Well, it finally happened. The man behind the incredibly popular, fake Twitter @MayorEmanuel has drawn back the curtain and shown himself. After months of anxious speculation, a lengthy profile in The Atlantic has revealed the writer to be Dan Sinker, a professor and the founder of the influential punk rock zine Punk Planet.
The feed purported to be Rahm Emanuel’s profanity-laced thoughts as he traversed the Chicago campaign trail and finished up as the actual Emanuel became the “Mayor Emanuel” and, in the fictional world of the Twitter, MayorEmanuel vanished into a time vortex (seriously). The feed became an enormous hit, gaining tons of followers, interacting with real life political figures, and inspiring the real Rahm Emanuel to offer a hefty sum for the Sinker’s identity.
In the profile, Sinker explains the difficulty he had in maintaining his secret double life. From The Atlantic:
“What’s stunning is that Sinker managed to preside over @MayorEmanuel without ever getting caught. Or at least outed. His secret was known only by his wife, a small circle of friends, and one Chicago Public Schools teacher, Seth Lavin, who figured out Sinker’s identity when Sinker used his personal bit.ly account to shorten a link that @MayorEmanuel later tweeted. Lavin kept it mum. Others came close to identifying him, Sinker said. An intern at the Wall Street Journal was onto him early, as was a reporter at Crain’s Chicago Business. But no one could muster any proof.
As the weeks went by, the pressure began to take a toll on Sinker’s psyche. ‘The train rides became totally paranoia-inducing by the end. I would think, “Is anybody watching this? Why is that guy looking at my phone? Who is this?”‘ he said. ‘Your brain starts going a little crazy. I’m looking forward to my brain not feeling so crazy.'”
However, what’s even more interesting in the piece is the suggestion that Sinker may have stumbled upon a brand new kind of literature. As the feed evolved, it stopped being just silly non sequiturs and developed a whole universe with a continuing narrative and characters. However, when the tweets get collected and published in a printed form (as they undoubtedly will at some point), it won’t have the same effect as reading them live. As the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal points out, Sinker wrote stories that required the real time serialization for their full enjoyment. Pretty impressive for something that started with the tweet “fuck you right in your fucking face-hole.”
It’s an idea that has been employed a few times since the advent of Twitter. For example, a few months ago, the sitcom Community created fictional accounts for its characters and had them act out a “prequel” before this season’s premiere. But that was nothing like the sustained storytelling of the @MayorEmanuel feed.
Of course, all of that highfalutin literary stuff can be debated in the months and years to come. Right now all that’s important is we know who wrote @MayorEmanuel. His name is Dan Sinker and, in the words of his creation, he’s a fucking genius, bitches.
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