Twitter has a rich tradition of spoof accounts that are used to parody public figures, organizations, and fictional characters.
And Yukon is no stranger to the trend, naturally boasting a colourful collection of online lampooners.
Before I get to that, though – just in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last seven years – here’s a brief introduction to Twitter.
Simply put, Twitter is one of the Internet’s most popular social media platforms, currently boasting about a half-billion accounts.
Average folk like you and I (@robulack), alongside luminaries the likes of U.S. President Obama (@BarackObama) and Yukon Premier Pasloski (@YukonPremier), regularly leverage its 140-character limit to publicly crack wise and inform alike.
Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) is currently Twitter’s most popular resource with over 42 million followers – more people than live in Canada.
But that makes you wonder: How do we know it’s really Justin Bieber on Twitter?
Well, it just so happens that Twitter verifies the accounts of its most famous users. You can tell that Bieber’s really Bieber by the blue checkmark badge on his profile page.
Ironically, it’s the platform’s strong tradition of spoofers that led Twitter to start verifying accounts.
Unlike on Facebook and Google Plus, Twitter doesn’t require that you prove who you are. As long as it’s available, you can register any name and assume whatever identity you like, anonymity intact.
This golden opportunity to have fun is not lost on Yukoners.
Both our current and former premier have been lightly roasted on Twitter (Mr. Pasloski by the defunct and deleted @PremierPasloski parody account, and Mr. Fentie by the dormant @dennisfentie).
The most well-known online parody of a major Yukon political figure, however, was of NDP Leader of the Official Opposition, Liz Hanson.
Local political enthusiast Krysta Meekins was voluntarily outed last year by the Yukon News as the mind behind the rather short-lived @QueenLizYT Twitter account.
Meekins said that she started the parody Hanson account with an eye on political balance. Up until then, only right-wing Yukon politicians had been skewered on Twitter. In her eyes, it was the left’s turn.
Her Queen Liz account was a way to raise some important issues in a lighthearted, engaging way.
“People respond to humour,” she explained.
Anonymity lent some credibility to Meekins’ burlesque because, there were “no preconceived notions” about who was delivering the satirical messages.
But once her identity was revealed, she faced some harsh criticism because of her well-known political stripes.
In fact, Meekins ended up being parodied herself as Mysta Kreekins (@MystaKreekins).
Despite this, Meekins has no regrets and offers this advice if you’re thinking about starting a parody account yourself: “Ignore the haters, don’t take it too seriously, and just have fun.”
These days it’s 11-term Whitehorse City Councillor Dave Stockdale who is in the roasting pan on Twitter.
@DAVE_STOCKDALE has been active since March and has racked up an impressive 351 tweets in that brief time.
Humourously, the account’s profile page pokes some fun at Stockdale as, “SO ANGRY ABOUT EVERYTHING.” And yes, that’s in all-caps, shouting-style.
After the anonymous individual behind the account agreed to do an interview for this column, they publicly tweeted as fake Dave Stockdale that, “MY LAST INTERVIEW WAS IN THE TAKHINI HOT SPRINGS WITH THE DOCTOR OF LOVE, DAN CURTIS.”
Yes, shouting again.
We conducted the interview via Twitter direct messages, where the person behind @DAVE_STOCKDALE broke character and asserted that their efforts are “more a tribute than a parody.”
When I asked why they were doing it, they explained that they were, “just spreading the Stockdale goods.”
As for the choice of Dave Stockdale as a subject, they explained, “Just watching him at council meetings is hilarious. So angry all the time. He’s old school.”
I tried to contact the real Councillor Stockdale several times for his thoughts on the parody account, but he unfortunately didn’t respond.
Not all Yukon parody accounts are political, though.
Just say the words, “Yukon Hulk” and you’ll invariably be met with the response, “Oh, I love his tweets!”
Pretty much any Yukoner who’s on Twitter follows Dr. Bruce Panner at @YukonHulk. With over 6,700 tweets and 598 followers, this ever-smashing, always-shouting parody account is a green force to be reckoned with. He’s a true local Twitter legend.
@YukonHulk explained that he goes through one laptop every month – Panasonic Toughbooks, no less – satisfying his urge to tweet.
When asked why he tweeted, YukonHulk explained that, “YUKONHULK LIKE TWEET ABOUT PUNY YUKON, BUT ALSO LIKE TWEETSMASH FOR JUSTICE.”
He went on to say that, “MAYBE YUKONHULK TWEETS CAN SMASH NEW IDEAS OR DIFFERENT WAYS OF THINKING INTO PUNY PEOPLE’S BRAINS!!!!”
I hear shades of Meekins’ explanation that humour can bring new light to issues in that statement – or maybe that’s just a ringing in my ears from all of @YukonHulk’s shouting?
Anyway, I suggested that the humour might lead some to view @YukonHulk as silly and frivolous, to which he replied, “IF PUNY PEOPLE NOT HAVE SENSE OF HUMOUR YUKONHULK FEEL SORRY FOR PUNY PEOPLE.”
And then he headed off smashing.
It’s worth noting that the “Hulk” persona is a popular one on Twitter for parody purposes. @YukonHulk’s cousins include Drunk Hulk (@DRUNKHULK), Film Crit Hulk (@filmCritHULK), Feminist Hulk (@feministhulk), Bruce Bannock (@InukHulk), and Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan). Oh, sorry, my bad. That last one is a Twitter-verified real person.
Another well-loved and much-followed Yukon Twitter parody is Stats Yukon (@statsyukon). At first blush this account looks like a publication of the Yukon government, until you read the tweets.
Stuff like, “84% of ‘No Parking’ signs in the Yukon are disregarded,” and “57% of strike outs during the Dustbowl baseball tournament last night happened at Lizards nightclub,” and “Things take 344% longer to get done in the Yukon than down South,” make it obvious that this is parody.
The information, of course, is completely manufactured. And, if you set aside your Yukon pride, hilariously true.
The person behind @YukonStats explained that they started the account, “as a fun way to celebrate life in the Yukon and bond over the unique experiences we share.”
A noble goal for parody.
In an historical sense, parody is nothing new, but Twitter is the perfect platform for it these days. If all you did was follow spoof accounts, Twitter would prove its worth.
As @YukonHulk explained, there are “SO MANY LAWS AGAINST SMASH!!!” Fortunately, there are no laws against tweeting.
Andrew Robulack is an award-winning entrepreneur, writer and consultant specializing in using technology and the Internet to communicate. Read his blog at www.geeklife.ca.