A couple of days ago the Wall Street Journal published what almost seemed like a parody of an op-ed, arguing for a third way party — “the Innovation Party,” naturally — that would allow Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to Lean In on partisan politics, and create a non-ideological hack for civic republicanism, etc.
This text created a target-rich environment for satire, which led Esquire to publish a piece featuring insights such as:
The Innovation Party will be phablet-first, and communicate only via push notifications to smartphones. The only deals it cuts will be with Apple and Google, not with special interests. We will integrate natively with iOS and Android, and spread the message using emojis and GIFs, rather than the earth-killing longform print mailers of yesteryear. This will give us direct access to netizens, so we can be more responsive than any political party in history.
Now that’s pretty funny — IMO LOL — although admittedly the WSJ piece already read like satire, so this exercise seemed a bit redundant, like satirizing Goldfinger or Donald Trump. But whatever.
The problem was the Esquire piece was run under this byline:
Prof Jeff Jarvis is a Hyperglocal thinkfluencer and a Journalism 3.0 advocate. He is the cofounder @ Mogadishu:REinvent unconference and CEO Mogadishu Capital Partners LLC. Not @JeffJarvis.
That turned out to be a problem because there’s an actual Prof. Jeff Jarvis, who is apparently well-known in certain circles, or at least well known enough to have inspired a parody twitter account, run by somebody supposedly named Rurik Bradbury, who turns out to have been the “real” — assuming that word means anything any more in this postmodern hypertext cyberworld — author of the Esquire item:
“Prof. Jeff Jarvis” isn’t former Entertainment Weekly editor and well-known future-of-media pontificator Jeff Jarvis. Rather, it’s a character developed in a parody Twitter account run by Bradbury. Well-known in certain media circles, @ProfJeffJarvis initially satirized the thoughts of Jarvis himself before growing into a more general and very funny riff on the pie-in-the-sky gambits of new media.
The piece has now disappeared from Esquire’s website, apparently because the real Jeff Jarvis, also a journalism professor, “emailed […] Hearst executives” who “brought in other editors,” setting up a chain of events that seem to have resulted in the piece being removed entirely.
But of course nothing can be removed entirely from the Internet (see for example the sad story of the now ex-chancellor of UC-Davis), plus there’s the Streisand Effect, of which this incident is a nice example I suppose.
Anyway this all seems like tricky territory. How famous do you have to be to legitimize someone satirizing you in a national magazine via a fake Twitter account? Is it OK that Jeff Jarvis used his friends in high places to pressure Esquire to throw the article down the memory hole? How do we balance the fact that people spend 15 seconds or whatever looking at satirical pieces that aren’t obviously satire with the fact that it takes 15 seconds to confirm whether something is satire if you bother to check which of course no one does because short attention spans 3.0? Surely there’s an app for questions such as these in development even now, or at least I hope so.