Reason Number 12 to Love New York: Kids Here Are the Biggest and Best Fucking Liars in America

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Yesterday, New York released its annual “Reasons to Love New York” list and while it contained many of the usual suspects—we have good food! there’s a new Williamsburg! people here are actually really nice! boobs!—one of the magazine’s reasons stood out from the rest, so much so that it even warranted a mention on the front page of yesterday’s New York Post. This particular reason to love New York centers around the fact that it’s possible here to be a high school student and amass $72 million playing the stock market on your lunch break. New York‘s Jessica Pressler reported on the story of Mohammed Islam, a senior at Stuyvesant High School who lives in Queens, and who—rumor had it—made a fortune (and not a small one, mind you) trading gold and oil. It was a great story! No wonder it got picked up everywhere! Only in New York, you guys! You can’t make this stuff up! Oh, wait. You can only make this stuff up? Oops!

It didn’t even take 24-hours before Islam’s story was completely discredited. The high school student even definitively told the New York Observer that he had fabricated the entire thing, and that not only had he not made eight figures playing the stock market, but he hadn’t even made one. And as Observer editor Ken Kurson points out (which many New York commenters did as well):”Even if this working-class kid had somehow started with $100,000 as a high school freshman on day one at Stuy High, he’d have needed to average a compounded annualized return of something like 796% over the three years since. C’mon, man.”

New York has changed the headline on the piece to a more general claim that Islam just “made millions” and says that its fact checker was provided with bank statements from Islam, and thus did perform  due diligence on the piece. But in the words of Ken Kurson, c’mon, man. Pressler is also defending herself and stressing that she made a point to write within the story that it was based on a rumor and involved “an unbelievable amount of money,” but she also wrote in the piece that “as far as rumors go, this one seemed legit.” Pressler, who is about to begin a new job at Bloomberg News where she will lead a financial investigative unit, also denies that the scrutiny is warranted since the story is only being run in New York, saying, “Holding it to the standard of a financial publication? It’s just a different thing,”

It seems pretty clear that both New York and Pressler are pretty eager to distance themselves from other recent cases of questionable journalism, in which reporters were more interested in going after sensational stories rather than, you know, factual ones, so we understand why they’re downplaying what actually happened and focusing on the fact that, I don’t know, Islam could have made millions in the stock market if he’d been playing with real money. But, well, the idea that someone could do something isn’t a reason to love New York. People could do shit anywhere. But they don’t! That’s why everywhere else is lame. (Kidding. Kind of.) But you know, that’s also kind of beside the point now, because the truth is that Mohammed Islam is still a perfect example of why we should love New York—maybe even more so than if he’d made all that money. Simply put: Mohammed Islam told one of the best lies we’ve heard in a long fucking time—it even involved the “son of an oligarch from Kazakhstan”—and fooled a good reporter and a well-respected media outlet. Islam is, in many ways, the consummate New Yorker—the son of Bengali immigrants, Islam got into the most elite high school in New York (where the acceptance rate is lower than that of Harvard) and managed to be featured in New York and on the front page of the Post all before he got his driver license. Hats off to you, kid. Even if you don’t have eight-figures in the bank (welcome to the club) and your parents won’t talk to you (this is actually sad), there’s no denying that you’re going places, and that you and people like you are definitely the reason to still love New York. Especially now that all our sports teams suuuuucccccck.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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1 COMMENT

  1. He’s a big liar, but a horribly incompetent liar, however, it’s the non-existent journalistic standards of the writers that need some examination.

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