MEDANSKY: Inside the elevator

Little Fables

The man behind the curtain can’t hide forever — just ask John Lefevre. Last month, The New York Times outed the Texas banker as the guy behind @GSElevator — a popular novelty Twitter account whose G and S stand for “Goldman” and “Sachs,” respectively. There, under his virtual nom de plume, Levefre posted what he claimed were raw, uncensored comments he’d heard while working at Goldman Sachs. Things like: “What’s a ‘non-essential’ employee?” And: “I just want to be rich enough to not be motivated by money.” And: “I could probably still get laid in Crocs.”

Annelisa Leinbach_Illustrations Editor_Marissa Medansky_1011The tweets made Lefevre’s account a viral phenomenon. As of last night, he’s sitting on a cool 651,000 followers, which, for the sake of comparison, is 515,000 more people than the actual Goldman Sachs account can boast. The firm, of course, wasn’t pleased with the gag. According to The Times, Goldman executives even launched an internal investigation to uncover the mole’s true identity.

But surprise, surprise — the man behind the curtain did not work at Goldman Sachs. Lefevre, a 34-year-old former Citigroup employee, has never been employed at the firm.

For his part, Lefevre told the Times that he started the account as a “joke” to entertain himself. From his perspective, the tweets were wry one-liners aimed at skewering Wall Street culture, not factual descriptions. Still, DealBook editor Andrew Ross Sorkin presented the situation as an issue of authenticity, writing that the incident underscored “concerns about the veracity of what is published and the identity of authors.”

In an article published earlier this week, Lefevre responded to these claims. “I’ve always expected to be outed,” he wrote on Business Insider. “Any person who actually thought my Twitter feed was literally about verbatim conversations overhead in the elevators of Goldman Sachs is an idiot.”

That candor is what helped make Lefevre an Internet sensation. Twitter is home to many a parody account, but few ever stick. What distinguished GS Elevator was its authorial voice: a frank blend of excess and inhibition, or something akin to a cross between Tucker Max and Jay Gatsby. That voice struck a nerve after being smartly repackaged with the neon Goldman banner.

Good timing also helped. Lefevre started the account back in 2011, during the throes of the Occupy movement. Those protestors eventually dispersed, but public demand persisted for bankers on their baddest behavior. Movies like “Wolf of Wall Street” fueled that fire, and the three-year reign of GS Elevator serves as testament to its enduring glow. (Remember, three years is an eternity in Internet time.)

Much can be said of GS Elevator’s particular popularity at Yale, where many a future analyst has attempted to sublimate his or her anxiety into the stuff of well timed retweets. Here, perhaps more than elsewhere, these things resonate. A good chunk of Yalies pursue careers in consulting and finance  — around 14 percent, in recent years — and at least some are destined to one day push buttons in that Goldman Sachs elevator.

This is not about Goldman or finance per se. There are other elevators in other places, like the White House and The New York Times or any comparable house of power. To arrive there is an accomplishment, not an intrinsic moral failing. This is to say that you must be the change you wish to see in the Goldman Sachs elevator. At its best, GS Elevator inspires these moments of internal reflection, whether through sheer revulsion or the shame of self-acknowledgment.

But at its worst the account perpetuates less benign behavior. Many of its jokes are infused with tones of racism, classism and sexism. Plagiarism, too: At Gawker, Sam Biddle found that Lefevre had lifted jokes from other Twitter comedians. And I’ll confess a personal slight: I’ve actually been blocked from following the account for upwards of a year now, probably because I once tweeted a forgettable and likely pretty lame response to one of its posts. That burn still stings.

Yesterday, likely due to a combination of all of these sins, Lefevre lost his book deal with Simon & Schuster. But in the spirit of the account he created, the man remains undeterred. His book, he has tweeted, is still coming. And he has responded to his detractors in the familiar tone of his account. This ambition, corrupted and caricatured, lies at the center of the world Levefre depicts, and perhaps, to some extent, his own actions. But in purer form, the lesson is a good one — once you fall off an elevator, you get right back on.

Marissa Medansky is a junior in Morse College and a former opinion editor for the News. Her columns run on alternate Fridays. Contact her at marissa.medansky@yale.edu.

Comments