Jake Bakkila, the artist who revealed himself as the real human behind the widely-beloved "spam" account @Horse_ebooks earlier this week, only to be confronted with accusations that he had manipulated and misled a journalist—to the point of "gaslighting"—who had uncovered a component of his project, says that "[t]he blame is 100% mine, I was wrong, and I'm sorry."
Bakkila, a Buzzfeed creative director who took over the Twitter account from its Russian creator in 2011 and spent two years tweeting nonsensical snippets of text in a performance that culminated in a gallery show that opened Tuesday, says he apologized to Daily Dot writer Gaby Dunn privately, but hoped to "clarify some details" by providing a public statement.
The day after Bakkila's reveal—broken by New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean—Dunn wrote on Tumblr that she had found out that Bakkila was behind Pronunciation Book, a YouTube channel whose mysterious countdown had attracted the attention of 4chan and Reddit. In Dunn's account, elaborated below, Bakkila had subsequently misled and lied to her in an attempt to protect his secret—Pronunciation Book was the other component of BearStearnsBravo, the art exhibition that included @Horse_ebooks—to the point of "gaslighting" her with a group of mutual friends.
In an email to me, Bakkila wrote that he lied to Dunn because he was "nervous and fearful," and that misleading her was an "emotional reaction" to the conditions under which he and his partner Tom Bender were conducting their art, which included "people... calling Tom's private line... and tracking him down in real life." (I had requested comment from Bakkila for an earlier article, but only had a little-used email that he wasn't checking.)
Bakkila says he hopes people who liked or admired the project won't "troll" those who didn't: "I imagine," he said, echoing Dunn, "that no one will give a crap about this next week."
Here's his full email:
I apologized to Gaby privately on Wednesday, and I'm only responding publicly to clarify some details. To be unambiguous: The blame is 100% mine, I was wrong, and I'm sorry. I lied to a journalist because I was nervous and fearful, information we'd kept secret for years was leaking and it was just an emotional reaction.
People were calling Tom's private line, wanting to know more about Pronunciation Book, and tracking him down in real life. We felt like we were under siege, and under these conditions, it was harder and harder to ignore people, and so we tried anything to just get attention away from us. So I told an initial lie, just to keep the press off our back for a little while. As lies often do, the initial lie demanded more lies to justify it.
None of it was done maliciously, and none of it was done to mess with anyone. I was exhausted and irrational and just wanted to keep a secret. Which does not mean that it didn't hurt, of course, and I'm very sorry that it did, and sorry that I lied. I should just have ignored people trying to investigate.
Ultimately, it was a crazy week, and a lot of the response has been emotional as a result, both good and bad and simply confused. I hope that my apology helps people who were hurt by this, and I ask that people who loved the launch/H_e/everything don't troll those who do not, I really don't want this to be some low-level flamewar. I imagine, like was said earlier, that no one will give a crap about this next week.