The Anonymous Satirist

I often lament the lack of perspective in tech reporting, so it’s always a delight to find a story that typifies what I’d hope technology reporting could be like: Smart, informed, and with a good sense of history. Take Caroline McCarthy’s look at the allure of Fake Steve Jobs. Now, CNET’s not known for being the most circumspect tech news venue around, but this is a brililiant dissection of why Fake Steve Jobs is so appealing.

Fake Steve, as a concept, is downright old-school. Think about it. In a culture captivated–obsessed, even–by the antics of high society, an anonymous satirist starts publishing over-the-top missives purporting to be from an insider in that privileged niche. In the process, the faux-mogul skewers political elites, entertainers, business titans, and ordinary people in a way that’s at once outlandish and provocative, hilarious and appalling. It reeks of Swift or Dickens or Twain (although a friend of mine who’s better-schooled in 19th-century literature informed me that the most apt comparison is likely Edgar Allan Poe). Were it the 19th century, or heck, the 1990s, the satirist’s medium of choice likely would’ve been a serial or set of letters in a major news outlet.

And she’s absolutely right. The fact that tech culture has become so pervasive as to merge with pop culture, and that personalities are so well-known that they can be used as a springboard for social criticism, is a milestone for the technology industry. It also points out why unmasking Fake Steve would be a little bit like telling a kid the truth about Santa Claus: You may be factually correct, but you’ll have ruined all the fun and lost the little bit of magic that we have left.