Fake Interviews on Lacan: Editor’s Note
I received this email at the beginning of 2020:
Dear Dr Sergio,
Let me introduce myself
I am Matt Wolf, Drama and Literature critic at the Guardian U.K. We are celebrating this month Introducing Lacan: Key Concepts.
May I ask you for an online interview?
I verified that Matt Wolf really is a critic who writes for The Guardian. I associated the request to the fact that a book I wrote, “Conversations with Lacan”, was published by Routledge in the same month. I therefore took the request seriously and replied to the written questions sent to me via email from that address. I was a little surprised by the rather coarse style of writing and a certain naivety of the actual questions, but I’ve become accustomed over the years to the incompetence of some journalists and overlooked the issue. However, more and more questions kept arriving and I couldn’t see the slightest evidence of any publication. Then, by pure chance, I discovered that a friend of mine, Domenico Cosenza, a Milan-based Lacanian psychoanalyst, received the same questions and he was answering them too. This made me suspicious.
Eventually we found an article by The Guardian dating back to 19 February 2012, “The readers’ editor on… an unusual identity thief using a fake Guardian persona” by Chris Elliott (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/19/identity-thief-fake-guardian-persona) warning scholars from all fields against a fake Matt Wolf, who asks questions to specialists around the world in the form of interviews. The topics the questions cover change every time, but the technique is always the same. I don’t know whether between 2012, the year the Guardian article appeared, and 2020 “Matt Wolf” struck again, or whether he remained inactive in the meanwhile.
One wonders what this cyclical exploitation of specialists’ opinions in ever changing fields is actually for. Elliott writes: “It is not proven what the emailer does with the answers – although several academics believe they are probably sold as crib sheets to students who wish to cut and paste the work of these professors and senior lecturers into their essays and pass the work off as their own.”
This reminded me of an activity that I think still exists in the city of my birth, Naples. I knew people whose job was “writing dissertations” in exchange for money. Students incapable of writing pay, sometimes quite handsomely, people whose specialization is writing university theses, and, what’s surprising, on completely different fields of study. Someone I knew wrote paid dissertations on Philosophy, Biology, Chemistry, History, Political Science…
In any case, both Cosenza and I answered the bug questions as if we were answering serious ones by a real journalist. We thought it would be interesting for our audience to read our replies. The questions were fake, but the answers are authentic.
Later, we discovered that many other colleagues have answered to “Matt Wolf”. We publish some of these.