On the Internet, no one knows if you're a dog.
March 13, 2002 12:27 PM   Subscribe

On the Internet, no one knows if you're a dog. Slate continues to unravel the fascinating story of the hoax that was Robert Klingler. A man claiming to be the "head of BMW North America" was picked to do one of Slate's weeklong diaries; two days in, Slate discovered that the man was not at all who he said he was, and set out to find the truth. (Also being covered by Joshua Micah Marshall's excellent Talking Points Memo.). Turns out the likely suspect has quite a history of con artistry...
posted by hincandenza (18 comments total)
And no, I'm not Robert Klinger. Sorry for the Slate post, since it's close to a standard read for many MeFites, but I had almost a moral imperative to post this since I'm currently filming a documentary about internet hoaxes. ;)

Tangential thread topic: Having also read Dr. Robert Hare's pop-psychology book on sociopaths, "Without Conscience", can't we make the case that such effortless and unrepentent lying is actually a strong symptom of psychopathology- even when not in the service of violence or sexual assault, as is the stereotyped impression?
posted by hincandenza at 12:30 PM on March 13, 2002

That's too funny -- I wrote about this (on my own site) when Slate first announced they'd been duped, and referenced that same New Yorker cartoon.
posted by mattpfeff at 1:10 PM on March 13, 2002

I find conartists like this intriguing. You can convince people of anything in this world if you have the balls to follow through with the lie. Something I could never do--not that I'd want to :-)
posted by jpoulos at 1:25 PM on March 13, 2002

I was pondering posting this myself; my hook was going to be, "Prankster? Hoaxster? Serial con artist? Or pathological liar?" The history really seems to point to the latter, especially since not only has he conned the media more than once, he's even falsified his resume -- yet seems to have a pretty impressive work history nonetheless. (I thought it was telling that they asked his wife to confirm that she had seen his nameplate on the door when she visited him at Quantum -- and they didn't report that she thought it a strange question.)

In fact, the first thing that springs to mind here is The Adversary -- the story of a doctor who pretended to have a job at the WHO for years, while surviving financially by a Peter-Paul lending sandcastle.
posted by dhartung at 1:38 PM on March 13, 2002

I find conartists like this intriguing. You can convince people of anything in this world if you have the balls to follow through with the lie.
There's a bit of Michael J. Fox in all of us.
posted by holloway at 1:47 PM on March 13, 2002

I'm not that Robert Klingler, but I feel obligated to make a comment anyway just since I am a Robert Klingler.

It certainly has been a fun point of conversation amoung my friends.
posted by klingler at 2:37 PM on March 13, 2002

I'm not that Robert Klingler

sure you're not that robert klinger....:-)
posted by jpoulos at 3:47 PM on March 13, 2002

Wow, what are the freakin' odds?!
posted by hincandenza at 4:36 PM on March 13, 2002

The most interesting thing to me was how Slate was chasing the guy down (even giving him an online diary!) in hopes of snagging some BMW ads.

Ah, isn't the publishing business fun?
posted by chaz at 4:40 PM on March 13, 2002

Just to be fair to Slate, the story does no imply that the Diary assignment was a kiss up to get ad placements.

That doesn't mean it wasn't, but it isn't entirely fair to say it was, either.
posted by obfusciatrist at 5:11 PM on March 13, 2002

I used to play volleyball with a guy named Bob Klingler.
posted by rodii at 6:37 PM on March 13, 2002

I think that this whole mess has been handle very well by Slate. It has kept me amused for a few day anyway. Hopefully there is more to come.

I once met a guy that came to my Dads house on business, who 2 days later was in a full page article in the Sunday Times named as Britain leading con man. If I remember rightly, my Dad said he probably would have done business with him; he certainly did not suspect for a second that the guy was a fraud.

What I don't understand about this incident, is why the guy did it. He hasn't come forward laughing at them, as one might expect if it was simply a prank - so what was the point?
posted by RobertLoch at 8:40 PM on March 13, 2002

RL, I do believe you will find the answers in pondering the link that I posted. At some point, he's lied so much, he's lying to himself.
posted by dhartung at 8:48 PM on March 13, 2002

dhartung, I read all that stuff earlier today, and did ponder it. I still don't understand why he did it. Most of his lies to date have been in order to directly gain something. What was there to gain out of this?

I demand to know his motivation. I suppose that he might of just been keeping his hand in :-) but that's not good enough for me. I want more of an explanation.
posted by RobertLoch at 9:08 PM on March 13, 2002

RobertLoch: I suppose it's sort of like why George Mallory wanted to climb Mt. Everest in 1924: Because it was there. (He didn't make it down from Everest, though, soon after the "because it is there" quote. Something similar happened with the Slate thing.)
posted by raysmj at 11:18 PM on March 13, 2002

For what its worth I once climbed Mount Everest with a guy called Bobby Klingler.
posted by urban greeting at 6:29 AM on March 14, 2002

Although he's a hoaxer, he writes well... a curious mix of talent and hoaxer. Not that I'm slagging off either group, but they never usually mix, you understand...
posted by wibbler at 11:17 AM on March 14, 2002

"Another must-see hit from Robert Klinger! Don't miss his wild rantings in last week's Slate!"
- David Manning
posted by verdezza at 7:04 PM on March 15, 2002

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