By Jack Stuef
This post is now available on BuzzFeed FWD, which was down for a time due to Sandy.
During the storm last night, user @comfortablysmug was the source of a load of frightening but false information about conditions in New York City that spread wildly on Twitter and onto news broadcasts before ConEd, the MTA, and Wall Street sources had to take time out of the crisis situation to refute them.
What leads a person to do such a thing, which his critics have likened to shouting “fire” in a crowded movie theater? It’s unclear. But perhaps it has something to do with the nature of anonymity. If there are no consequences for posting false “BREAKING” news, there’s an incentive to do it to an accumulate a large audience.
What @comfortablysmug didn’t count on, apparently, was losing that anonymity. Based on photos he censored and posted to the account but I found unedited elsewhere, @comfortablysmug is Shashank Tripathi, a hedge-fund analyst and the campaign manager of Christopher R. Wight, this year’s Republican candidate for the U.S. House from New York’s 12th congressional district.
FEC documents show Wight has paid Tripathi thousands of dollars this election cycle as a “consultant.” @comfortablysmug has been a vocal supporter of Mitt Romney and posted tweets suggesting he attended this year’s Republican convention. He’s listed here by a local Republican group coordinating volunteers for a Romney phone bank. He’s 29 years old.
For years, he’s been a prolific commenter at NYmag.com and a popular conservative presence on Twitter. In 2008, he penned an entry for the site’s popular sex diary feature that “detailed a week of obsession, rough sex, and Ambien.”
A year later, they interviewed him. Tripathi, appearing with the same censored face that shows up in Twitter photos, said he was “not as blatantly an asshole in person” but still has “asshole tendencies.” He credits Adderall with his skill at writing so many provocative comments.
When I called Tripathi and introduced myself, he immediately hung up. @comfortablysmug did not respond to a DM request for comment. Wight could not immediately be reached for comment. Jordan Terry, founder of hedge fund consultancy Stone Street Partners, whose blog @comfortablysmug links to in his Twitter profile, said “Smug” no longer writes for the blog, but Terry had “otherwise no comment” on Tripathi.
Since the controversy last night, @comfortablysmug has not tweeted.
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