How We Fooled Donald Trump Into Retweeting Benito Mussolini
[There was a video here]
Is Donald Trump a fascist? Experts, historians, and pundits have debated the question for months. One thing has been certain for a while now: He tweets like one. That’s why, last year, Gawker’s Ashley Feinberg created a Twitter bot that would post quotes from the writings and speeches of the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, but with all of them attributed to businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. This morning, he retweeted that account.
"@ilduce2016: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” – @realDonaldTrump #MakeAmericaGreatAgain"— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2016
Twitter is Trump’s preferred social media platform for direct communication with his followers, haters, and—most importantly—the journalists who obsessively cover his carnival-like presidential campaign. It’s where Trump goes to personally insult his enemies and opponents, but it’s also where he seeks evidence of his greatness, and regularly retweets (in his idiosyncratic style, quoting entire tweets rather than using the network’s built-in retweet tool) praise for himself.
Last year, we set a trap for Trump. We came up with the idea for that Mussolini bot under the assumption that Trump would retweet just about anything, no matter how dubious or vile the source, as long as it sounded like praise for himself. (It helps that that a number of Mussolini’s quotes sound plausibly like lines from Trump’s myriad books.) The account, @ilduce2016, was created by Gawker senior writer Ashley Feinberg and Gawker Media Editorial Labs director Adam Pash. It has tweeted solely at Donald Trump, multiple times a day, since December 2015.
Our Fascist bot was anything but subtle. It was, after all, directly named after Mussolini. The New York Times today swiftly recognized that it was a parody account. At the time of the account’s creation, Gawker Media Executive Editor John Cook expressed some concern that the joke behind the account was far too obvious, and wouldn’t trick anyone but a complete idiot.
Today, Donald Trump proved him—and all of us—right.