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So I'm writing a story that features an alien character, who happens to be a really "internet troll"-ish type with a somewhat godlike tech and a personal army of robots.

He/She (?) is fond of Earth's history and likes contradictions, which leads to massive amounts of Earth references, especially offensive/taboo ones

I'm not entirely sure if it would be considered offensive if:

  • The most diverse (in a racial sense) group of organics (non-robots), that accompanies the robots, is called "The Waffle SS".
  • The good faction, that follows the Geneva Convention to a fault, has a really similar aesthetics to that of the Nazis.
  • The railguns (as the story is sci-fi) used by the good faction are all named after infamous mass-shooters, based on what weapon they used (e.g: the SMG is called "Klebold")

So things that are connected to the Nazis and evil people (and aren't evil by themselves (i.e: not gas chambers or gulags), make an appearance in it, but the ideologies of the good faction are straightforward the opposite.

Would this still be considered offensive by the majority of the readers?


Update 1: I forgot to mention this snippet from the beginning of the book, and it's important in determining the underlying tone.

This book is dedicated to Hitler, who taught us so much about fighting for what we believe in. Rest in pepperoni— Aubergine Man

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    What's your purpose in setting up your story/characters/society this way? Are you trying to explore the juxtaposition? Because if you're doing it in any way to mitigate actual trolls or Nazis, or "show both sides," or sheerly for the shock value, then don't. Make different choices. People are rightly offended by Nazis. Unless you have a really good, coherent reason for painting this picture, you're just going to alientate 95% of your potential audience. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Jun 22 '17 at 11:13
  • @LaurenIpsum I'm just generally amazed by the plan of the Volkshalle, and the idea of bringing hope to desperate people and turning a ravished nation into a powerful empire. Just don't let your emotions take complete control over you, because then you going to fail, just like Hitler did, with his racial hatred, that took away the opportunity of him having the most powerful weapon in the history. Take a time, and appreciate the good ideas, even if they come from your worst enemy. – Mephistopheles Aug 31 '17 at 19:24
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    @RedactedRedacted So, it's sounding more and more like this is all about your admiration for the "good parts" of Hitler, and that you're just trying to pass it off as satire. Given that, I'm not sure why you're even concerned about offending people in the first place. – Chris Sunami Aug 31 '17 at 20:12
  • @ChrisSunami Why not both? – Mephistopheles Sep 1 '17 at 21:31
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You can be sure you'll offend someone. This is unavoidable in this day and age. Peppa the Pig offends Muslims, Bob the Builder presents patriarchal stereotypes, Teletubbies are satanistic, and NASA is the HQ of Them. I can guarantee anything that isn't dead serious about nazi themes will be met with some offense.

Satire, though, is mostly accepted. "The Producers" is a successful example where nazi-themed satire was found hilarious by majority big enough that the haters were silenced.

Don't just make Nazi references. Make it in a way that's self-conscious, make the awkwardness blatant, lampshade it, taunt the conflict, make some genuinely nice characters really unhappy with the convention, in short - make it comedy gold. Not just a smirk or a chuckle, but a full-belly guffaw power of humor.

From what I see now, you're not getting near there. Your text won't be taken as a satire, but as a Nazi apologist propaganda. Subtle humor is a good thing in general, but easily missed, and when missing it hits a spot as sore, you're in trouble. For this sort of theme you'll need broad strokes and approach that doesn't depend on the reader being above-average smart.

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Is there a goal to all this, other than trolling your own audience? It seems that your alien character (and by extension, you) is trying to create a sort of "theater of the absurd" including blatant cognitive dissonances. But satire needs a point. You can't just dress the good guys up like Nazis and expect hilarity to ensue, especially at a time when real Nazis are making a genuine comeback.

One thing that is unclear to me from your question: Is everything that happens in your book, including the good guys and the bad guys and their fight, because your alien troll is puppet-mastering things behind the scenes? I still don't know if it's a good idea, but at least that would give some justification for why everything seems topsy-turvy. But if that's not the case, then you're setting up a situation where the character can be blamed for only some of the contradictions. The blame for the rest lies squarely with you, the author. This might give people legitimate cause to question your own motivations and loyalties.

The audience will forgive almost anything, if the payoff is big enough. But the less [funny, brilliant, morally improving, etc.] you are, the more offensive you will be perceived as being. For a setup like this one, your book had better be pure, unadulterated, 100% gold. Anything less and they are likely to suspect you of being an actual Nazi sympathizer veiling his true feelings with a thin dusting of satire.

