This sort of thing is encouragingly rare: we run a story, it turns out to be something that was denounced in 2009 and could be easily verified as fake with a single google, a few people call us dickheads and the editorial team drown in their own tears. Sometimes we mess up.
The truth behind “This Man” is that the original photofit – and the online database of supposed dreams people have had about him, thisman.org – is the brainchild of sociologist and marketer Andrea Natella. Andrea runs a company called Guerriglia Marketing, which – according to this Knowyourmeme post – specialises in “subversive hoaxes” and creates, in the grand European tradition of groups like the Situationists, “weird art projects exploring pornography, politics, advertising” and creepy dream dudes who don’t exist. He’s also the person we interviewed for a story about his own hoax.
Essentially, yes: what has happened here is we have walked up to the hoaxer, said, “Hiya, could you very immediately hoax us,” and then they rubbed their little hoax-y hands with glee and said: yes. A goof has happened. We have goofed.
Thing is, This Man properly looks like the kind of dude you might see in a dream. You know: he’s got a suede jacket on that smells distantly of cigarettes. His car is old and maroon. His voice is like a violin going backwards. He pats you on the back and you feel warm and nostalgic. You wake up with an erection you can’t explain. Is it possible that seeing This Man can make you dream about This Man? Is the This Man story a self-fulfilling prophecy, priming people to dream what they’ve never dreamed before? Kind of like Inception but with memes? These are questions we cannot answer, because we don’t dare talk to anyone about it in case we get hoaxed again.