Who Is This Really?

After yesterday’s kerfuffle over a prank phone call made to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker by someone posing as businessman David Koch, I’m become very hesitant to accept the stated identity of anyone I can’t see. How can I possibly know that the people I’m talking to aren’t scheming, lying bloggers trying to embarrass me?

And don’t tell me bloggers who do this sort of thing are today’s equivalent of the pioneering broadcast journalists. Go to the CBS archives. Where are Edward R. Murrow’s prank calls? You won’t find them! And I can say that with certainty, not because I’ve been in the CBS archives, but because I’m a blogger and I can make stuff up.

In the Walker call, the prankster, a fellow identified as Ian Murphy (again, who really knows?), sounds just the way a scared guy would sound if he were trying to imitate the chummy, towel snapping way billionaire puppet masters are supposed to yuk it up with their boys in the back room. He is completely unconvincing when he attempts to encourage Walker with “Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?” There’s no fire in his voice when he exhorts the Wisconsin Governor with “Beautiful, beautiful. Gotta crush that union!”

There are plenty of movies where the villain is a fabulously wealthy lout who wants to control the world. Can’t we practice our maniacal cackle a little bit before trying it out for an audience?

The prank call achieved the remarkable feat of making me feel a tiny bit of sympathy for Wisconsin’s Governor. I’ll try not to get carried away, though it has changed my outlook in some key areas. That’s why I’ve taken to recording all my phone calls and producing a daily transcript, just in case someone tries to hoodwink me.

Here’s one from yesterday:

(phone rings)

?: Reference Desk.

Me: I’m looking for a book about prank calls. How to make them, how to record them, that sort of thing.

?: A whole book about prank calls? Phone calls?

Me: Yeah. Some of the social ramifications of it. Legal too.

?: I’ll check the catalog. I don’t think anyone’s written a whole book about it. There might be some magazine articles and … how about a movie?

Me: They made a movie about prank calls?

?: When A Stranger Calls. 2006.

Me: That sounds like a joke answer to my question, and I was looking for real information.

?: There’s also a book by Walter Mosley called “The Wave”. It says here one of the plot points has to do with a character getting phone calls from someone claiming to be his dead father.

Me: I think you’re pulling my leg. Are you a real reference librarian or is this some kind of cheap put-on for your juvenile GOTCHA website?

?: You called ME.

Me: That’s exactly what a prank caller would say!

?: All I did was pick up the phone.

Me: You mean you prank answered!

We went around and around for a while, but I didn’t fall for any of her cheap gags. Some people are just too smart to be fooled!

How can you prove you are you?

68 thoughts on “Who Is This Really?”

  1. I suspect anyone I had given large quantities of cash to would know who I was (or not) on the phone just based on context and subject matter, but I suppose not everyone else has that level of conversation at their disposal. Sound bite is a pretty universal language.

    I always love the part in books or movies where the identity of a person (in SF, there is almost always a clone or shapeshifter, so you can’t tell by looking) is revealed because there is a memory or other piece of knowledge only they and the questioner could possibly know.

    That works with real people, but wipe out all my papers and I am sure the banks and government would have no clue who I am, and I imagine if I really needed to change who I am, it would not be too terribly difficult.


    1. I proved I am me to the satisfaction on my new landlord.Does that count?
      Catherine, remember the telephone repairman in Martian Chronicles? Prank calls on yourself are the ultimate prank calls.


      1. You got me, Clyde, I am going to have to go back through Martian Chronicles for that one-love that book but am iffy on specifics.


      2. Have you read The Eternity Artifact by Modesitt? It has a character who becomes other people. Very good. Lots of points of view about arts, culture, religion, science, personality types, etc. In a vague way reminds me of Ender’s Game.


    2. See Modesitt on the library shelf all the time (trying to think who I am looking for that is next door on the shelf), but have yet to pick him up.

      The stack of books to read next to the bed towers and teeters…

      Anna, any way to add a BBC reading list/review section to the BBC blog? Would sort of work like Kitchen Congress with title, author, genre, who recommended and whatever comments people have.

