Paul Horner has written thousands of fake articles — based on news that never happened — and on a wide range of fake topics. He has said he was Banksy (twice) and, more worrisome, has been retweeted by Corey Lewandowski and Eric Trump. Just like the teenage Macedonian trolls, he has been making lots of money by writing fiction about the election.
He has been able to do it because people aren't critical about their damn Facebook feeds.
"Honestly, people are definitely dumber," Horner told The Washington Post in a wide-ranging interview. "They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected."
Horner said that Trump fans were especially gullible — "his followers don't fact-check anything " — and kept pushing the envelope, seeing how far he could take the joke until someone called him out. That didn't happen, and Trump fans kept falling for and propagating fake news over and over.
Fake news shaped this election, there's no question about it. According to BuzzFeed's Craig Silverman, during the final three months after the Democratic and Republican conventions, fake news surpassed real news for engagement on Facebook.
I really don't think that stupid people are to blame. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, proved on Thursday morning that even a top lawmaker could be duped by repeated claims that protesters at Donald Trump rallies were paid to be there. (C'mon, people. How much money do you think liberals have lying around to throw at people to march in the streets?)
Why don't we have more reporting on paid rioting?
Who pays for it?
Through what orgs?
Who are the "workers"?
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) Nov, 17, 2016
Question for those certain there is no such thing as paid protesting: Why not just report more on astroturfing then? Size? Funders? Limits? https://t.co/sp0k3HWO0E — Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) Nov. 17, 2016
Being duped by fake "news" really shouldn't be a surprise, especially for conservatives and Trump supporters in particular. For nearly 30 years, the conservative media has made a name for itself by telling its listeners and readers not to trust the mainstream news; Trust us; trust your gut on a story.
Donald Trump used that to his advantage, telling distrustful supporters early on that the media was against him — that's the followers that still believe President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States but may have been born in Kenya.
Horner's $10,000-a-month cottage industry of fooling conservatives on social media may be in trouble, as Facebook and Google are taking steps to stop putting ads on fake news sites.
Read the full Horner interview on The Washington Post.