Inside the mind of the fake Jeff Jarvis

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

I really enjoyed this profile of Rurik Bradbury, the man behind the amusing Jeff Jarvis parody account @ProfJeffJarvis:

A main target of Bradbury’s satire is the Orwellian lengths to which major tech players go to distort language. […] Bradbury’s semantic umbrage is not limited to big platforms like Facebook or Google. He also takes issue with “meme hustlers” who try to fill the Web with their deep thoughts so they can sell books and charge high consulting fees. He thinks the sharing economy espoused by Uber and Airbnb should actually be called “poor persons as a service.”

To give you a taste of his medicine, here’s a typical tweet:

The Sermon on the Mount was the first TED Talk.— Post-Halloween (@ProfJeffJarvis) April 23, 2014

And another:

Will thinkfluencers in future need to hire security to protect against weaponized memes?

— Post-Halloween (@ProfJeffJarvis) November 23, 2014

Is satire trolling?

I’ve always enjoyed his work, because it does nicely capture the inherent ridiculousness of the outer edges of the field I work in. Jeff Jarvis himself has been less amused:

Now I tried to talk to my imposter-troll earlier in his two-and-a-half-year and 17,500-tweet campaign against me. He didn’t have the balls. After he affected my reputation with someone I’ve met, I sent him another message, saying he’d crossed the line. He still doesn’t have sufficient balls or the decency or the mere maturity and civility to talk to me. Hasn’t he had his fun already? But there’s no reasoning with trolls; indeed, that’s the definition of a troll.

I struggle a little with this – satire and trolling are distinctly different things, although exploiting someone’s failure to recognise that it’s a parody account, not the real one, does come perilously close to trolling (even if the victim in this case clearly takes himself far too seriously).

Still, satire is a valid part of our intellectual life, and I’m uncomfortable with dismissing it as trolling this easily.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.