Who duped Slate?

Media criticism.
March 12 2002 7:46 PM

Who Is "Robert Klingler"?

On the trail of the man who duped Slate.

(Continued from Page 4)

Both make jokes about Slate:

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Savvy advertising professionals, please send your résumés to me care of Slate. Just kidding! JUST KIDDING! (Klingler)

Rumor has it that Microsoft is handing out free subscriptions to Slate. (Desai)

And so on.

AOL isn't likely to tell us whether Robert Klingler is really Ravi Desai. Like most ISPs, it doesn't generally release the identities of its e-mail customers without a court order, and Slate isn't currently seeking one.

As I speculated before, it could be that Ravi Desai is the victim of an elaborate hoax. Someone may have nicked his Internet passwords and conspired to implicate him in this tangled Web. If so, I'd be pleased to exonerate him. At the very least, I'd like to know whether or not he's starting a nonprofit company in San Carlos, Calif. If you search Google Groups for the e-mail address RDesai3109@aol.com, you find this Nov. 11, 2001, posting from the ba.jobs.misc newsgroup for a "Development Assistant." Development assistants assist nonprofits in fund raising.

If Desai is the victim of a hoax, the hoaxer may even have stolen his voice. At Slate's request, a gaggle of Desai associates, friends, college classmates, and colleagues listened to the phone message Klingler left on Truitt's phone. Only one listener didn't think it was Ravi. One who knows Ravi extremely well put it at 90 percent to 100 percent certainty, another at 95 percent certainty, two at 90 percent, one at 80, one at 75, and one at 55. Do you know Ravi Desai? Or Robert G. Klingler? If you do, listen to the voice mail he left for Truitt and drop me an e-mail at pressbox@hotmail.com and give me your assessment.

Peter Steiner was right: On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. You can collect invitations you don't deserve, crash parties, and even pretend to be Brad Pitt. But here's a message for Internet dogs: Beware. The technology that gives you such seemingly perfect anonymity can turn around and bite you.

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.