Last week, I wrote an imaginary dialogue between myself and Donald Trump in which he assumes my apocalyptic novel is about him and proceeds to insult me in classic Trumpian style. I posted this dialogue on Twitter by replying to faked screenshots of Trump’s attacks.
You can read it here.
From my perspective, as an obscure author with no political influence and 1/6th the Twitter following of @Charmin toilet paper, the idea of the president somehow getting ahold of my zombie novel and yelling about it online was pure absurdity. It was a parody of Trump’s well-known penchant for petty feuds on Twitter, taken to a ludicrous extreme by imagining ME as his target instead of the usual high profile influencers.
For anyone who knows who I am, the joke was clear. For anyone who read to the end of the increasingly absurd sequence, the joke was clear. What I didn’t consider is what would happen if just one of those tweets—the first and therefore the least outlandish—happened to go MASSIVELY VIRAL.
What happened was a lot of people who knew nothing about me saw that tweet and, assuming I must be someone worthy of Trump’s notice, believed it fully and rushed to my defense. They spread it around and added their own commentary and when it dawned on them that this was all a joke…they got mad.
Oh boy did they get mad.
My mentions became a stream of hate—not from Trump supporters but from outraged progressives. I spent a day trying to explain myself, but as the thing escalated and the limitations of 140-character discourse became apparent yet again, I had to evacuate from Twitter and seal it off like Chernobyl. I’m told there have been a few big think-pieces written about my reprehensible stunt, but since none of those writers reached out for my perspective, I feel no desire to reach out for theirs, and I have not read their pieces.
From what I’ve gathered, though, I’m charged with three major offenses, and I want to answer them. Maybe everyone's forgotten about it already and I should just let it fade, but this is half explanation and half apology and I feel a need to get it on record.
1. I TRIVIALIZED THE REAL VICTIMS OF TRUMP’S ATTACKS
Trump has many victims. His election acted as an official endorsement of bigotry, giving bigots an imagined license to harass and assault, and many people have already suffered. Many more are living in fear of what’s to come in the next four years of political and cultural regression. And Trump has quite likely victimized a few women personally.
All of that is terrible...but it has nothing to do with my tweets.
If I'd pretended I was harassed or assaulted or in some way disenfranchised, that WOULD be reprehensible. But the joke was about Trump’s TWEETS—his hilarious, self-parodying rants against his “enemies"—which have not truly victimized anyone. It’s been well documented that everyone he’s attacked on Twitter has BENEFITED from it, and it seems unlikely that any of them were emotionally stung by the inane ravings of this cartoon man. There have been and probably will be many victims of Trump’s presidency, but as far as I'm aware, the only victim of Trump’s TWEETS is his own reputation.
2. I SPREAD FAKE NEWS THAT MUDDIES THE WATERS OF A SERIOUS SITUATION
I am not a media outlet. I am a fiction writer. I wrote a fictional dialogue and posted it on my personal Twitter account, without any surrounding context to suggest that this was a real occurrence rather than just another bit of nonsense theater squirting out of my brain. If anyone thought it really mattered, a quick click to my profile—or Trump’s—would have revealed the truth. But no one bothered to do that because IT DIDN'T MATTER. I didn't fake anything shocking or slanderous. I didn't fake a policy announcement. I faked a Trump Twitter Rant, in-character and on-brand and absolutely meaningless in the wider context of Trump.
So someone tells you Trump bullied someone, and you believe it. Then you find out it didn't happen. So what? He bullies people all the time. Maybe it didn't happen today, but it happened yesterday and it'll happen tomorrow, so does it really make any difference? It's like a touch-up on a painting. That specific area is a forgery! But it's absorbed into the surrounding context, and the painting remains authentic.
Very post-truth, I know. But this is the melting dreamworld we’re living in.
3. I LIED ABOUT BEING ATTACKED IN ORDER TO GAIN PUBLIC SYMPATHY AND BOOST MY BOOK SALES
This is the one where I apologize. I didn’t do those tweets to become a fake martyr. I wasn’t trying to get sympathy sales. Trump’s Twitter attacks are essentially a meme at this point, and I was using that meme as a comedic framing device to talk about my upcoming book. Sure, I thought it'd be great if people believed it for a minute before the escalating absurdity made the joke apparent...but that only works when I'm tweeting to my usual tiny handful of followers. The joke wasn’t designed for a viral scale, so a lot of people ended up investing genuine emotion into it, then felt tricked when they learned what it was.
I apologize for that. It wasn’t my intention to hijack sincere activism to help me sell books. It was my intention to create a funny satirical scenario to help me sell books. And I DON'T apologize for trying to sell books. It's my job to sell books, and since I try to write them about things that matter, I believe selling them matters too. I don't apologize for tapping into global anxieties to boost my sales, because my book is ABOUT global anxieties. It's a product of the cultural climate, and it speaks to the cultural climate, so yes, I’m going to involve the cultural climate when I promote it. Just because someone profits off something doesn’t make it exploitation.
Speaking of profit: if it makes anyone feel better, my massive viral fraud earned me a dizzying sales spike of…22 books. So don't worry about me scamming my way to stardom. There’s Twitter and there’s the real world, and rarely do they meet. Donald Trump is now the president of the United States and I am still a low-selling author in a leaky old house, so please accept my partial apology for my partially misguided joke, and let’s move on to realer fights.