After months of speculation and nearly a week after one of the most prolific Twitter feeds in history came to an end, Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal revealed the identity of @MayorEmanuel Monday afternoon: Punk Planet magazine founder Dan Sinker, a journalism professor at Columbia College in Chicago who was, as Madrigal says, "made to write this feed."
Sinker has the trash-talking background from his days as the editor of Punk Planet -- a music, culture and politics magazine grounded in the punk rock attitude -- he is from Chicago, and he teaches journalism classes focused on new media. He also recently created the Chicago Mayoral Scorecard, an online aggregator for news on the Chicago mayor's race, keeping him constantly in touch with the latest on the campaign.
"My wife has asked me, 'Why did you actually start tweeting?' And for the life of me I can't remember," Sinker told The Atlantic. "I remember I was at home. I think everyone had gone to bed. And I remembered, 'Oh, I have that account. This might be kind of funny.'"
Sinker's secret identity, writes Madrigal, "was known only by his wife, a small circle of friends, and one Chicago Public Schools teacher, Seth Lavin, who figured out Sinker's identity when Sinker used his personal bit.ly account to shorten a link that @MayorEmanuel later tweeted. Lavin kept it mum. Others came close to identifying him, Sinker said. An intern at the Wall Street Journal was onto him early, as was a reporter at Crain's Chicago Business. But no one could muster any proof."
Towards the end, the Twitter persona had attracted such a following -- nearly 40K followers -- that the real Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel (D) offered $5000 to the charity of @MayorEmanuel's choice if he would just reveal his identity. Sinker stayed quiet.
The trash-talking, booze-hounding @MayorEmanuel was the perfect counterpart to Emanuel's cool, unexpected composure throughout the mayoral campaign. While the real Emanuel was shockingly patient through nearly 11 hours of questioning during a hearing regarding his residency, @MayorEmanuel was tweeting "To each one of you motherf****** asking me questions: in three months I'll be mayor and you'll still just be some dumb motherf*****."
One of the highlights of the feed came just after Emanuel won his residency case. While Emanuel was thanking Chicagoans for their support, @MayorEmanuel moved into the crawlspace of his old house, the one currently occupied by tenant Rob Halpin and his family. @MayorEmanuel, 1/28: "Nobody tell the motherf****** ******* upstairs."
"In some sense, the glory of @MayorEmanuel was that it exposed the dark humor that political operatives know and love, mixed with the drunken idealism that tends to drive the politicos," Madrigal writes. "All the things public politics downplays, this feed would expand and celebrate. This feed would be festooned with anger and the drive for power and the f-word. It was the inverse of the real Emanuel campaign, or as the (Chicago) Tribune called it a 'brilliantly imagined and unrestrained counter-script.'"
As time went on @MayorEmanuel's tweets took on a more narrative style. The feed went from a scramble of curse words and exclamation points to a filthy daily diary in which @MayorEmanuel described everything from helping White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley move to D.C. -- "Guess who just had to 'duck out on Presidential business,' right as we were starting to move his f****** free weights" -- to Bill Clinton's imagined drunken shenanigans during a campaign stop on Emanuel's behalf.