There’s a bunch of different theories about what caused Donald Trump to win. Was Hillary a bad candidate, do people really love his trade policies, or is there actually a pact with the devil involving a Cubs World Series?
All of those are about as plausible as each other, but one particularly enduring theory is the rise of “fake news.” Among a mainstream media that failed to call the election and is suffering industry-wide layoffs, blaming fake news (and, by extension, the people dumb enough to believe it) is blissfully cathartic. And, rather surprisingly, the authors peddling the fake news agree.
The Washington Post‘s Intercept blog has published the full transcript of an interview with Paul Horner, a notorious fake news writer. He’s made headlines before as the supposed real man behind Banksy, and describes himself mostly as a “satirist.”
Given that, you’d probably expect him to at least pretend that he does it to be funny, or for some higher person. But in the interview, he’s impressively frank about his motivations: money, and messing with Trump supporters.
He claims that the reason he targeted Trump with his fake stories — the most famous of which was a story about anti-Trump protesters being paid — was because he wanted to mess with Trump:
“I thought they’d fact-check it, and it’d make them look worse. I mean that’s how this always works: Someone posts something I write, then they find out it’s false, then they look like idiots. But Trump supporters — they just keep running with it! They never fact-check anything! Now he’s in the White House. Looking back, instead of hurting the campaign, I think I helped it. And that feels [bad].”
He’s clearly having a fun time coming to terms with what he believes he’s done.
You think you personally helped elect Trump?
I don’t know. I don’t know if I did or not. I don’t know. I don’t know.
But he also admits, as has been hinted previously, that fake news is all about the money.
“I make most of my money from AdSense — like, you wouldn’t believe how much money I make from it. Right now I make like $10,000 a month from AdSense.
But if it did really go away, that would suck. I don’t know what I would do.”
The full interview is illuminating, as a real look behind the scenes at fake news websites. With the media in a fury over fake news and its effect on the election, it’s fascinating to see how simple the other side of the story really is.