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The difference between funny and offensive is execution.

People are offended by comedy when the comedy is so bad that you can not tell if it's comedy or just being plain mean.

The best example I know for getting gross humor from offensive to funny is South Park. They make jokes about nazis, shit, pretty much every major religion, farts, pedophilia, shit, killing children, piss, all kinds of minorities, vomit and shit... and it is hilarious! How do they pull this off?

  • They don't half-ass it. The offensiveness is so over the top that it becomes a satire of offensiveness itself. You can not possibly take it seriously.
  • Hidden under that juvenile mask is actually smart satire of relevant real-world topics. They actually have something to say beyond "Look how edgy and daring we are!". That substance prevents the audience from being ashamed of enjoying the more juvenile parts.
  • They are equal opportunity insulters. They make sure all sides get insulted equally. For each insult which is offending to you, they also insult someone who really annoys you. That makes it hard to be angry at them.

But the hardest of them all:

  • They are actually writing good comedy!

Writing good comedy is an art which is extremely difficult to master. But how to be funny and not just stupid is an art which is far too complicated to describe in the scope of this answer.

  • In the acting community: Dying is easy. Comedy is hard. – hszmv Aug 30 '17 at 12:45
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Would this still be considered offensive by the majority of the readers?

Nazis are offensive, period, so yes. The motivations of the good guys in Nazi garb will just come off as incongruous, implausible, and confusing. When that happens, the writing is bad, and readers become alienated and drop their suspension of disbelief. In this case they'd think you are trying a bait-and-switch to trick them into having sympathy for Nazis.

Further: It isn't possible to follow the Geneva Convention "to a fault" unless there is something inherently wrong with the Geneva Convention that causes compliance to (in the long run) routinely create more harm than good.

I suppose that could be true of any system of rules, but I'd wager the vast majority of readers treat the Geneva Convention with respect or outright reverence without knowing any detailed logic analysis of it; thus they would reject the characterization of "to a fault".

Thus you have another element likely to alienate readers and trigger a collapse of their suspension of disbelief; bringing their mind out of "story mode" and into real-life critical analysis to resolve their confusion about what you are presenting.

Further, as part of the craft of writing, do not establish connections that are ultimately meaningless to the outcome of the story. Readers expect any connection you make, especially Act I connections, like a connection to Nazis, to bear fruit and influence the outcome of the story.

Your suggestion does not: If the good guys are really good and look or act like Nazis, but this resemblance has zero effect later in the story, then you have wasted their time at best, and at worst angered them by making Nazi-like people the heroes.

In fact there probably won't be any readers because the story you aren't really writing (I presume that is what the strikeout is supposed to mean) will never be published; any agent (or their professional reader) will put it down after a few pages and reject it outright, for the reasons I listed above.

  • One "Fault" of late in the Geneva Conventions (there are more than one) is the use of marked and unarmed medical resources... a helicopter Ambulance must have the Red Cross symbol very visible, must not carry weapons, crew may only carry side arms (I think) and it is a war crime to intentionally fire upon such a craft (or falsely advertise a craft as such). In the War On Terror, this is a problem as the U.S. and allies are signatories but the terrorists are not and they will fire upon them. Beyond that, it's hard to find actual fault in two nations that sign. – hszmv Aug 30 '17 at 12:43
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SF's answer is more than adequate but your question contributes to the mounting problems of story-telling and media.

Whatever you write is going to offend somebody. Unfortunately, most people, particularly Americans are unaware of life outside their bubble.

Take, for example, Hollywood in the 1960's. Films contained virtually no female heroes, African American heroes or Hispanic heroes. Producers didn't realise this continued practice offended 65% of Americans (Women / Blacks / Hispanics).

With the advent of globalisation Hollywood almost went bust. 50 years they were churning out westerns and war films from a well-oiled production line but had no understanding of the world beyond America. Production costs soared to the extent that they were domestically irrecoverable. At a cost $300,000,000 Titanic would require every regular US movie goer to watch the film more than once to realise a profit.

Hollywood sought global investment to make movies just as the German economy was booming. Almost overnight there were no more War films or Westerns. Most of the planet has no interest in Westerns. And Germans really didn't want to invest in films where they got their asses kicked.

Writing not to offend anybody produces nothing of significance. The best thing you can do is write to your own values but be aware who you may be offending. Hollywood routinely offends the political right - but make a fortune doing it.

I have focussed this post on the film industry simply because the financial data is more readily available.

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