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Italian who ‘killed’ Alexievich: I read her books, she is a symbol of courage

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Tommaso Debenedetti. Photo: theguardian.com

On May 18, the world was shocked to learn on Twitter that the Nobel Literature Prize laureate Svetlana Alexievich was dead and back alive again. Ambitious Roman professor Tommaso Debenedetti was to blame for the rumours. The notorious Italian hoaxer posted a message about Alexievich’s death on a fake Twitter account that he had created one day earlier to look like the official account of the newly appointed France's Minister of Culture. Many journalists took ‘the Minister’s’ words for granted and disseminated a false news.

 

Debenedetti has trolled the world mass media for the past 15 years. He says he is trying to expose their weaknesses and drawbacks to readers. Who is he – a new prophet or a hooligan seeking Herostratic fame? We have tried to find it out in an interview with the restless Italian. It was incredibly difficult to contact him – but we did it thanks to our British colleagues who had written about Debenetti in 2014. Here is what he had to say in a short interview.

Death ‘works’ well on Twitter

 

Euroradio: How do you choose your mystification ‘victims’?

 

Tommaso Debenedetti: I choose them on the basis of topicality. I did the same when choosing Françoise Nyssen. She did not have a Twitter account when she was appointed Minister of Culture, so I created one. The fake account immediately picked many important followers. It was added on the list of official accounts of the French government a few hours later on May 17. Everyone believed that it was a real account. I had a choice then. I could announce that the account was a fake or I could try and do more. I chose the second option on the morning of May 18.

Euroradio: Why did you choose Twitter for trolling?

Tommaso Debenedetti: From my experience I know that death ‘works’ well on Twitter. Meida outlets reprint death reports from Twitter without checking them. However, with so many fake news around lately, I thought nobody would get caught in this trap.

Euroradio: Why did you choose Svetlana Alexievich? Did you read her books? Are you interested in her works?

Tommaso Debenedetti: I chose Svetlana Alexievich because the new French Minister of Culture is her publisher and the news on her behalf could seem true. Let me note that I respect Alexievich a lot. Her books took my breath away. I think that she is an excellent example of courage and love in the cause of protecting freedom. I had announced her Nobel Prize victory two hours before it was officially done. I did it because I was sure she would win and because she deserved the prize much more than the rest of the shortlist including Haruki Murakami.