I was one of many people who fell for the Twitter account @KimDavis917.
@KimDavis917 was supposedly Kim Davis's own Twitter account. The account, according to its bio, was being manned by Davis's fourth husband because Kim, as you may have heard, is sitting in prison for contempt of court. The account had been up for a week and all of the Tweets sounded perfectly sincere: actual arguments being made by Davis and her supporters, RTs of the vile shit Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have been tweeting out, sincere-seeming expressions of gratitude to people tweeting out their support for Davis. The account had more than 1000 followers, almost all of them "followers of Christ" and backers of Davis.
Last night the person behind @KimDavis917, supposedly her husband, tweeted out a photograph of handwritten letter, allegedly by Kim Davis, packed with misspellings and self-pity. But this was the line that set the Internet on fire:
I sit here with my Bible close to my heart, comuning [sic] with the Lord. I have a lot of time to think or what Rose Parks must have felt! She had it easy let me tell you. The whole WORLD is watching me.
The letter played into leftwing/elitist prejudices about religious rubes—tons of misspellings, dripping with self-pity, the persecution routine/complex—and liberal/progressive/elitist Twitter immediately took the bait. The letter immediately started to go viral—two NYT reporters tweeted it out, Mother Jones picked it up, I tweeted about it (I dubbed it "The Letter From the Derpingham Jail")—and posted about it to Slog. (In our defense: Kim Davis's supporters have been running around all week comparing Davis to Rosa Parks and to Martin Luther King, Jr. In my defense: I did express doubt in my Slog post about whether @KimDavis917 was for real.) Then two Internet sleuths who took the time to, you know, actually think about it for two seconds quickly debunked the letter and unmasked @KimDavis917 as a fraud: @SMLXist thought to Google the Bible passages cited in the letter; @NobleSasquatch did a quick handwriting analysis.
The gig was up. @KimDavis917 was exposed as a troll and I had a good laugh and went to bed. Then this morning I got a DM from @KimDavis917 thanking me for having a sense of humor about being duped. I wrote back and asked the man beind @KimDavis917 if I could send him a few questions.
So you’re the person who tricked New York Times reporters, Mother Jones, MSNBC hosts, and a certain sex-advice columnist this weekend, huh? First question: Are you Kim Davis?
I am not Kim Davis! Though having lived as Kim for a week, I was starting to question where Kim ended and I began.
If you’re not Kim Davis, who are you?
I'm someone who sees right-wing Christians as one of our society's biggest threats to progress. What ever happened to "love thy neighbor"? I wish we lived in a world that put its faith in science and technology, but instead we are fighting wars over Jesus and Muhammad. Many of the right-wing Christian believers are no different than ISIS. They wish to hold us back, and just because they aren't cutting people's heads off doesn't mean they are any better.
Would you call what you did trolling? I mean, trolls are mean-spirited and say terrible things. Were you trolling? Or just fooling? Just having fun?
This was absolutely about shining a spotlight on the beliefs of Kim and her supporters. Trolling is 100% mean-spirited. You can't be mean-spirited if you are against something that is already mean-spirited. And what I do has an element of art to it.
How long ago did you launch @KimDavis917 and when did realize the jig was up?
I launched Kim on Tuesday night. I spent the week reading the horrible things her supporters would say, stoking the fires with replies to people on both sides of the issue. The best comments were chains of people debating whether the account was real or not. They always landed with, "Well, it's not funny, it's very sincere, and it sounds authentic, so..."
I knew the jig was up once the letter picked up steam. There are a few easter eggs in the letter that I intentionally put there so that people would know it wasn't true. I told friends late Saturday night that I felt like she peaked with the letter. I wasn't going to top it. Sarah Jessica Parker once said, "I don't think you want to be the last one to leave the party." And that's very true. If Kim went on, she'd be just another parody account.
I didn’t see your account until the Letter from the Derpingham Jail started to go viral—the one with the perfectly clueless statement about how “Rose Parks” had it comparatively easy. Did you write it by yourself?
After the ridiculous comparisons to MLK Jr and Rosa Parks from her supporters, I got inspired. The letter was a collab with a friend. We wrote it together in a shared google doc and he physically wrote it because my handwriting is literally the worst. I read MLK's actual letter for tips, but I didn't want to really pull anything directly, just a play on the title really.
You got busted because you cited a bible quote—a little something from Luke—but the citation (Luke 16:18) wasn’t a passage about “various trials,” as claimed in the letter, but a passage that condemns adultery and remarriage, which happen to be the actual Kim Davis’s superpowers: "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery." That unmasked you as a “troll.” Do you regret including it? Everyone was fooled and would’ve stayed fooled if it weren’t for that one detail—and for those meddling kids @SMLXist and @NobleSasquatch.
I intentionally misquoted that passage. That was the point! I put in the adultery bible passage because it pointed out how these right-wing Christians cherry pick from the bible. I knew people would be immediately outraged over "Rose Parks" having it easy, so I knew it would take a second pass for someone to go in and look up her references to actually have that "wait a minute" moment. Did you catch that "Kim" misquoted Jesus with The Phantom Of The Opera?
Before I started tweeting about you on Saturday night—and I tweeted in outrage, totally snookered—I went into your timeline and skimmed through hundreds of your tweets. I thought, “This is her, or her husband.” It was pitch-perfect. How could you play it so straight for so long?
Dan, I live for the long con. I knew I couldn't launch KD917 guns blazing. She needed to be a slow burn, build cred among her supporters, and then flip the account. The replies from "Kim" and "Joe" needed to feel sincere, with just enough spelling errors to make you think "Ok, it's them." I would absolutely win Big Brother, by the way.
Most of your 1,100 followers were self-described “followers of Christ”—actual supporters of Kim Davis, people who actually think Christians are being persecuted, and who believed like Kim should have a right to discriminate against other Americans. A million little Huckabees. So who did you enjoy fooling more: reporters from the NYT and MSNBC and sex-advice columnists? Or all the rightwing haters following you who actually thought you were Kim Davis?
The right-wingers!!!! It's delicious, it really is. I knew halfway through the week I was going to flip the account to supporting gay rights and equality, so I wanted to amass as many sincere followers as possible. But getting support for Kim Davis was very hard. Even a lot of people with Jesus in their bio were telling Kim & Joe that they were wrong. I'm not surprised the NYT bit into it, these are the same people who literally published an entirely false story about Hillary Clinton just a month ago—how have they, and others, not learned their lessons to fact check a story? No reporter ever Tweeted the account asking for verification before they posted about it.
No sex-advice columnist either. Okay, so have you been involved in any other campaigns like this? Is this your first hoax? Are you impersonating anyone else online right now?
It's my first time. Beginner's luck?
If people go to @KimDavis917 now… what will they find?
It's pro Hillary. (You go, girl!) The account's supporters are Huckabee/Cruz loons, so I hope they get a dose of reality in their timelines. Surprisingly a number of the account's followers think it was hacked!
Wait a minute... are you Hillary Clinton?
That's one secret I'll never tell
Some people on Twitter have accused me of being the person behind @KimDavis917. Is that true? Are you me?
The mirror has two faces, Dan.