Fictional ex-employee of Twitter
Rahul Ligma is a fictional fired Twitter employee, a character played by one of a pair of amateur improvisational actors that pranked multiple major media outlets on October 28, 2022. The spontaneous and intentionally transparent hoax was revealed the same day. The Rahul Ligma character next appeared in early November as a recently unemployed FTX employee in the Bahamas. Later that month, Elon Musk, the incoming CEO of Twitter, facetiously offered Ligma and his compatriot their (fictional) old jobs back. Even then, three notable media outlets were still oblivious to the running joke, and reported the duo’s firing and rehiring as actual news.

Background[edit]
On October 28, 2022, many members of the press were present outside Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters on the first day that Elon Musk gained control of the social media company. It had been previously reported that mass layoffs were expected in the coming weeks and months. That day, two individuals identifying as “Rahul Ligma” and “Daniel Johnson” left Twitter’s building carrying large cardboard boxes, pretending to be two recently fired employees departing with their belongings. Neither had ever worked for Twitter, but the inventor of the Ligma character regularly exercised in a gymnasium in the same building, and he “thought it would be really funny” if he and a friend “walked out with a [cardboard] box and they fell for it.”[1]
While Rahul is a common male name in India, “Ligma” first appeared as a fictional disease, jokingly rumored to have killed the popular video game streamer Ninja in July 2018.[2] In October 2018, fact-checking website Snopes debunked false reports that rapper Machine Gun Kelly had died from a “Ligma overdose”.[3] “Ligma” sounds similar to “lick my” and has become a sophomoric internet meme to set up a crude joke.[2] When someone unfamiliar with the term is prompted to ask, “What’s ligma?” the punchline is to respond, “Ligma balls” or “Ligma nuts” or something similar.[4][5]

The prank[edit]
Rahul Ligma, in character, acted dismayed about his firing, telling a group of reporters his concerns about the “future of their democracy… the future of celebrity conservatorship”[6] (a Britney Spears reference[7]) and lamenting that “this wouldn’t have happened under Michelle Obama”,[8] while holding up a copy of the former first lady’s autobiography.[9][10] Claiming to be a Tesla owner and a software engineer with Twitter for the past three years, he also identified himself as “a big fan of clean energy, climate change, even free speech too.”[6][11]
“Daniel Johnson”, also part of the fictional team of fired data engineers, said he had to leave the interview to “touch base with my husband and wife”[12] using a version of the “My wife’s son” meme.[1]
The multiple references to pop culture and internet memes as well as the crude pun formed by combining the two names as “Ligma Johnson” (Johnson is a slang term for a human penis) went initially unnoticed by several field reporters, technology editors, and their news outlets. Although no “Rahul Ligma” exists in Twitter’s Slack or email system, nor shows up LinkedIn as an employee,[11] multiple news networks reported the fictional names along with statements, photographs, and video of the pranksters as being of actual ex-employees of Twitter.[1][5]
CNBC technology reporter Dierdre Bosa tweeted, “It’s happening. The entire team of data engineers let go. These are two of them. They are visibly shaken. Daniel tells us he owns a Tesla and doesn’t know how he will make payments”[9] The San Francisco ABC News affiliate reported that one “was terminated during a zoom meeting.” Based on the visual of the fake employees carrying boxes, two Bloomberg journalists wrote that mass layoffs were already underway at Twitter,[13] but actually it was only top executives that had lost their jobs.[14] Reuters was also among the major media companies fooled by the hoax.[15]

Reactions[edit]
Later in the day on October 28, Twitter CEO Elon Musk, aware of the joke, continued the crude puns by tweeting about the firing that “Ligma Johnson had it coming”, along with eggplant and water splash emojis.[9][16]
The India Times called the Ligma-Johnson hoax “perfectly-timed” and “one of the greatest pranks on the internet.[17]
Blake Shuster wrote in USA Today that the journalists involved were “duped by real life trolls” and “all it would’ve taken was 30 seconds to stop and actually do their jobs to avoid the whole news-cycle”.[18] The amateur actor who played “Rahul Ligma” told Know Your Meme that the stunt was spontaneous, and that “I was hoping at least one guy there would get it and they would turn off the cameras but instead, they kept going with the questions lmao. It was all improv including the names.”[1]
On October 31, 2022, CNBC’s Bosa apologized and told the The Daily Beast, “They got me” and “I didn’t do enough to confirm who they were”.[14]
But NBC, as of December 2022, still had not corrected its October 28 coverage that, “some Twitter employees appeared to have been let go”.[19]
The Rahul Ligma character resurfaced a few weeks later, apparently having relocated along with his “husband and wife” to the Bahamas to work for the cryptocurrency platform FTX. But when the company suddenly faced financial collapse, on November 11, 2022, he found himself unemployed once again.[15] Again on video with a cardboard box, this time on a sandy beach, Ligma commented, “It’s really tough, this is my second job in a month”, adding, “Web2 chewed me up and spit me out, I just really thought Web3 was gonna be different.”[20][21]

