“GOD LOVES US ALL, no matter how black or African, or even gay or Jewish we are.” This over-the-top benediction, its author believed, would surely tip off his readers to the bogus nature of the “Governor Palin” Facebook profile he'd carefully crafted over the summer. Not so. According to the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles screenwriter Alex Grossman created the fake Sarah Palin persona as an experiment to see how gullible “faith over fact” Americans were. His discovery: Very.
It seems that the more outlandish the comments made by “Governor Palin” on Grossman's Facebook page, the more followers of the real Palin he attracted. “Grossman admitted that he sometimes felt guilty for deceiving people,” the WSJ says.
“One woman wrote that she had a sick child and she asked that 'Sarah' pray for him. 'I felt terrible,' Grossman said. 'It went into an area I
wasn't prepared for.'”
Eventually enough people sounded enough suspicions so that Grossman was run to ground — on August 9, the WSJ article
says, he was denied access to his experiment by Facebook. Grossman's
story should serve as both a fable of faith and a creation tale gone
awry. Grossman's intentional posting of banal pleasantries and requests
for salmon recipes attracted hundreds of Palin supporters
who see her as a faith-based conservative messiah. His obvious
unwillingness to pull the plug on his own Frankenstein creation
demonstrates the awesome influence of new media — and the sense of godlike power it
bestows upon anonymous bloggers.
Forget Lori Drew, the “MySpace Mom”
who was charged in federal court for computer fraud after she broke
MySpace's tiny-print rules against creating fictitious profiles on the
social networking site. Her trespass came to light only when a
13-year-old girl committed suicide as the result of Drew fabricating a
young cyber hunk who befriended, then rejected the girl through Instant Messaging. Grossman, who tried
to spoof Palin only to find her unspoofable, did something different, though potentially just as dangerous.
What would have
happened if he had invented a completely fictional folksy online personality and
watched as a mass movement grew around this cipher to become a potent
political force? Would he have ended the experiment, or would he — or someone else — have been tempted to find a flesh and blood “face in the crowd” to embody his creation?