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Tweet Tales 

How Spokane is using Twitter to channel its aggression.

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY: TOM STOVER
  • Illustration by: Tom Stover

You're forgiven if you thought the Twitter account “SpokaneSnowPlow” was written by someone who drove a Spokane snowplow. After all, his tweets make him sound like a football-loving, strip club-patronizing, Four Loko-chugging, inept (but decent-hearted, deep down) snowplow operator.

In actuality, he’s the 50-year-old executive director of a local nonprofit who’s never driven a plow in his life. (He doesn’t want his name published. “I do have a public persona that has to be an … adult,” he says.) Since December, he’s used the social networking site to publish over 500 tweets, skewering the city’s snowplow fleet, its often-inaccurate snowplow map and its penchant for plopping berms in the middle of streets.

“Know what works better than this lame de-icer crap?

Chewing tobacco,” one tweet reads.

“Any KKK snowman on my route will be turned into a massive berm in the dude’s driveway,” reads another.

SpokaneSnowPlow became so well known that KXLY temporarily blocked his account, he says, and Twitter demanded that he change his user name to “FakeSpokanePlow.”

Twitter — even more than Facebook — has given armchair satirists an easy and effective outlet for mockery. It’s a meritocracy: Tweet cleverly and cuttingly enough, and you get a national audience of tens of thousands. The user “CeoSteveJobs” (“Verizon … finally putting the ‘phone’ in iPhone”) has over 400,000 subscribers.

Some of the most withering and celebrated responses to last year’s British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico came not from a grandstanding politician or Jon Stewart or Oprah but from “BPGlobalPR,” a Twitter user who savagely mocked the oil company’s PR doublespeak. (“Catastrophe is a strong word, let’s all agree to call it a whoopsie daisy.” “Are people mad at us for drilling in the ocean? Maybe God shouldn’t have put oil there in the first place.”) It was BPGlobalPR’s success that inspired SpokaneSnowPlow to turn his frustration with poorly plowed streets on the South Hill into something that would get laughs and raise eyebrows.

“That was the one that sort of opened my eyes for what you can do. … BPGlobalPR was devastating to BP, if you’re a Twitter follower,” the snowplow-driver impersonator says. “I am exceedingly surprised at how few people in Spokane take advantage of the medium.”

But SpokaneSnowPlow isn’t the only Spokanite who has used a fake Twitter account to mock local trends.

Photographer Erick Doxey started the “SpokaneDriver” account after a bout of highway frustration. (“Remember that time I tried to get onto I-90 from Lincoln going about 35 when you were exiting? The look on your face was classic!”) “FakeMaryVerner,” currently dormant, briefly popped up in fall 2008 after the city proposed fining citizens for running their sprinklers during the hottest hours of the day. Most of “her” tweets concerned water conservation. (“Just called [city administrator] Ted Danek, told him to get out of the shower … Probably conserved 5 gallons. Doing my part.”) But some of the messages felt more like insider critiques of Verner’s leadership style. (“Colleague wanted to do lunch at Steelhead. I’m just not sure. Ultimately, I decided not to veto the idea — but I’m not supporting it either.”)

As for FakeSpokanePlow, he won’t run out of material once the snow melts for good. That’s what his other account — “SpokaneStreets” — is for.

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