Sinker rises to top as man behind @MayorEmanuel Twitter sensation
It ended a mystery as baffling and tantalizing to some Chicago journalists and political insiders as the identity of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s “Deep Throat” had been to Watergate junkies a generation ago.
In this case, the secret was the name of the person responsible for the Twitter account @MayorEmanuel, a profane but savvy satire on Rahm Emanuel’s run for mayor, which captivated close to 40,000 followers over its five-month run. Even those who didn’t follow the character’s nearly 2,000 obscenity-filled tweets knew of him through talk shows, columns and editorials — as well as the acknowledgement of the real candidate and now mayor-elect.
On Monday, Dan Sinker (pictured above), 36, a journalism professor at Columbia College Chicago and founder of the former underground culture magazine Punk Planet, revealed himself to be the genuine fake Rahm Emanuel.
It’s true: I was @MayorEmanuel.
As I write this, The Atlantic has just released a story revealing that I was in fact @MayorEmanuel, the profane parody Twitter account that shadowed the Real Rahm Emanuel’s campaign for Mayor of Chicago before descending into a Time Vortex the night after the election. Questions about the identity of the up-until-now anonymous author have been raging in the media for months. Staying hidden is really exhausting.
Thanks to the many thousands of you that made this so much fucking fun.
Credit for breaking the story goes to the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal, who cited a “protracted e-mail negotiation” before Sinker agreed to be outed on the magazine’s website Monday.
“The profane, brilliant stream of tweets not only may be the most entertaining feed ever created, but it pushed the boundaries of the medium, making Twitter feel less like a humble platform for updating your status and more like a place where literature could happen,” Madrigal wrote. “There is no doubt that it is a cultural work of some kind. And at 1,942 tweets and probably 30,000 words, it's a piece of writing with some heft and depth.”
Almost as entertaining as following Sinker’s soap opera as @MayorEmanuel was observing the media frenzy that erupted after his outing.
As television crews began descending on Sinker’s north suburban Evanston home, his tweets seemed to grow more distraught: “There’s a guy with a camera outside my house.” Followed by: “Now there is more than one person with a camera outside my house.” Followed by: “Every TV station in Chicago is currently outside. Fuck.”
My former bosses at Chicago Public Media, who announced they had lined up Sinker for his “first broadcast interview” at 9am Tuesday on the WBEZ-FM (91.5) newsmagazine Eight Forty-Eight, tried desperately to keep him away from other microphones: “Whatever you do — don't talk to anyone until @848 tomorrow!” tweeted producer Andrew Gill. “Get to the roof! Bourne Identity style! Go! Go! Go! Leave behind your valuables!!!!” tweeted senior content developer Justin Kaufmann, who knows a thing or two about mayoral hoaxes himself.
Roe Conn and Richard Roeper, afternoon personalities at Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890), seemed equally determined to own the story, having extracted a promise from the real Emanuel earlier to donate $5,000 to charity if the fake Emanuel revealed himself on their show. “The offer still stands to the man behind my foul-mouthed Twitter counterpart @MayorEmanuel — $5K to the charity of his choice,” the mayor-elect tweeted Monday.
Sinker eventually acceded to the TV news horde. “Until you guys showed up at my front door, it felt really relaxing,” he told ABC 7’s Ben Bradley, who scored the first on-camera interview. Sinker praised the real Emanuel for his forbearance and good humor about it all. "I got to give him credit. They could have written Twitter and had this thing shut down the minute I started," he told Bradley.
Still, the fact that Chicago’s hottest media sensation in years chose to reveal himself in an out-of-town publication seemed disloyal to some — including at least one slightly miffed editor here. Blogged Time Out Chicago senior Web editor John Dugan: “TOC has written up just about every goddamn little thing Sinker has ever done but apparently the Atlantic gets this scoop. No hard feelings, Dan. Really.”