No, President Trump did not demand that the White House staff construct a makeshift “gorilla channel” for him to watch the primates hitting each other for 17 hours straight.
It’s ridiculous that there’s even a need to set this story straight. But the gorilla gag, a jest shared to Twitter in the style of the countless screenshots journalists have been circulating from Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” fooled enough people that its author had to change his display name to “the gorilla channel thing is a joke.” In part, that’s because ridiculousness is this administration’s bread and butter. Yet the debacle may say as much about us as it does about Trump.
It started with Wolff’s book, which presented the public with a cornucopia of craziness. If these anecdotes had appeared eight years ago, even in a publication of record, the general populace probably would have thought twice before taking them as gospel. Rahm Emanuel calls Barack Obama an idiot while Malia gabs to her friends at school about his graying hair? Yeah, right.
But Trump rolls his eyes back in his head as an aide reviews the first few amendments to the Constitution, and the West Wing staff sees the president as a child? That makes total sense. After all, Trump is on tape praising the nonexistent Article XII during the campaign — and we’ve seen him brag like a teenager about the size of his hands and, this week, his “button.”
Wolff skeptics have warned readers to take his opus with a whole shaker of salt. The writer has earned a reputation for embellishment, and significant swaths of this book are filtered through the words of former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who has an agenda of his own.
But those who wanted each and every bit of the tell-all to be true found a way of making it so: Wolff says Trump didn’t know who John Boehner was, yet he has been tweeting about the former speaker for years. Maybe, some of the president’s critics say, this signals Trump’s encroaching senility.
Wolff claims to have tapes of the conversations that informed his narrative; as denials from the administration flow in, maybe those will come out. For now, people buy into (and buy) what they want, all with fair reason. The “gorilla channel,” though, is another matter.
@pixelatedboat, the mastermind behind this so-called hoax and other riffs on the hot share of the day, has bamboozled netizens with his nonsense before — just never on so large a scale. Every time, his success underscores our reflex to trust whatever we read online, especially when it tells us what we want to hear. It’s the same inclination that allowed Russian propaganda to spread like a virus through social media leading up to the election.
But, as many a pundit has said many a time, both sides do it. There’s a volatile chemistry between a president who stirs disbelief each day and critics ready to suspend their own. Anything anyone says about Trump elicits a mournful nod from a resigned citizenry. The administration has brought that on itself by denying accurate stories, but the gorilla channel to-do makes a strong case that the public’s credulity has its pitfalls.
All of us need to take a breath, do the opposite of the president and think. Wolff’s book is its own sort of gorilla channel, full of button contests and chest-beating. It’s entertaining, but it does not add much to what has already been happening right in front of us. Trump had laid his unfitness bare before any book hit the shelves.