The absurdly fake right-wing news site is a big hit
If there’s one thing the 2016 Presidential election taught us, it’s just how dangerous an ill-informed electorate can be in a democracy. As a candidate, President Trump skillfully took advantage of the information gap and rode it all the way to the White House. So, in an experiment to determine the extent of just how susceptible to fake news devoted Trump supporters could be, James McDaniel, a 28-year-old American living in Costa Rica, created an absurdly fake right-wing news site and in just two weeks it earned over two million page views.
On UndergroundNewsReport.com, McDaniel crafted news stories directly aimed at Trump supporters with headlines such as:
“Whoopi Goldberg: Navy SEAL Widow was ‘Looking for Attention’”
“Bombshell: WikiLeaks leaks ‘lost’ Clinton email”
“Former White House Aide: Obama ‘Is a Gay Man’”
“I was surprised by how gullible the people in the Trump groups were, but as I continued to write ridiculous things they just kept getting shared and I kept drawing more viewers,” McDaniel told PolitiFact. “I saw how many fake ridiculous stories were making rounds in these groups and just wanted to see how ridiculous they could get.”
McDaniel knew that a decent number of the president’s supporters were susceptible to believing conspiracy theories, but he had no idea to what extent they would readily believe his fake stories.
“I think that almost every story I did, or at least the successful ones, relied off of things that Trump supporters already believed. Obama is a Muslim terrorist. Hillary (Clinton) is a demonic child trafficker,” McDaniel said. “These are things much more widely believed among Trump supporters than I had previously thought.” McDaniel even added a disclaimer on his articles saying they were “fiction, presumably fake news,” but people continued to take his work seriously.
After three weeks, McDaniel saw the danger in spreading fake stories so he came clean on his website in an article with the headline: “BREAKING Satire Makes Fools of Gullible Trump Supporters.”
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
When I started this site, I had no idea that the stories would garner this much attention. While writing them, I was aiming for stories that no one would believe, but rather would be satirical in an age where disinformation is so prevalent.
Just for fun, I decided to post some of the stories in Trump fan groups on Facebook to see the reactions.
To my surprise, the Trump masses embraced my stories as fact, almost universally. It seemed that there wasn’t anything I could write that was too wild or outrageous to be believed by this particular audience.
I was startled that in today’s world, so many could be so willfully ignorant. It’s truly a frightening time when a group of people screaming, “FAKE NEWS!” at the top of their lungs, live, eat, and sleep falsehoods.