Journalist Michael Wolff released a book today with some explosive claims about the Trump regime. Fire and Fury contains stories that seem almost too incredible to be real. And in the case of one excerpt you may have seen on social media, it’s indeed too good to be true.
Twitter user PixelatedBoat is an Australian cartoonist perhaps best known on social media for coining the term Milkshake Duck. The humorist tweeted out a joke yesterday that purported to show an excerpt from the new book about President Trump. And some people think it’s real.
It’s an absurd story about President Trump believing that there’s a thing called the Gorilla Channel. And PixelatedBoat ups the ante with each paragraph to the point where not only has Trump’s staff constructed a special TV tower to deliver this fake channel, the fictional Trump is bored with it because the gorillas aren’t fighting.
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The joke finishes by making the story even more preposterous, as Trump’s imagined staffers cut the gorilla footage down to just the fighting and Trump talks to the TV, believing that they can hear him.
Again, it’s outlandishly over the top. But it’s just believable enough that people like New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo and Hashtag Resistance conspiracy theorist Eric Garland thought it might be real.
In a followup tweet, Manjoo wrote that people shouldn’t tweet out jokes like this because they’re too often stripped of context and spread fake news. And while I’m somewhat sympathetic to this line of thinking, strict adherence to it would mean that nobody would ever get to joke about anything again.
Yes, fake screenshots are often stripped of context and get passed around as real, but much of it is an indictment of just how absurd our reality has become. People believe that Trump might demand a dedicated Gorilla Channel because it’s honestly not that much more ridiculous than anything else about politics in 2018.
Over my years of debunking fake images on social media here at Gizmodo, people often ask me, did anyone every really think that photo was real? And the answer is always yes. Someone will always believe something that’s fake, no matter how “obvious” it was to you.
The Gorilla Channel is already becoming a meme, and plenty of people are pointing out that they’d actually love it if there really was a 24/7 channel devoted to gorillas. But, alas, no such channel exists. Yet. And the president doesn’t have a devoted TV feed that just shows gorilla fights.