hughmanist December 3, 2016 at 12:21 pm

“Hugh: What kind of skeptic are you that you credulously believe Godfrey’s claims of this being his hoax?”

‘Hugh’ looks very like a hoax himself.

10 Shatterface December 4, 2016 at 6:14 pm

I disagree with Harris on many issues. The thing is, I’m an adult, and reading other people’s opinions doesn’t automatically make me accept them, let alone send me into a lurch far to the right of them.

No liberal is going to spiral into racist ideology at the slightest nudge: that has to be inside you all along.

I think this is probably a hoax but there is a serious pint that it is making: that for most SJWs anti-racism is a rather fragile dam holding back a torrent of hate.

11 Carl_H December 6, 2016 at 7:00 am

I think Godfrey wrote it. The visible text is correct and he’s barmy enough to do it. You’re right though, the article is completely ridiculous and is a caricature of liberal guilt about the ‘R’ word. Your point about the ‘Date Modified’ field visible in Windows Explorer for the Word doc doesn’t invalidate his claim. This might be a first draft which he copied onto a different device (eg. a USB key) and updated with the stunning news of Trump’s win after the election on a different device. I’ve done that sort of thing myself. Copying a file wouldn’t necessarily change the ‘Date Modified’ field, since nothing has been modified. The Kaufman document has the word ‘online’ missing from the title. This suggests it’s a fake.

12 Eric Smith December 6, 2016 at 1:49 pm

There’s a twist. The Guardian displays a tweet from Mr Elwick in this article

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/dec/06/amy-schumer-barbie-doll-film-sony-pictures-mattel-iconic-toy

They obviously know he spoofed them or as I am beginning to suspect, it’s an inside job. It’s too obvious even for the Guardian current gutter standards.

Thoughts ?

13 JohnM January 15, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Hugh,
Have you read anything by Sam Harris, or heard any of his podcasts? If yes, I find your comment puzzling, to say the least. Perhaps American English is more problematic for you than it is for me. I’d be glad to re-read any Harris’ script that you consider bigoted toward Muslims in the context of more careful screening for young men of Eastern appearance at airports, with less time applied to white-haired old ladies in airport-provisioned wheelchairs, taking full cognisance of the cost vs safety constraints.

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