Raising profanity to the level of literature

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dan Sinker, founder of the regrettably defunct magazine Punk Planet, revealed to The Atlantic that he is the author of the popular Twitter parody of Rahm Emanuel’s campaign for mayor of Chicago. On Sinker’s affinity for the project, @MayorEmanuel, Alexis Madrigal writes:

Sinker described the punk rock mindset in his introduction to a 2001 book that collected interviews from the zine. "[Punk] is about looking at the world around you and asking, 'Why are things as fucked up as they are?'" he wrote. "And then it's about looking inwards at yourself and asking, "Why aren't I doing anything about this?"

And in some sense, the glory of @MayorEmanuel was that it exposed the dark humor that political operatives know and love, mixed with the drunken idealism that tends to drive the politicos.

As of this writing, the faux Rahm Emanuel Twitter account has tweeted 1,954 times and has nearly 41,000 followers. The real Twitter voice of Emanuel’s campaign, @RahmEmanuel, has posted 628 Tweets and has 12,590 followers. Also as of this writing, Emanuel’s latest Tweet is, “The offer still stands to the man behind my foul-mouthed Twitter counterpart @MayorEmanuel - $5K to the charity of his choice.” The smart parody probably helped the Emanuel campaign more than it detracted.

Several conditions conspired to make Dan Sinker’s stream of profane Tweets a story worth following. First, the mandatory brevity of Tweets can transform a crude punch into a poetic line. Second, the political savvy behind the story line resonated with voters following actual news, such as the Illinois appellate court’s ruling that Emanuel could not run for mayor. After the court’s announcement, faux Emanuel tweeted, “OK, Carl the Intern makes a good point: Appellate courts are for pussies. We're going to mother(expletive) Supreme this bullshit." Then he threw a chair through a window and trashed his apartment. Third, Sinker portrayed believable and interesting characters, some parodic, such as Quaxelrod for Axelrod, and some invented, such as Carl the campaign intern. Finally, Sinker seems to have distilled real character traits of Emanuel, such as his propensity to curse, and taken a departure into satire that did meaningfully contrast with the staid and measured demeanor of Emanuel’s actual campaign persona.

@MayorEmanuel was also a fully dimensional character. He tweeted throughout the Bears playoff loss to Green Bay. After the game was over, he tweeted, “(Expletive) empty mother(expletive) emptiness.” That’s sort of how we feel now that the @MayorEmanuel romp is over.