The fictional rehiring[edit]
On November 15, 2022, Musk changed course and apologized for “firing these geniuses”, jokingly saying it was “truly one of [my] biggest mistakes” and offered them their (fictional) jobs back. Calling their October media stunt “one of the best trolls ever”,[17] Musk publicized a photograph taken with himself along with “Ligma & Johnson” at Twitter headquarters.[12]
On November 16, 2022, the Hindi news channel Aaj Tak reported the comic duo’s fictional rehiring as an actual news story, continuing to fall for the prank.[22] In a 37-second video, the broadcaster announced, “After the large scale layoff, Elon is realizing his mistake. He is now calling back fired employees and has shared an image with two who have returned.”[23] The following day, the Voice of Indonesia also published the photograph in an article with the caption “Rahul Ligma, Elon Musk, and Daniel Johnson, are back as a team”.[24]
In the November 17, 2022 edition of Rising, co-host Briahna Joy Gray also seemed unaware of the running joke. The Hill TV journalist said that the rehiring proved Musk “actually needs these employees to work for him” and that “the employees didn’t look so happy in that photograph” to be back, having been “fired…prematurely”.[25]

Aftermath[edit]
On November 23, 2022, The Daily Beast reported that Daniel Francis, the actor who played Daniel Johnson in the hoax, had just been hired by Twitter as a software developer, citing a Business Insider article.[26][27]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

^ a b c d “‘Rahul Ligma’ Explains How He And ‘Daniel Johnson’ Trolled The Media By Pretending To Be Laid-Off Twitter Employees”. MSN. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ a b Katzowitz, Josh (2018-07-23). “Fortnite star Ninja at the center of a death hoax involving a fake disease called Ligma”. The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ Mikkelson, David (2018-10-15). “Machine Gun Kelly Death Hoax”. Snopes. Retrieved 2022-11-23.

^ “ligma Meaning | Pop Culture by Dictionary.com”. Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ a b Heath, Alex (2022-10-28). “People are pretending to be laid-off Twitter employees carrying boxes outside of HQ”. The Verge. Retrieved 2022-12-08.

^ a b Bhandari, Shashwat (2022-11-16). “‘Welcoming back Ligma, Johnson’: Elon Musk posts picture with 2 men who faked being fired from Twitter”. www.indiatvnews.com. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ Krishnamurthy, Chaitra (2022-10-29). “Rahul Ligma meme has Elon Musk in splits after fake Twitter employee’s prank”. HITC. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ “Tech reporters fell for a fake Twitter employee purge story”. For The Win. 2022-10-28. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ a b c Katje, Chris. “Fake Employee Rahul Ligma Gets Sacked From FTX Shortly After Twitter: Elon Musk Tells Benzinga He Can Come Back – Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA)”. Benzinga. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ “Watch: ‘Fired Twitter employee’ Rahul Ligma now ‘sacked’ by crypto exchange FTX – Times of India”. The Times of India. November 12, 2022. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ a b Heath, Alex (2022-10-28). “People are pretending to be laid-off Twitter employees carrying boxes outside of HQ”. The Verge. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ a b “Elon Musk has brought Ligma-Johnson back to Twitter HQ”. indy100. 2022-11-16. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ Keys, Matthew (2022-10-28). “CNBC, Bloomberg duped by pranksters claiming to be laid-off Twitter workers”. The Desk. Retrieved 2022-11-23.

^ a b Bolies, Corbin (2022-10-31). “CNBC Anchor Apologizes for Getting Duped by Twitter Layoff Trolls”. The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ a b “Watch: ‘Fired Twitter employee’ Rahul Ligma now ‘sacked’ by crypto exchange FTX – Times of India”. The Times of India. Retrieved 2022-12-08.

^ Pattnaik, Bibhu. “Elon Musk Responds After Pranksters Posing As Laid-Off Twitter Employees Fool Media Outlets”. Benzinga. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ a b Jakhwal, Sejal (November 15, 2022). “Rahul Ligma, Daniel Johnson Re-Hired, Twitter Boss Elon Musk Says Firing Them Was ‘My Biggest Mistake'”. The India Times. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ Shuster, Blake (2022-10-28). “Tech reporters fell for a fake Twitter employee purge story”. For The Win. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ Abruzzese, Jason; Zadrozny, Brandy (October 28, 2022). “Twitter’s first full day under Elon Musk is here, and the mood has already shifted”. NBC News. Retrieved 2022-12-08.

^ Jakwhal, Sejal (November 10, 2022). “Prankster ‘Rahul Ligma’ Fired Again, This Time From FTX Following Twitter Layoff”. MSN. Retrieved 2022-12-08.

^ Javaid, Arfa (2022-11-13). “After Twitter, prankster Rahul Ligma gets ‘laid off’ by crypto exchange FTX. Post sparks laughter”. Hindustan Times. Retrieved 2022-12-08.

^ Varma, Aishwarya (2022-11-18). “Aaj Tak Falls For Joke, Shares Video About Musk ‘Rehiring’ Two ‘Ex-Employees'”. TheQuint. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ Alam, Md Mahfooz (2022-11-18). “Aaj Tak mistakes Elon Musk’s joke about re-hiring fired employees for real”. newsmeter.in. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ Julianto, Ary (November 17, 2022). “Elon Musk Hopes To Find A New CEO To Reduce His Working Hours On Twitter”. VOI – Waktunya Merevolusi Pemberitaan. Retrieved 2022-12-11.

^ “Rising: November 17, 2022”. The Hill. 2022-11-17. Retrieved 2022-11-22.

^ Hays, Kali. “Elon Musk hires one of the fake Twitter quitters who posed as a laid off engineer”. Business Insider. Retrieved 2022-12-12.

^ Houghtaling, Ellie Quinlan (2022-11-23). “Musk Reportedly Hires Troll Who Posed as Fired Twitter Engineer”. The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2022-12-12.

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