If you’re not paying attention, it looks like a smoking gun—a leaked expense report tying Hillary Clinton to the media’s most powerful groups.
The numbers from the supposedly leaked document—printed out and marked up with a highlighter, for good measure—are damning: $75,000 directly from the Clinton Foundation to polling firm Public Policy Polling. Over $333,000 sent, somehow, to the Black Panthers. Then the kicker: $30,000 to the “Sharia Law Center.”
Of course, the whole thing is totally fake. The header for the page, “Voter Suppression,” probably should’ve given it right away. But for Trump supporters on Twitter and Facebook, a Fox News contributor, and even radio hosts like Hal Turner, it is still very much real to them.
Chris from Massachusetts (who declined to give his last name) got ’em again. He’s spent all week trying to assuage anyone responding to his tweet with doubts about the paper’s veracity that it is the truest WikiLeak of all.
Since the release of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails by WikiLeaks and Donald Trump’s lewd Access Hollywood conversation, Chris is one of many useful trolls creating intentional, immediately obvious disinformation—that will still dupe a too-large subset of devotees.
Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, who is now polling above 20 percent in Utah, had to put out a statement Saturday denying that he took $12,000 from the Clinton Foundation. “I have no relationship to the Clinton Foundation. I oppose both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump,” he said.
McMullin’s campaign even had to put up a section on his official website to denounce the printout, on which McMullin called “The Dumbest Meme on the Internet.” Glenn Beck, who earned a cool hundred-grand in this fictional land, even had to block out time in his podcast this weekend to mock it. Still, the web raged on.
“Sharia Law? Glenn Beck? Bill Ayers? Black Lives Matter? ACORN? Public Polling?” asked Trump supporter @DebbGV on Twitter. “What exactly is this money being paid out for???”
Chris, who goes by MassRafTer on Twitter, has been duping Trump supporters with intentionally impossible-to-believe fake leaked documents for a few months now.
“The wonderful thing is this is the third time 55 dipshits per minute have fallen for my Photoshop and MSPaint work,” Chris told The Daily Beast.
His most high-profile escapade was a fake internal memo by Public Policy Polling that showed the Clinton campaign reprimanding the survey company over how poor it is at collusion.
“Your latest poll is unacceptable. We aren’t paying you $760,000 per month to show a FIVE POINT LEAD. Are you trying to make Trump win?” it reads. “We will be ending our contract with your company unless results improve quickly.”
The stunt landed the fake memo on far-right message boards and merited a mocking two-minute segment on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes. Even Donald Trump Jr. retweeted it—before later deleting it.
Turns out Chris was a pioneer.
“The first one was made to be as fake looking as possible just to see if people would buy it. Now 90 percent unbelievable would be a good number,” Chris said. “So I made the new one a greatest hits of Obama and Clinton conspiracies with stuff like Larry Sinclair to make it extra obvious.”
Sinclair is, according to a fabricated right-wing conspiracy theory, Barack Obama’s gay lover and drug peddler from the ’90s. Still, thousands of people—and counting—bought Chris’s fake posts.
Take self-professed Trump supporter @OMFG_America, who went by @Anthony_VVeiner until Wednesday afternoon, and whose bio says his “hobbies include shitposting, tweeting fake news, and romantic walks on the beach.”
Weeks ago, he posted what he alleged was Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine yelling at his 11-year-old daughter in a leaked voicemail. By Wednesday, when the post picked up steam, the “leak” had over 2,000 retweets.
The audio, however, was Alec Baldwin’s infamous freakout from 2007, which made national news in April of that same year. Even Paul Joseph Watson of pro-Trump conspiracy website Infowars, where articles regularly appear declaring the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks an inside job, took to Twitter to refute it.
“Stop circulating that ‘Tim Kaine’ voicemail. It’s not him, it’s Alec Baldwin,” he wrote. “Why are some resorting to hoaxes when we have real WikiLeaks?”
@OMFG_America later deleted the tweet, plus all of his tweets insisting it was real, and retweeted Watson. The user didn’t respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast.
Chris, in the meantime, thinks he’s doing a minor public service—to get people be a little more discerning with random “leaks” and pieces of paper floating around the Internet.
“Conspiracy-theory nonsense drives me crazy, as do the random Facebook political hoaxes you see every day,” he said. “I’d like to think people who aren’t in a true-believer camp feel embarrassed when they fall for something obviously fake, and then think twice the next time.”
If Trump sought to blur reality in an effort to give legitimacy to illegitimate conspiracy theories, Chris is doing the opposite. He’s trying to hold a mirror up to those who immediately accept any information that conforms to precisely what they want to believe—no matter how unbelievable it may be.
“Maybe, just maybe the true believers who retweet this stuff gleefully look a little less credible every time,” he said.
His own bullshit has even served to reinforce more bullshit in the far-right message boards that thrive on leaks and anonymous posts with no attribution. “Trump supporters use these for their own, or cite my previous hoaxes to prove new ones are real,” he added.
In the meantime, all Chris asks is for you to do the absolute bare minimum: Make one extra click before you retweet.
“I don’t know what’s funnier, the people who believe it’s real, or the people who don’t take 10 seconds to see if I think it’s real, and debunk it to me,” he said.
Otherwise, disinformation can get out of hand, fast—just the way some people want it.