This Will Be on the Test
The city’s hottest political blogger, the brain behind Political Science 216, thrives on scandal and fights predatory lenders with a Blues Brothers-inspired move. We have just one question: Who is he?
“Political Science 216 is your official site for the Marc Dann Resignation Watch,” the anonymous blogger declared on April 6.
That day, The Columbus Dispatch had revealed the sexual harassment scandal in the Ohio attorney general’s office. “I say he’ll be out of office by May 1st,” The Professor prognosticated. Dann quit May 14.
Now, The Professor is at it again. When the FBI raided Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora’s office and home in July, The Professor posted a Dimora Resignation Watch by nightfall. Soon, he was illustrating his Dimora posts with photos of Star Wars’ Jabba the Hutt.
The Professor does what great bloggers do: He fires off quick, humorous, angry comments and predicts the implications of current events in ways careful reporters can’t. In a local blogosphere filled with activists and wonks, Political Science 216 (politicalscience216.blogspot.com) is the funniest, most entertaining and readable politics Web site in town.
But who is The Professor? We can’t ask him in person — can’t even get him on the phone. He’s the Cleveland version of Joe Klein, the Time writer who anonymously penned Primary Colors, a semifictional novel about Bill and Hillary Clinton, and kept the secret for a year and a half. A pen name means freedom, The Professor explains.
“You know who would have been the first anonymous blogger? Ben Franklin,” he e-mails. “Instead, he wrote anonymous articles for newspapers. ... He was more effective because he was anonymous. He could say whatever the hell he wanted.”
Franklin was a hilarious writer, but you’ll never see The Professor imitate his folksy, dry humor.
Instead, The Professor dubs John McCain a “crotchety old man who jumped the shark in 1999.” He tells his readers to sign a petition seeking a referendum to clear the way for high-interest payday lenders with the following: Dr. Peter Boyd, 2401 Ontario St., Cleveland.
It’s a Blues Brothers joke — the address for Progressive Field, like how Elwood Blues registered Wrigley Field’s street number on his driver’s license. Why Peter Boyd? It’s the name The Professor goes by on Facebook. It’s also the name of the character Ronald Reagan played in Bedtime for Bonzo.
My best theory positioned The Professor in a mid-level political or governmental post — someone who hears a lot of info but can’t put his name to it. Not so. When I ask if he works in politics or government, he writes back, “I’d rather die.”
So I ask former Scene reporter Rebecca Meiser for her best guess. Meiser’s been the subject of one of The Professor’s several crushes on female reporters, politicians and newsy celebrities (he’s also called Debbie Sutherland, Bay Village mayor and county commission candidate, a “hot little cougar”). Meiser tells me she thinks The Professor is an attorney — a profession that attracts sharp-witted, well-informed, frustrated-writer types.
When I ask, The Professor confirms it. He’s a lawyer. He also says he lives in Cleveland, on the West Side, and that he’s a father of teenagers. Since his pop culture fixations are from the ’80s and ’90s — the Pretenders, Green Day, South Park — he’s probably in his 40s.
His politics are a maverick moderate-left. He’s “in the tank for Barack Obama,” but scandal among Democrats gets him going like nothing else. Republicans loved his Dann dissing. He calls himself postpartisan.
Why the nickname? The Professor points to the site’s photo of a severe, professorial man: “He has a lot in common with me when I blog. Look at him. He’s irritated, arrogant, he demands your attention, and he’s never wrong.”
Read our complete e-mail interview with The Professor here >>
12:00 AM EST
September 24, 2008