Most people in Jim Murtagh’s life know him as a 28-year-old Brooklyn musician who takes care of his dog, loves to draw comics and tweets the occasional one-liner. To exponentially more people, however, he’s someone else — someone who, when he’s not jerking off five times a day, thinking about jerking off, denouncing serial abusers despite being a serial abuser himself or endlessly replying to women until they relive their trauma, his most positive trait is being dead.
“I’m always screaming at women, beating off or railing against reproductive rights — I’m just an absolute monster who does all these awful, awful things,” he tells me.
But despite what your feed might have you believe, Murtagh swears he’s not that guy. In fact, he claims, “It’s just a couple stock photos I did for [the satire site] Reductress four years ago. I was pretty involved in the New York comedy scene back then and had written a couple articles for them. At some point, they sent out an email to everyone on their staff saying, ‘Hey, if anyone’s free tomorrow, we need to do a bunch of stock photos just so we have them.’ I was going to be in the area anyway, so I swung by to help out and take some pictures.”
“I didn’t make much of it at the time,” he continues. “They only took maybe 10 pictures — a couple of me standing up and smiling, a couple of me at a computer looking happy, a couple of me at a computer looking mad, all pretty normal stuff.”
Murtagh knew, of course, that his image would be paired with satirical headlines that would most likely skewer him. That part he takes in stride. “The headlines are hilarious and I know it’s satire, so it doesn’t bother me,” he says. Still, he can’t help but wonder why they keep using his picture, “and always for the worst things imaginable.”
When the first couple of headlines came out with him alone at the computer, he laughed, but over the years they kept coming, each headline seemingly worse than the last. “Maybe they’re using other guys and I don’t realize it,” he tells me. “But every time they use my picture, it seems like someone I know sees it. So I’ll have people from college or my family send it to me like, ‘Is this you? What is this?’”
And answering them has gotten a bit exhausting. “Just having to explain it over and over again,” he explains with a laugh. “Like, ‘Yeah, it was three years ago. It’s obviously not real. They just keep using my picture, and there’s nothing I can really do about it. But it’s not a big deal.’”
Fortunately for Murtagh, he’s never had “anyone actively think it’s real,” but friends and family often wonder if people will start to “subconsciously associate me with all these awful things because it’s always my picture with the headlines.”
Murtagh knows a few other people who have appeared in photos for Reductress articles, “but they never seem to be paired with headlines like mine.” For example, back when he went to that fateful photoshoot — per the photo’s metadata, his fate was sealed at exactly 2:49 p.m on November 28, 2016 — another friend accompanied him. “They posed me with the computer and him with one of their female writers, so all of his images turned into headlines about him having a ‘huge dick,’” Murtagh laments. “I’m like, ‘Why does he get that one, and I’m always screaming at women about #MeToo?!?!’”
“I’ve never reached out to [Reductress], but sometimes I want to ask, ‘Do you guys hate me? Can’t I be nice just once?’” he continues.
There is, though, at least some upside to his infamy. “I had no followers on Twitter before this blew up,” he says. “But now people will message me and be like, ‘You’re actually kind of funny.’ Hopefully, they stick around.”
And it’s not like he’s dead or anything, even though Reductress has definitely tried to kill him off — in what happens to be his favorite headline of the bunch, “Ultimate Ally? This Man Just Died.” “It’s so to the point and concise, it just makes me laugh,” he says. “Plus, it’s not that grotesque, like I’m not beating off or screaming about men’s rights, so that’s good, too.”