In a stark reflection of the state of critical thinking, the Internet fell for a joke that claimed Trump loved watching fighting gorillas on TV.
It seems people are so accustomed to the constant madness coming out of the president’s Twitter account, that to many, a bogus story like this could actually be plausible.
Last week, comic book artist Ben Ward posted on his Twitter account a fake screenshot of an excerpt from “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” the recently released book by journalist Michael Wolff that’s been on everybody’s mouth for a couple of days now.
The hilarious excerpt recalls how Trump supposedly complained on his first night at The White House about his TV not having “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.”
According to the false tale, government staff hurried to compile Gorilla documentaries to appease the leader, but the US President bemoaned yet again about the makeshift channel being “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’” continues the made up story.
Wow, this extract from Wolff’s book is a shocking insight into Trump’s mind: pic.twitter.com/1ZecclggSa
— pixelated boat (@pixelatedboat) January 5, 2018
The book has got under Trump’s skin, prompting the President to make a totally bonkers tweet in which he states he’s a “stable genius”.
There are various controversial excerpts of the book circulating all over social media, including one that describes the president asking who John Boehner is, and another in which the book claims Trump promised Melania that he wouldn’t win the election.
But curiously, the false story about The Gorilla Channel has been one of the most talked about and retweeted of all.
The joke has been shared more than 26,000 times and has garnered almost 90,000 likes. Even a few prominent Twitter personalities thought it was real and re-posted it.
By the weekend, big sites like Esquire, The Animal Channel and Netflix also joined the party.
Our #GorillaChannel features the latest on the critically endangered gorillas of Africa and the struggle to preserve a future for them. Join us in spreading awareness and fulfilling our mission of “helping people, saving gorillas”. https://t.co/3pgkA43Zqa pic.twitter.com/bA0SJ4SXqW
— Fossey Gorilla Fund (@SavingGorillas) January 5, 2018
What makes for a Gorilla Channel? A lot of eating, sleeping, and, of course, playtime! pic.twitter.com/cnXOSSY07z
— AnimalPlanet (@AnimalPlanet) January 5, 2018
please stop calling our customer service hotline to ask if we have The Gorilla Channel
— Netflix US (@netflix) January 6, 2018
Vice News even made a Gorilla Channel a reality. No fights though.
We just made the fake Trump Gorilla Channel a reality. Go bananas watching it here. https://t.co/0fokgdkUri
— VICE News (@vicenews) January 5, 2018
To Jennifer Stromer-Galley, the joke spread so rapidly because people are willing to suspend disbelief in order to confirm their biases. Stromer-Galley, former president of the Association of Internet Researchers and a professor at Syracuse University, says these are the same reasons why fake news are able to spread so effectively.
“This is a bit more harmless, but it’s part of a larger challenge,” she said in an interview with The New York Times. “It does raise questions for how we try to empower the public to better sort out what’s true from fiction.”
(Lead image: Benjamin Rasmussen for TIME)