      No idea how hard that would be to set up, but would free up some of my personal memory files (because I am not cool enough to set up Sherrilee’s spreadsheet system)


      1. not one bit of rush, just an idea (so I don’t get buried in my tower of “books to read” or have to get my act together and make a spreadsheet).


  2. rISE and sHINE bABOONS!

    See, I knew it yesterday. That really was not tim writing with capital letters. Our blog has been infiltrated by a Blogger with Capital Letters! After the success with the Wisconsin Govenor, he tried to fool the Baboon Congress. On Tuesday I also noticed that my Gravitar was not working properly, so that my signature Morning Glory was replaced by a question mark. That also must have been the same thing–bloggers run amok.

    Otherwise, I guess you will have to use my dental records to prove it is really me. Earlier this year I had a problem mole removed. It was distinctive and identifiable. So now I am without an identifiable characteristic.. Dale, I’ll contact my dentist and send you the xrays!

    Meanwhile, you can be sure I’ll be watching SNL this Saturday night. Surely they will be doing a parody of Wisconsin politics–“Cheeseheads on the Lam, ” “Who Am I?”


    1. The first I heard of the prank call story was in a post that started with the words, “this is not an Onion article”-They must be going crazy trying to figure out what of all the possibilities they should use-can’t wait to see what they come up with from their old hometown.


    2. Thanks for offering your dental records, Jacque.
      I spend five minutes with my dentist twice each year. Odd that he’s the one they’ll have to go to for verification when nobody else can be sure it’s me.
      If only we had mental records!


    1. My identity is the equivalent of a rusty fifteen-year-old station wagon – you can leave it running with all the doors unlocked, no one will take it.


  3. thanks for the belly laugh so early, Dale –

    Beth-Ann – hope the “Cliffy” didn’t offend you yesterday. i was just sharing the love that Ms. Donna (where has that swain been lately – Carlos???) gives me 🙂

    out to “unfriend” T’s guests – last dose today.
    a gracious good morning to You All.


    1. Barb, I was honored to receive a Cliffy and only regretted that I don’t own a backless dress with a plunging neckline to wear to the awards ceremony 🙂


  4. My mommy knows I am me. And so does my bestest pal Steph who hel my hand when I had a c-section (and has seen parts of me I haven’t seen) – though truth-be-told, it’s possible I have been leading a double-life this whole time and in reality I am a secret agent from Basset Planet and here only to research the possibility of turning the world into an interplanetary roundabout (sub-contracting for the Goats, who are the contractors-of-record for the job).


  5. I can always tell who are legitimate phoners and who are not, since those who don’t know me ask “Is Mrs. _____ there?” I kept my name when I married, so the only Mrs. ____ is my mother-in-law in Colorado. Either that, or they ask if Mr. ______ is there and give him my last name. The only problem having different last names is that, although we have lived here for more than 20 years, many people still think we aren’t married.


    1. i don’t like the “how are you tonight?” this complete stranger calls me at 9:15 pm (when any good goat farmer -well, this goat farmer anyway- is in bed resting up for the next day) and just wants to know how i am. i think a prank answer is in order, Dale.


      1. I once had a “telemarketer” caller who asked me what I was doing in bed at 9 pm…I hung up on him. I wonder how successful he was at whatever he was selling…but not for long.


      2. I explain to all callers that correct format is to say, “Hello, my name is ______. I wish to talk to _____________ about _______.”


      3. My father-in -law likes to asks such callers if they have accepted Christ as their personal savior. That ends the conversation pretty quickly.


      4. My father also discouraged late callers by answering “Joe’s Morgue. You stab `em, we slab `em.” One of the reasons why my sister and I pooled our money and got our own phone line when I was in high school.


  6. I wonder of our mothers would recognize us on this blog, if they could read with out seeing our names… Many of the stories I tell here are things Ma never knew about.

    We could all be making up these personas that appear here, but some of us have met, and that makes it harder to prank. Let’s see, what was the question?


    1. my parents are pretty much convinced that I’ve been changed out for an alien or some such thing, so hard to know if they would recognize me from the blog.

