For about three years, investment cognoscenti have been deviled by snarky comments on Twitter purporting to come from inside the elevator at Goldman Sachs, the investment banking firm that has long been a paragon of capitalism. The disdainful, pointed comments often portrayed the modern economic elite as wildly out of touch and full of contempt for the masses.
Now, the New York Times has done the world a service by uncovering the author of the tweets, and it turns out the person doesn’t even work at Goldman Sachs and never did. He even lives in Texas and not Manhattan.
“Frankly, I’m surprised it has taken this long,” John Lefevre, also known as @GSElevator, told the Times from his home in Texas. “I knew this day would come.”
It should come as no surprise that someone could hide his identity by using social media such as Twitter. If you think such lying is rare, take a look at the online dating world or get-rich quick offers by “aristocrats” of numerous Third World countries.
Nor are hoaxes unique to the Web, just ask any newspaper editor who looked at a news release and sent a cub reporter to cover an outlandish event such as the opening of a school for beggars or weighed the merits of another purported secret diary of Adolf Hitler.
The difference between old-style hoaxes and practical jokes and the new electronic version is just how easy it is to be successful at it.
Lefevre, 34, is a former bond executive who perfectly captured the pitch of wealthy privilege having to cope in a world in which the other 99% sadly existed and didn’t seem to understand their inferior status was well earned.
“I never give money to homeless people. I can’t reward failure in good conscience,” and “Groupon … Food stamps for the middle class” were two examples of how the masters of the universe try to cope.
“Suit #1: ‘Was that an earthquake?’ ”
“Suit #2: ‘No, I just dropped my wallet.’ ”
“I always make sure I live in a neighborhood with the champagne socialists. No one is better at keeping the riffraff out.”
The Twitter account, which attracted about 630,000 followers -- not exactly Justin Bieber status, but far from shabby -- was a pastiche of Wall Street gossip, scatological comments and just plain trash talk about the rich. It was popular for its insight, but also for its alleged birth inside an elevator en route to the halls of capitalism. It offered a glimpse of the rich in a rare moment of honesty. It was billed as what the philosopher Jurgen Habermas called an undistorted communication, one in which the speaker is sincere and not trying to deceive the listener.
Sure, it was a hoax or a practical joke, but that is not likely to distract from its acceptance. Who among us would turn away from the emperor, even after the little boy shouts the man is naked?
“I do not have an agenda to paint the people or this culture one way or the other,” Lefevre told the Times.
“I went into investment banking and I saw a group of people that aren’t as impressive as I thought they were — or as impressive as they thought they were,” he said.
Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is scheduled to publish a book based on the Twitter account.
As for Goldman?
“We are pleased to report that the official ban on talking in elevators will be lifted effective immediately,” a spokesman said.