Peak Bullshit?

Earlier this year, as the US journalist Michael Wolff was angrily defending his chart-busting exposé Fire and Fury against allegations that it was thinly sourced and inaccurate – allegations, it should be pointed out, that flowed principally from its apricot-coloured subject – a passage purporting to be an extract from the book was published and widely shared on Twitter. Originating from an account called @pixelatedboat, this ‘shocking insight into Trump’s mind’ (as the tweeter described it) read as follows:

On his first night in the White House, President Trump complained that the TV in his bedroom was broken, because it didn’t have ‘the gorilla channel’. Trump seemed to be under the impression that a TV channel existed that screened nothing but gorilla-based content, 24 hours a day.

To appease Trump, White House staff compiled a number of gorilla documentaries into a makeshift gorilla channel, broadcast into Trump’s bedroom from a hastily constructed transmission tower on the South Lawn. However, Trump was unhappy with the channel they had created, moaning that it was ‘boring’ because ‘the gorillas aren’t fighting’.

Staff edited out all the parts of the documentaries where gorillas weren’t hitting each other, and at last the president was satisfied. ‘On some days he’ll watch the gorilla channel for 17 hours straight,’ an insider told me. ‘He kneels in front of the TV, with his face about four inches from the screen, and says encouraging things to the gorillas, like “the way you hit that other gorilla was good”. I think he thinks the gorillas can hear him.’

As most of @pixelatedboat’s followers would have recognised immediately, the ‘shocking’ character of these revelations was equivalent to a handshake buzzer. The tweet was a joke. And yet, as it spread throughout the Twittersphere, it became clear that many had taken the excerpt as genuine, including some journalists who should have known better. Sky News’ Samantha Maiden was one such, tweeting, ‘The Trump book says the US President watches gorilla docos for hours & crawls around on the floor acting out gorilla stuff.’ (That tweet has since been deleted.) Another was Eric Garland, a strategic intelligence analyst with over 170,000 followers and a fondness for the caps lock key: ‘THE WHITE HOUSE STAFF MADE A MAKESHIFT GORILLA CHANNEL FOR TRUMP TO WATCH AS MUCH AS 17 TIMES A DAY.’ Commenting on his original tweet, @pixelatedboat sounded exasperated: ‘tfw you parody a guy making up shit about Trump but people believe it so you become part of the problem.’ [More here.]