The crowd in the picture shared by @TEN_GOP, filled with what fans on social media believed were true believers of President Donald Trump, seems to go on forever.
Throngs of supporters, for some reason wearing almost entirely maroon and gold, are squeezed between a nondescript office building and an arena with no visible name on it.
"Massive crowd waiting outside for the Trump rally in Phoenix!” tweeted @TEN_GOP on Tuesday night, an influential pro-Trump twitter account that calls itself the “unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans.
"But... but... media says everyone hates Trump. I'm confused."
That person was right to be confused.
The aerial shot was not taken at Tuesday night’s Trump rally, which filled up only part of the Phoenix Convention Center.
It was a photo of the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Championship parade in Cleveland, 427 days ago and 2,000 miles away.
Chris McNeil had done it again.
“Even a cursory check of my profile or timeline would reveal that I am all satire, sports, and lame Dad jokes,” McNeil, who goes by @Reflog_18 on Twitter, told The Daily Beast.
McNeil is a Columbus-based social media marketer, but is better known as Cleveland’s most prolific sports troll. Cleveland Magazine even called him that. “He’s our troll, because he’s in on the joke,” Cleveland’s Caitlin Behrens wrote in April.
He organized the Browns’ Perfect Season Parade, when the team was set to go 0-16, the self-explanatory Johnny Manziel-Free February, which made the New York Post, and “other dumb things in Cleveland.”
Then, yesterday, like he does any time there’s a Trump rally, McNeil tweeted the Cavaliers parade photo from his verified Twitter account.
“My followers are used to me doing this,” said McNeil. “I put it out there, and then the fun starts.”
Accounts like @TEN_GOP several other high-profile far right personalities that frequently rail against “fake news” quickly ran with the photo. Ann Coulter even got in a retweet of the picture by a conservative radio host, which was later deleted.
@JoniTurnerLaw, who runs a website called OurTakeDown that is dedicated to “using every avenue available to Legally (sic) go after CNN for using their ‘Fake’ News Platform,” quickly shared the tweet.
“Please look at this! The Beatles never had crowds like this! This is US! This is USA! This is Trump!” the tweet read. It has since been deleted.
“People get blinded by their own agendas easily I've learned,” said McNeil. “Even the comments from my followers give it away. I don't try and keep up the muse too hard. That's what makes it funny to me.”
If this particular stunt sounds familiar, it’s because McNeil has been posting the same photo for most major Trump rallies over the past year.
It started last August, when a Trump supporter identifying as Tatiana Wright on Twitter tweeted the same Cavs parade photo in earnest, claiming it was a photo of Trump’s rally in Jacksonville that day.
Wright was immediately ridiculed by McNeil and his fans, who started reposting the crowd shot as a joke, along with pictures of then-Cavs point guard Matthew Delavedova, claiming it was Vice President Mike Pence.
Still, hours later, Breitbart had used the Cleveland parade photo to falsely illustrate the crowd in Jacksonville. The next day, Gateway Pundit did the same, imploring his leaders to “look at the MASSIVE LINE” to Trump’s event in Portland, Maine.
Both websites later deleted the images without a retraction.
After an accidentally successful trolling campaign, McNeil and the co-host of his podcast, Matt Allaire, started linking meld Cleveland gatherings and Trump rallies until they became one amorphous collection of photos and sentences.
“We do it with more than just Trump rallies, too. Like any event, we will attach the pic of the Cavs parade (to it) and people will believe it,” said Allaire. “People will believe anything.”
Last September, for example, McNeil tagged Eric Trump in a tweet that read “People got married at a Trump rally last week.” The accompanying picture was what appears to be a pop-up wedding at a nearly empty Browns game.
McNeil will plays elaborate pranks on diehard fans of any politician, he said, but he messes with “Trumpers more than the others.”
“There are a lot of important things politicians do while in office, then there are the dumb things people get upset about online—like crowd sizes,” he said. “I wish we would all do more laughing about the dumb stuff and coming together on the important stuff.”