PSA: Fake Donald Trump Is Maybe Not Your Best Marketing Plan
Yesterday, an author — a bestselling author — went around and did a series of tweets with fake Donald Trump tweets, and these fake tweets were Donald Trump mocking this author’s book. One of those tweets has since gone around the ol’ retweet carousel around 12,000 times. In part because it was retweeted by a number of celebrities, most of whom seemed to believe that it was real. If you look at the tweet and its responses, this is a common theme — a lot of people thought it was real. Which isn’t surprising, because that’s the angle, isn’t it? Trump on any day of the week might be using his global platform as president-elect to (sigh) rant and rail at everything from automakers to world leaders to Saturday Night Live. Listen, let’s be real: if Trump one morning decided to tweet rant about like, penguins, it would not shock any of us. (“Penguins. Totally biased!! Tiny flipers and cant fly. SAD”). It wouldn’t shock us because his Twitter feed is a lunatic’s parade of rage and hurt butts, a constant pouty stream of fragile ego shrieking and wailing from between the bars of its wrought iron cage.
So, to see Obama one day talk about how important books are to him, and what writing has meant for him (seriously, he promoted The Three-Body Problem, holy shit awesome), and then the next day to see Trump railing on some random author’s book — it’s legit believable.
It’s just not true. That’s the first part of the PSA. I’m seeing it go around, so please know:
That Trump tweet is fake.
The author likely didn’t mean any harm here (though since being called on it, it would’ve been nice to see the tweets deleted or at least a public addendum suggesting that they were, indeed, fake). I assume he meant it as something halfway between a joke and a marketing ploy. And I’m sympathetic, because hey, getting word out about your book — even as a bestselling author — is a grim, strange magic. Having something go viral around your book has value, at least in getting attention — ideally, it also gets sales. Hell, I’m helping him with the job just by talking about it. I didn’t know about his book before yesterday, and now I do.
Since that time, though, not only has the tweet gone around the world a couple times, I’ve now seen other writers trying the same thing — mostly on Facebook, actually — again in the vague hopes of I guess doing a bit and also serving the Marketing Gods. And, just as with the original tweet, I’m seeing some people take the bait and think it’s real.
Here’s why this is probably not an ideal marketing strategy.
First, we live in an age of fake news, and sure, I get that maybe you’re trying to lean into that and use that as leverage for so-called “satire” (by the way, satire and marketing ploys don’t go together, and once something is a marketing ploy, it ceases to be satire). But this isn’t The Onion. This isn’t sharp, incisive comedy that is clearly fake. This looks like fake news, and people believed it as such, and even in a world where Comrade Dumpkov is who he is, it’s dangerous to put more kooky words into his mouth and to distract from the reality of the many actually awful things he says. Don’t headfuck us further. We have enough shit to worry about.
Second, there’s the creepy shine of exploitative opportunism here, because just days before, Trump attacked Civil Rights icon, John Lewis, and as a result, that icon’s sales jumped per book by a figure in the hundreds of thousands of percent. Trump is a guy who says, fuck bees, and tomorrow, everybody’s a beekeeper. Trump tells you to eat Trump Steaks and it’s like, okay, those are poison, don’t touch those, you’d be better off eating one of those Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. But the timing here is bad. You don’t really want to come across as an author who thinks, Hey, I can be just like John Lewis, and I’ll fake Trump trash-talking me, right? Even if that’s not what the author thought, it vibes that way. John Lewis is an American icon, and what he had to go through to get here, where he gets yelled at by a bloated ego-buffoon is not currency for you, for me, for any of us. Look at it a different way: would you somehow tweak and twist Black Lives Matter into a way to sell your book? Would you say BOOK LIVES MATTER to sell your book? Do you see where that starts to feel sorta gross, how it feels itchy and uncomfortable using real life and real suffering as rungs on a ladder?
Third, Trump is bad people. He’s advocated sexual assault, he’s advocated banning people based on their religion, he yells at Civil Rights icons and makes racist assumptions about their districts — I’m sure in his quieter hours, he kills and eats bald eagles while wiping his ass with the Constitution. So, looking at him, I have a hard time seeing opportunity. I have a hard time seeing him as a good marketing platform, especially because that platform would springboard from his horribleness. His awfulness isn’t a tool. If you could imagine yourself going back in time and using Actual Hitler as a way to sell your book or your widget or your whatever, then don’t do it with Actual Trump, either. We’re having a hard enough time with this guy, with fake news, with toxicity across social media to try to trade-off on that as some kind of marketing tactic. Again, that’s probably not what that author was doing here. Maybe it was, in all honesty, just a joke. Certainly I’ve made jokes about Comrade Dumpkov, and will continue to, because if we can’t laugh then we’ll chew through the rebar we have to bite on to repress the existential scream that continues to try to escape our faces. But this tweet has gotten bigger than just a joke, and maybe there are better ways. If you’re an author considering aping this tactic, nnnnyeah don’t? And if you’re the author who used the tactic in the first place, maybe now’s a good time to deal with those tweets?
For the rest of us, it is once again a good time to remember that there’s a lot of fakey-fakey stuff out there, and some of it doesn’t mean to be harmful, some of it definitely does, and it’s on us to stay vigilant and keep an eye on verifying what we read and what we spread around.