Final thoughts from the eye of the Eisenstadt hurricane
November 14, 2008 by William K. Wolfrum
A long, long time ago, on an Internets far, far away, two filmmakers who briefly hoaxed a blogger from a popular Web site. Chagrined, the blogger began researching how and why he was hoaxed, and eventually came up with the truth. This is that blogger’s story.
Yes, friends, yesterday I got to watch a media storm from the inside. Except that I learned that you don’t really get to be on the inside if you don’t fit the narrative.
It goes a little something like this: A few days ago, my one-time nemesis Martin Eisenstadt finally stumbled upon the perfect hoax. It went down something like this: Carl Cameron of Fox News told Bill O’Reilly that “anonymous campaign sources” had told him that Sarah Palin didn’t know whether Africa was a country or a continent among other things, including that she once greeted McCain campaign workers while wearing a bathrobe or towel (the horror!) when they met her in her hotel room to talk shop. After a couple of days, Eisenstadt took credit for being that source and all hell promptly broke lose as several mainstream media types – including MSNBC, The New Republic and Andrew Sullivan – reported this as fact.
Of course, it wasn’t. Martin Eisenstadt is a hoax. But you knew that. I shared my research here and at Shakesville, leading to a post on June 10 where I was able to make the connection with Eisenstadt and viral blogger Abrad2345 and culminating with a post that presented video evidence that the “Eisenstadt” character was a put-on.
This week, everyone who reported on Eisenstadt’s latest hoax quickly unreported it. But this story had legs. On Tuesday, I received an interview request from Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times. Wednesday evening, that story came out and the true identity of Martin Eisenstadt became known – he is actually Eitan Gorlin, an actor and filmmaker who created the Eisenstadt character along with his friend and fellow filmmaker Dan Mirvish.
Here are my final thoughts on this hoax that went viral:
1. Despite the fact that my June posts on the Eisenstadt hoax come high up on a Google search for him, the only media outlet of any type that has contacted me was the N.Y. Times. And Perez-Pena wouldn’t have contacted me at all if it weren’t for the fact that Gorlin and Mirvish brought me up to him, telling him that they were impressed with the fact that I was on their ass the whole time. Even after the Times story came out, no one has asked for my thoughts on any of it.
2. One of the reasons for that could be this – Perez-Pena ended it with a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that I was part of the hoax. The final quote of the story doesn’t come from me – when he asked me how he could trust I was real, I laughed and said that I was pretty easy to check out, having worked for daily newspapers before. In fact, it turns out that Perez-Pena and I are from the same area of Southern California. Nonetheless, several folks in the blogosphere have questioned whether I am real or if I was part of the hoax.
3. I wasn’t part of the hoax. Although after repeated attempts over the last few months, for the last week or so Gorlin and/or Mirvish have traded a couple e-mails back and forth briefly discussing the matter. They have still never given me much real info, understandably saving any of their admissions for bigger venues.
4. Their hoax that Eisenstadt was the one who leaked the Palin info has created a new false meme – that they were the ones who fooled Cameron in the first place, thus the original smears were not true and that Palin deserves an apology. This just isn’t the case, and even Mirvish has admitted as such. Nonetheless, I’m feeling pretty confident that many, many people will believe that Cameron was hoaxed, regardless. I completely agree that the Palin smears are a sideshow and unfair to her. Sarah Palin did not lose the election for John McCain. The people John McCain chose to run his campaign lost it. And more than that, Barack Obama won it. Nonetheless, the “anonymous sources” – obviously campaign members looking to get the stench of an inept campaign off of them – are still anonymous, and after seeing the vitriol unleashed at “Eisenstadt,” they will likely stay that way.
5. Despite the coverage in the Times and a mention in The Huffington Post, I’ve sort of been written out of the whole thing, it seems, as some scramble to give themselves credit, or scramble to laugh off how they never could have known they had been hoaxed.
To wit: The Web site Gawker ran a self-congratulatory post titled “David Schuster ignores our Martin Eisenstadt hoax warnings” where they gloat that one of their own broke the story on Nov. 4. Mother Jones has gotten credit for breaking it, as well (though they don’t appear to have been courting credit), as they claimed he was a hoax on July 7. I was the one who told them they had been hoaxed, however. SourceWatch put up a post yesterday titled “NYT Kudos: SourceWatch Revealed Hoaxter Eisenstadt,” where they pat themselves on the back for having had the hoax recorded for months. Again, I was the one who first contacted them about it (and they still misspell my name in their page on Eisenstadt.)
My favorite one comes from Andrew Malcolm of the L.A. Times. Yesterday, Malcolm wrote a strange post on Eisenstadt, where he finally, barely, admitted he had been hoaxed by him on July 31 in regard to an invented story about Paris Hilton’s father being angry at McCain. That Malcolm finally admitted is nice – after all, he ignored my call to the L.A. Times Reader Representatives, ignored a comment I put on that blog post, and ignored a blog post taking him to task on it.
Finally, let me just say that despite appearances, I hold no bitterness toward anyone on this. My original investigation on Eisenstadt came at a good time for me – I was in California while my Mom was preparing for a bone marrow transplant in her fight against leukemia. It was pleasant to have something to focus on those worrisome nights. And while I do own an ego, I also recognize that the story isn’t about me.
Also, I have no ill will toward Gorlin and Mirvish. While I found their tactics somewhat annoying, by the end I had no choice but to give them credit. They easily fooled a gullible press, and ended up showcasing a fairly important point – that the 24-hour news cycle has left the mainstream media in shambles.
Because the truth about Martin Eisenstadt has been out there for months. And I’m satisfied with my role as “Javert” to their “Valjean.” And despite the fact that only a few have mentioned my place in the story, I’m quite happy that my readers were here to see us scoop all of them.