Jeff Jarvis, Meet Barbra Streisand and Her Magical Effect

Jeff Jarvis (via flickr user Eirik Solheim)

There is a journalism professor by the name of Jeff Jarvis who is prone to using buzzy words and talking about life in the netizen age. You can get a sense for his work in this rather scathing review of one of his books by Evgeny Morozov.

There is a Twitter account by the name of @ProfJeffJarvis that parodies not only the real Jarvis' mode of thought but the mode of thought adopted by his fellow thinkfluencers.

The real Jeff Jarvis is very angry that the fake Jeff Jarvis exists, for reasons that are relatively obvious. For starters, no one likes being made fun of. More compellingly, the fake Jeff Jarvis sometimes makes life difficult for the real Jeff Jarvis because the fake Jeff Jarvis will occasionally (and rudely) interact with people who know the real Jeff Jarvis. This causes the real Jeff Jarvis headaches and risks personal and professional relationships. (For the record, I think the fake Jeff Jarvis should probably try to avoid this.)

That being said, the fake Jeff Jarvis is one of the real treasures of the Internet, among the few parody Twitter accounts that is actually, you know, funny. The operator of the account has nailed the patois of our post-literate, post-meaning age. One could say that he's really shifted the paradigm and changed the game with his entrepreneurial vision for the web 2.0, even. "Prof. Jeff Jarvis," whatever his origin and whoever he was originally based on, has transcended beyond the real Jeff Jarvis and become an avatar for pretty much everything that is terrible about life in the digital realm.

So when Jim VandeHei published one of the more amazingly mockable documents in recent memory—an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he called for an "Innovation Party" to break us out of our political rut—it made sense that Esquire would turn to Prof. Jeff Jarvis to have a bit of fun with him. And have a bit of fun with him the good (fake) professor did!

The real Jeff Jarvis did not like that.

Indeed, the real Jeff Jarvis began hinting that someone was about to get sued.

Esquire, brave to the end, first added a disclaimer at the top of the post noting that it was a satirical piece and then pulled it.

Everything on the Internet is forever so it's not surprising that Prof. Jeff Jarvis' statement of intent to join the Innovation Party lives: Gawker picked it up after Esquire memory holed it. More to the point, though, the real Jeff Jarvis' (very funny!) fit about the fake Jeff Jarvis' (very funny!) critique of the real Jim VandeHei's (very silly!) op-ed, led to far more people reading the piece than otherwise might have. Meanwhile, the fine folks at the newly opened Heat Street have published another satirical piece "by" Jeff Jarvis, complete with a headshot and everything. And Ken White at Popehat is lawsplaining to the real Jeff Jarvis (and those who supported him) that Prof. Jeff Jarvis' piece was perfectly legal and that threats of lawsuits are entirely meritless.

In other words, this whole thing has been a rather classic iteration of The Streisand Effect: more people have seen the piece in question than otherwise might have because someone behaved like a censorious prat.

Now, you'd think that a thinkfluencer of renown would understand that, on the Internet, the quickest way to make something go viral is to try and squash it. But no. It looks like he still has a lesson or two to learn about being a good netizen.

Update: I should note that Jarvis explained his complaints in greater detail at Medium and revealed why he was willing to risk a good Streisanding. In his conclusion he writes that, actually, it's about ethics in satirical journalism.