Friday, March 4, 2011

An in-joke I don’t get? Or is Twitter “fake Rahm” much adieu about nothing?

I don’t Twitter.
EMANUEL: A good sport

Having made that disclosure, I have to say that all of the hullabaloo this week concerning the Columbia College instructor who for the past few months did the Twitter account that sent out messages in the persona of Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel strikes me as being pretty pointless.

I DON’T GET the big deal.

Of course, back in the mid-1990s when the novel “Primary Colors” came out (telling the story of a fictional presidential candidate who bore a close resemblance to the real-life story of Bill Clinton), a similar frenzy occurred because the author of that novel officially is “Anonymous.”

We later learned that it was a writer for Newsweek who didn’t want the attention to his fiction to detract from his reporting. Of course, some people insisted on making a controversy out of that issue, and whether or not a “news reporter” ought to be secretive about any aspect of his own professional life.

Similar to how some now want to make a big deal (The Atlantic magazine claims to have “broken” this story) out of Dan Sinker – who in addition to his teaching duties used to publish a newsletter about pop culture that was respected in certain circles (I’m not dissing it. I’ve just never read it myself).

BUT FOR THE past several months, Sinker also went into anonymity in writing a Twitter account known as “” The individual lines (none longer than 140 characters in length – about the substance of one detailed sentence) were written as though they were actually composed by mayoral candidate himself.

Which means that the “punch line” to this whole project, particularly in its early days, was to play off the perception of “Rahm-bo” Emanuel, the hard-nosed White House aide who had a potty mouth and wasn’t afraid to use it for professional purposes.

I realize some people really got into this, signing up so they could read the pseudo-Emanuel “twits” to see what is happening next. I must admit to never having seen any of them until earlier this week, when a website went so far as to publish the entire string of comments in one piece.

One could sit back and read the whole saga of Emanuel offering up his thoughts about every nitpicking detail.

TO ME, IT just seemed like a lot of trivial blather. The one time I considered creating a Twitter account, I concluded that anything I would write there, I could write more thoroughly here. Although I will concede that one commentator may have a point when he wrote that these fake Emanuel twits lose a lot of meaning when they are read in a single blast.

He may be correct when he says that they built their drama by trickling in at all odd hours, and where one got to the point of anxiously awaiting the next Twitter response to see where the storyline was going from here.

Still, I just don’t see the point, particularly from those people who want to believe that Sinker is now somehow developing a new form of story-telling that can help inform people about the great issues of our times and the personalities who make things happen in the world that likes to think of itself as, “doing the people’s business.”
OMARR: 20th Century Twitter?

I’d argue that it is little more than entertainment, just as newspapers for generations have published items such as comic strips and horoscopes to help draw in a few more readers. Nobody would claim that Sydney Omarr’s work that was published for many years by the Chicago Sun-Times was in any way journalistic.

NOW FOR THOSE of you who are going to try to tell me I’m living in the past and “just don’t get it,” I’d argue I probably get it better than most. “Fake Rahm” was fun while it lasted, but I’m not going to read into it any more significance than it deserves.

If anything, Real Rahm probably handled the unveiling of Sinker’s identity the best – making a sizable contribution to a charity of Sinker’s choice, and going so far as to say during one radio interview that there were times when Fake Rahm accurately reflected his thoughts.

He didn’t let it become an issue. He treated it in its proper context – which was to provide a laugh, before moving on to more serious measures.

I can’t help but think that many of the people who want to make more of this than it is worth are interested in ignoring serious measures – just like those people who never fail to amaze me by claiming they really get their “news” from “fake news show” anchorman Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show.”

PERSONALLY, I’D THINK that most of Stewart’s gags wouldn’t make sense unless you knew the details (which would have meant picking them up from somewhere else).

Just like I would think that most of “Fake Rahm” would be unintelligible if read out-of-context. Unless you’re the kind of person who gets the giggles from reading words like “doody” and “butt.”

Which, to me at least, makes Twitter accounts sound too much like a modern-day version of “Beavis and Butthead.”


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