@GSElevator, David Sedaris and the disillusionment of “unmaskings”

February 25, 2014

@GSElevator, the gossipy Goldman Sachs’ banker who tweeted his coworkers’ misdeeds to an audience of more than half a million, is — it turns out! — not a Goldman Sachs banker. He doesn’t even work on Wall Street.

His name is John Lefevre and, per the New York Times, he’s a 34-year-old former bond executive who now (a) lives in Texas and (b) started @GSElevator as a joke.

Surprising? Hardly. These types of “reveals” have become so routine that it’s impossible to feel much more than jaded resignation when faced with the Internet’s ever-more-inventive powers of illusion and dissemblance. At this point, we may as well assume that every hilarious viral video was manufactured by Jimmy Kimmel, every oddly poetic spambot is a piece of performance art, and every insidery Twitter account is just some jokester on the outside, “pandering for retweets.”

In fact, the most interesting part of Lefevre’s reveal is the fact that neither he nor his publisher — because he did sell a book off the @GSElevator concept — seem to think the falsity of the whole project will bother anyone else. After all, it’s still “based on” his actual experiences in the finance industry. He still heard all (most?) of these things, just not in recent years, not from Goldman Sachs employees, and not in the Goldman Sachs elevator.

That defense evokes, randomly enough, the essayist David Sedaris, who has taken lots of flack over the years for transplanting scenes, exaggerating characters, inventing dialogue and otherwise adjusting “true” stories to make them more readable.

“Things that seem stupid as fiction somehow seem hilarious if they’re perceived to be real,” Alex Heard wrote of Sedaris’ work in a 2007 debunking.

And that’s really the problem with @GSElevator now: The narrative of that account was so perfect, so immediately clean and clever and digestible, that any deviation can’t help but disappoint. A mysterious mole, surreptitiously outing the goings-on of evil finance ne’er-do-wells? — that’s a story. But some washed-up finance dude in Texas, reliving his banker glory days online…? That lacks the mystery and suspense and transgression of @GSElevator. In short, it lacks all the juicy narrative elements, and without them, it looks too much like, well — normal, mundane life.

At least we still have @NYTFridge. Never change, @NYTFridge. Never change.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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