The Truth About Donald Trump and Gorilla Fights Explained

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump talks with journalists after signing tax reform legislation into law in the Oval Office on December 22, 2017. Trump praised Republican leaders in Congress for all their work on the biggest tax overhaul in decades. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

One of the benefits of our new social media hellscape is that when a highly anticipated book gets published, you don't need to buy it. You can just wait for the juiciest bits to surface on Twitter. When someone like Hillary Clinton publishes a memoir, for instance, this stage of the press cycle is inevitable: You wait for your favorite power tweeter to start sharing tidbits from the book, and it's almost like reading the damn thing yourself.

But when Twitter comedians get involved, this is an easy recipe for confusion. Now, after a satirical excerpt from Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House went viral, half the internet seems to believe that President Trump spends his days holed up in the White House watching gorillas fight on a television screen. (Fact check: He doesn't.)

Let's start at the beginning. Wolff, a well-known journalist, has just published a book that purports to reveal the harrowing reality of life inside the White House. Fire and Fury contains on-the-record quotes from several former White House staffers (including Stephen K. Bannon) and has attracted the ire of the president, who wants to halt its publication.

Naturally, it has provoked a lot of conversation on Trump's favorite media platform: Twitter. A prominent Twitter jokester, who goes by @pixelatedboat, tweeted a very funny and very fake passage from the very real book. It's about Trump and gorillas and—well, really, it would be best if you just read it for yourself:

Wow, this extract from Wolff’s book is a shocking insight into Trump’s mind:

— pixelatedboat aka “mr tweets” (@pixelatedboat) January 5, 2018

This humorous satire of Trump's TV addiction (and his staff's willingness to go to absurd lengths to placate the President) has amassed 15,000 retweets and counting, which guarantees that much of the internet will assume it's real.

This is how Twitter works: If a ridiculous but vaguely legit-looking item gets shared enough times, it will be taken as truth. A preposterous legal clause stating that Bill Murray can legally stage a heist to steal the $2 million Wu-Tang Clan album? Sure. A fake BBC story claiming that Radiohead fans applauded three minutes of guitar-tuning as genius? Why not.

This effect is magnified when Trump is involved. The billionaire behaves so erratically, and has defied so many presidential norms already, that virtually any story is at least somewhat believable. (I've learned this the hard way: In 2015, I tweeted a joke about Trump insulting the indie-rock band Pavement and was startled to find people believing it to be real.) Plus, partisan users are more likely to retweet something that supports their biases than to confirm it first.

Related: Trump wants to block publication of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury. Is that constitutional?

The gorilla joke confused at least one New York Times reporter and bamboozled Brookings fellow Shadi Hamid. Eric Garland, the liberal Twitter personality best known for his 2016 game-theory tweetstorm, was among the prominent users who fell for the joke. Garland breathlessly informed his 172,000 followers that "THE WHITE HOUSE STAFF MADE A MAKESHIFT GORILLA CHANNEL FOR TRUMP TO WATCH."

Best of all, Esquire tweeted out an actual gorilla channel for those who want to distract themselve from the collapse of American democracy by watching a bunch of gorillas hanging out. Maybe if you watch it 17 hours a day, you can pretend you're the president.

To clear up confusion, @pixelatedboat has now included the words "the gorilla channel thing is a joke" in his Twitter display name. If only it were real.