A strange note came through the Twitter feed last week...
JohnCanzanoBFT: The BFT impersonator has been formally removed by Twitter for copyright infringement.
BFT, of course, stands for Bald Faced Truth, the name of Mr. Canzano's radio program and website. It seems that not long after Mr. Canzano began touting a new Twitter profile (@JohnCanzanoBFT), an impersonator started up a second profile (@Da_Real_Canzano), aimed at spoofing his radio show, blog posts and Oregonian columns.
One of the biggest gripes that many people have with Twitter is that it allows, if not encourages, deception: anonymous individuals and/or marketing firms can easily pose as celebrities. Huffington Post has looked at the impersonator phenomenon. The New York Times has discussed the public relations ghosts. Fake Twitter accounts have popped up for numerous NBA personalities -- from Jerry Sloan to Kevin Durant -- and good people like Nate Jones have spent valuable time working to get the fakes shut down to protect their clients' image. Recently (and hilariously), a Deadspin.com editor outed himself as the man behind a fake twitter account that lampooned ESPN's Rick Reilly.
So, in this climate, it's not a huge surprise that someone took up the task of impersonating John Canzano, Oregon's most recognizable and controversial media personality.
The path from the beginning of the impersonation until the account's eventual termination last week (more than a month after the account had been set up) is worth another look.
So here's an interview with the anonymous man behind "Da_Real_Canzano." As always, my questions are bolded. His manifesto-like answers are in blockquote.
it should go without saying that "Da_Real_Canzano" speaks for himself and his statements do not reflect the views of Blazersedge.com or its writers.
Who are you?
A guy in his early twenties. Portland native. Blazer fan. I like IMAX movies and food with cheese in it.
Let me just get the most obvious question out of the way up front. You spent hours impersonating a sportswriter on a social networking site. How do you counter assertions that you have no life?
Writing Da_Real_Canzano's (DRC) parody isn't exactly a Herculean task. Most of the material was written by the man himself. A hat tip to Canzano for carrying 90% of the water.
His one sentence paragraphs.
His. One. Word. Sentences.
How he magically becomes the focal point every time he puts his pencil to paper. His formulaic writing. His overall absence from reality. All that made it easy.
What is it about Mr. Canzano that drew you to impersonating him?
You have a guy like Jason Quick who's a fantastic beat writer. He's at nearly every Blazer event, building relationships with the team... reporting. As a Blazer fan, you want this. There's a place for this.
Then you have a guy like Canzano. He peddles his stale takes by reanimating 2 week old 'news' with a sunset metaphor and a long, lustful stare and calls it good.
Blazer fan 2.0 demands more than that.
I do not care about the oldest Blazer fan or the family of Blazer fans that have been hindered by 100 years of bad luck. I care about the Blazers, not puff pieces. I wasn't alone.
I wanted to take my frustration to the next level and Twitter was the perfect platform to do so.
Can you explain the anatomy of a DRC tweet for those who might not have read them?
My all time favorite DRC tweet was: "It's tough to type when you're holding Jason Quick's notes in one hand and Kevin Pritchard's talking points in the other."
This was inspired by the Canzano article where he gazed into Greg Oden's eyes and attempted to discern if he really wanted to play. Of course, Quick had covered this topic a week or so before. It was just lazy.
There were also a lot of obvious parodies of Canzano's ridiculous BFT logo. I had a field day with that logo. I mean, look at it. I likened pictures of pencils to [adult internet material]. I once claimed he was composed entirely of pencils. He tried gnawing on mechanical pencils. A tweet where he dreamed he was a beaver that was paired with a Chuang Tzu quote.
What kind of reactions did you provoke?
A multitude of people believed that DRC was genuine (that it was actually Canzano himself posting). Too many. I'm not sure if that reflects poorly on the individuals who took the bait or Canzano himself. Probably both.
In the beginning, Canzano tracked down the people that got duped to notify them that they were actually corresponding with an impostor! He even solicited help from these people, asking them to spread the word about his phony. Unfortunately, the most interesting reactions all happened privately via direct message.
I'm not going to name names... but prominent figures employed by the local news stations, periodicals and Trail Blazers privately expressed their appreciation. I got the impression Canzano isn't very popular with his peers.
DRC received many messages, both direct and public, claiming the shtick had outgrown itself, that DRC had become predictable and tired. Heh... I chalked all those up as compliments.
You can't blame Mr. Canzano for protecting his name, can you? What was your impression of how he handled it?
Rule 14 of the Internet: do not argue with trolls - it means that they win.
I was in awe. Botched. Horrendously. It was surreal. I'm sitting here trying to think of a way in which he could have reacted worse. I can't. He just went off.
Here's the first mention of DRC on the BFT... "the people at Twitter and the legal team are working on getting me the identity of the person who's impersonating me. Because you can do that... you basically have to subpoena the social networking sites. I never thought id have to do it. I guess that's flattering. I guess when I get the DMV photos of the guy ill probably look at his picture and go 'oh yeah I can see why hes impersonating me I'm much better looking...'
The second and third mentions (which happen to be the most outlandish outbursts... he claimed that my door was about to get kicked in) came in the February 27th abbreviated show. Surprisingly, this podcast was never made available to download. Coincidence?
I hope that this interview finds Canzano/95.5 The Game, and somebody over there makes the podcast available.
Here's his blog post about the DRC. He wrote the following in that same post and then edited it out, "Twitter is about to provide the dude's identity to lawyers and ban him. But come on, dude. Be original. Unless you're really, really ugly (as I suspect is the case) in which case I think it's OK to use my face instead of yours."
"Be original... but I'm gonna use this lame joke for the 4th time." Ugly! Internet stereotypes! Parents basement! LOLZ! NERD!!!
So that's what this was all about for you: "Newspapers vs. the Internet?"
I'm in my early twenties and my day starts with a cup of coffee, The Oregonian and The Wall Street Journal.
The Seattle P-I. The Rocky Mountain News. The Oregonian's cuts. The New York Times Media Group making similar pay cuts. It's a shame.
It happens though. Look at Pogs and Magic: The Gathering. All good things must come to an end.
What do you think your impact, if any, has been?
I believe people enjoyed the parody. I know that I have. Canzano's gross mishandling of the situation made it that much better.
In the end, I had 1042 followers. Canzano still hasn't broken 1000. All that in less time and without daily radio and blog plugs.
Any final reflections now that Twitter has terminated your account?
I think DRC bugged Canzano because he couldn't screen my calls, there was no cutting me off. I could not be silenced or ignored. He did his best to scare me into retreating. I mocked his empty threats. He called me ugly. The attacks came on every medium: radio, blog and twitter.
Unintentionally, he validated everything I had written. My parody was animated by his hand. It became real.
Canzano is human. His heart was in the right place. Nobody asks for this. When you're in the public eye, criticism lurks at every turn. It takes balls to do what Canzano does everyday. Putting something out there with your name on it isnt easy. Not everyone is cut out for it.
You don't get to his level without being personable and charismatic. You get to where he's at by working hard. By putting in the time and outshining your peers. Canzano has done that.
I respect him, it's unfortunate he wasn't capable of offering me the same.
Is twitter.com/da_fake_canzano available? It is... Interesting. I'd follow that twitter account.
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PS It's important to acknowledge the work that Mr. Canzano has done with his real Twitter feed, including providing us with the first public statement from an Oregonian employee regarding the paper's announcement last week.