Every few months, a Twitter account bearing the name of somebody famous in the literary world pops up. The syntax is constant. The opening tweet goes something like, “I join Twitter today. Interesting!” People who should know better, and a great many who shouldn’t, fall for it. A few more tweets that cause a ruckus, perhaps announcing the death of another author or some other famous figure, follows. And then, once it’s clear the account is fake, because some PR person had been badgered by gullible or cynical media people about its veracity says so, there is a final tweet that goes something like this: “This account is an [sic] hoax created by Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti.”
Debenedetti, as he explained to the Guardian in 2012, is unrepentant about his Twitter-hoaxing: “Social media is the most unverifiable information source in the world but the news media believes it because of its need for speed.” But his fabrication roots run far deeper, as the New Yorker’s Judith Thurman discovered in 2010, reporting on Debenedetti’s penchant for making up interviews with authors like Philip Roth.
He was not amused then, and likely was even less amused when Debenedetti created a fake account in Roth’s name in December 2012. But being unmasked hardly matters when you have no shame, and revel in other people’s stupidity. Which is why we’ve also had fake Don DeLillo, fake Thomas Pynchon, fake Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and just tonight, fake Alice Munro.
I have no doubt whatsoever that Debenedetti will be back it under a new Twitter guise some months from now, when the collective Twittersphere has loosed his last hoax from its memory. But I suppose I am the proverbial elephant. I don’t forget, I know the tells. Unless he changes them. I doubt it: sociopathic hacks always have a signature.
ETA, 10/9/13: Well, that was fast. So fast that after I retweeted it, the message — and an earlier one — disappeared. I was expecting Debenedetti’s unmasking to hold out until at least after tomorrow’s Nobel Prize for Literature announcement. He really need to find some new shtick. But don’t worry. He’ll be back.
ETA, 10/15/13: Apparently Tommasso rebounded even more quickly than I expected — better to brazen it out, I suppose? In any case, let’s “enjoy” fake EL Doctorow for its short-lived life and perhaps he’ll even start taking requests (Total Request Tommasso?)