      I think it is really cool that you share your guest blogs with your mom, Anna. I decided doing that with my folks would not be a good idea.


      1. I think my mom would probably recognize some of my stories, but I can’t envision her reading a blog. But last week I couldn’t imagine her with e-mail and internet and look at her now!


  7. Pretty hard to fake being me; all any of my friends would have to do is ask to see her tattoos. Even if Kore copied work, hers or anyone else’s, I doubt an imposter would be willing to sit through 8 hours under the needle to mimic my raven wings!


    1. I always wonder why people have tattoos. I am not apposed to them, but why have one? It didn’t occur to me that a tattoo is an identifying mark that makes the tattooed person distinctive. That makes sence.


  8. Answers:
    I can’t.
    Since I can’t, apparently, I’m not.
    We can’t embarrass you any more than you already (apparently) embarrass yourself at the library.


  9. Very funny, Dale! I had a hunch you would tackle this one today – nicely done!

    I’m not feeling any sympathy for the devil in Wisconsin, though. He’s got it coming. Ian, if that is his real name, the blogger, might have been unethical but he was also astute and, after all, the world is a complicated place. There are many who have done even more unethical things and leveraged power for themselves by doing so. I say, “Go, Ian!” or whoever you are.

    and who is tim? is he really Tim? was it really his birthday yesterday? happy birthday to the real tim!


    1. but don’t you wonder about the staffer that just put that call through?

      I see they have restricted access by the public to elected officials as of today at the Wisconsin State House.


  10. Having not seen him in person for quite sometime, Mike Pengra via email…if it really is he (him?), in response to Kay H’s comment yesterday about missing hearing the oldies on Radio Heartland, I asked Mike if it was possible to make requests via RAdio Heartland’s Facebook page…here is his reply:

    “Hi Cynthia,
    I have taken requests before and am happy to. And I can put them in the playlist in advance if I have at least a few days notice. The only drawback is when I’m not here.

    So yes, it is technically possible to play requests from the Facebook page. What I can’t do is dedications or introductions, etc. There are technical reasons for that…and time reasons. (I’m only half time on RH)”

    I’ve been longing to hear Lake Baikal…and Cold Missouri Waters…and…and…on and on. I’m off to make my requests…I know it is really me. And I hope it is really Mike.


    1. Hey Baboons!
      By all means, feel free to make requests on Radio Heartland. Best way to do it is by using the “Contact Radio Heartland” link on the RH homepage. Or, you can email me directly at mpengra@mpr.org. I’ll do my best!


  11. Having a bit of an identity crisis here-

    Been looking at the pix from the Capitol at Madison (which I think of mostly as the hub of the Saturday Morning Farmer’s Market) and a lot of those folks look a lot like me, but apparently, all those protesters are thugs bussed in from Chicago-so perhaps I am a Chicago thug .

    On the other hand, just dropped boy and gear at school for a long weekend field trip and now have no one to nag or keep me on the run, so who am I?

    Also have acquired the wretched cough, which always makes me feel not entirely myself.

    I may have to sleep on this to figure it out.


  12. Hello to all.

    This is a busy day for me. There have been a lot of dirty tricks in politics lately used in repressive ways. It is probably best to not use dirty tricks for any purpose, but I am kind of glad about the one pulled on the govenor in Wisconsin.

    Some times I am not sure I know who I am. That makes it had for me to come up with any proof of my identy. Who am I, anyway?


  13. Afternoon…

    Oh I don’t think anybody else would want to be me…

    C’Mon… it’s ME! Would I lie to you? Who you gonna believe? Don’t you know who I am??


    1. I wonder if any politicians will change their phone behavior because of this.
      Ben, if I was Governor and you gave me a major donation, I’d probably want to give you a code phrase to say to me when you call. Something secret that only you would know.

      Would “C’mon … it’s ME! Would I lie to you?” work?


      1. Having had a couple of jobs that have involved screening phone calls for someone far more important than I am I would think the first tip-off was that a billionaire probably would a) be unlikely to place his own phone calls and b) be unlikely to call on the office line instead of the guv’s personal cell.


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