on the internet, no one knows you’re not Tony La Russa

EDIT/UPDATE: After reading Collin’s comment, I decided to research further. The lawsuit was settled out of court, but part of the issue was distasteful references to players who had died of heart conditions or driving accidents. Bad taste! I’d sue if I were La Russa too, in this case — but because I’d be serious about it.

My point below wasn’t to be critical of La Russa for the lawsuit here, but to play with ideas of authenticity. Ooo, but now I feel in bad taste having written this. Thanks, Collin, for pointing this out!

ORIGINAL POST:
It’s become a cliché of the Internet: that cartoon with the dog at his computer with the caption, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”

Recently Cardinals coach Tony La Rusa sued Twitter because someone had an account claiming to be him. This led Twitter to launch verified accounts, where celebrities and other folks can get a little badge on their Twitter account letting the world know they’re real. This doesn’t mean no one else is real, but some people are more real than other people.

I’m a bit bummed about the verified button. I mean, I don’t care if it’s the real Ashton Kutcher or not. I don’t follow him anyway. I don’t really follow any celebrities, except Margaret Cho and Amanda Palmer—they’re funny. One of the things I like about the Internet is the way that authenticity breaks down a bit. Anonymous, psuedonymous, fake. Obviously, this can cause problems. Huge problems at times. But it can also let us think a bit about how identity isn’t so fixed, that perhaps authenticity is as much a fabrication as anything else.

If I were La Russa, I’d be ecstatic that someone made a fake account under my name. “Someone’s paying attention to me!” If I were him, I’d probably sue too, but not because I’d want to win, but to get more press. I mean, really, who, outside of baseball fans, thinks about La Russa? I hadn’t thought about him in years, not since those Slim Fast commercials, I first thought. And then I realized that was a different Tony, Lasorda, actually. So possibly, I hadn’t thought of La Russa in any context ever other than, yawn! the Cardinals, yawn.1

But my guess is that La Russa is actually concerned about his reputation (“dilution, cybersquatting, and misappropriation of name and likeness” etc. etc. etc.), not upping any attention to himself. His name and likeness hasn’t been “diluted,” though. It’s been hightened, enlarged, recontextualized, given some life outside of baseball. If I were him, I’d drop the lawsuit and pay the person who was impersonating me to continue. Because I’d be La Russa, and I’d have the big bucks. The big MLB bucks.2

But my point is that what I find most fascinating (okay, as fascinating as a few other things) is the way the Internet often gets us to question authenticity. I mean, one thing I love about Chris Crocker’s Leave Brittney Alone video was how people kept asking if he was serious or not. I wasn’t concerned if he was serious about it or not, but that people were obsessing over whether he was being serious or facetious. Fascinating!

Now, I’m not advocating for the complete breakdown of truth, but rather some form of ruptures or schisms (or something to that effect) in this “cult of authenticity” that our society has built up. A fake La Russa Twitter account probably isn’t that great of a rupture. In fact, it’s probably banal and doesn’t change a darn thing.

1 No offense to Cardinals fans. If Carrie Prejean can get away with just saying “no offense”, then so can I. (also, tehe.) And I’m certain La Russa is a nice man and I don’t mean any offense to him.

2 Also interesting: “cybersquatting.” To squat means to sit, live, inhabit property that’s not “supposed” to be your own. Does this mean that identity is now “property,” like intellectual property? Tony La Russa™? Or that an identity or name on a social network site can be claimed as already our own, even if we don’t have an account? Someone should test this out. Somehow. Not sure how. “Cybersquatting.” Such a strange term.

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2 Responses to on the internet, no one knows you’re not Tony La Russa

  1. collin says:

    I haven’t been following the story super-closely, but my understanding is that the reason for the suit wasn’t just that someone set up a fake LaRussa account. The issue was that the person was using it to make really tasteless comments riffing on the fact that a couple of Cardinals’ players have died in recent years.

    I’m not a huge LaRussa fan or anything, but I can understand why he wouldn’t want “his” Twitter account to be cracking jokes about the deaths of his players. I don’t think it’s so much a reputation management issue…

    cgb

  2. Michael says:

    Eeek. That’s tasteless and awful, if the comments were about dead players. Thanks for that info. I hadn’t seen that stated anywhere on anything I read. Yeah, I wouldn’t want that attached to “my” twitter account either.

    (Didn’t mean the post to be so much a critique of La Russa’s choice to sue, either. More of an opportunity to think about the whole authenticity issue.)

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