The Gorilla Channel Satire Demonstrates The Ridiculousness Of Banning Fake News

from the gorilla-channel-hot-takes dept

If you spend much time on political Twitter — or the more fun elements of the self-described “Weird Twitter” — then you’re probably already quite aware of the truly wonderful @pixelatedboat account. That account’s biggest claim to fame is Milkshake Duck (the best absurdist encapsulation of how the internet frequently builds up some new internet superstar out of nothing, only then to discover their hero has flaws…), but the account also has a very long (and very amusing) history of posting “fake screenshots.” See, for example, the one PixelatedBoat posted on New Years, satirizing Neil deGrasse Tyson:

On Thursday evening, just as everyone was going crazy over Michael Wolff’s book about the Trump White House, PixelatedBoat posted an obviously satirical screenshot of it, claiming that White House staffers, at the President’s demand, had created a special “Gorilla Channel” that the President watched 17 hours a day, and which they had to alter to include more gorilla fights.

Except… as you may have already heard, what seemed obvious to many of us was apparently not so obvious to those with what some have referred to as Trump Derangement Syndrome. Basically, because there actually are so many crazy stories about President Trump and his administration — and the Wolff book was already revealing a few more of these “nutty” anecdotes — some people were primed to accept this satire as fact… and they ran with it.

Now, let’s just take a step back for a second and point out something: this is what good satire does. It fools people. When 100% of the people get the satire, it’s not good satire. A large part of the point of good satire is to fool people and help make people think about things. The classic of this genre, of course, Jonathan’s Swift’s A Modest Proposal, in which he merely suggested feeding poor children to the wealthy as a way to alleviate the problems of poverty. It was, of course, a powerful way to mock the attitudes some had towards the poor. And, a lot of people thought he was serious. That’s part of why we still remember the work today, centuries later.

And, with PixelatedBoat’s tweet… a fairly large number of people — including some “high profile” Twitter users — completely fell for it, which then quickly led others to mocking them. Even in cases where some people initially realized it was fake… they began to question themselves. Perhaps my favorite response was from the NY Times’ Farhad Manjoo (who is a super nice person… but… really…)

Manjoo then told everyone to stop posting satirical fake screenshots, which seems like a bit of hole digging:

But that’s wrong. Satire is an extremely powerful force in getting people to think more carefully about a variety of different social issues — and whether intentional or not, PixleatedBoat’s tweet did exactly that.

But, what’s much more interesting to me is how this impacts two other recent stories. First, last week we wrote about French President Macron’s awful idea to “ban fake news” in France during election seasons. And, second, Germany’s new “social media platforms must delete bad speech” law, which has already been used to go after satire on social media.

As Fabio Chiusi noted, if the whole Gorilla Channel PixelatedBoat saga had played out in Germany, Twitter might be facing a €50 million fine (and its employees a €5 million fine). And that doesn’t even get to the situation in France. After all, this satire is “fake news.” It literally is exactly that. But it’s also a perfect example of why banning fake news is so dumb. Beyond the difficulty of determining what really is fake news, there is plenty of “fake news” that we want to protect. And satire is a big part of it.

I mean, banning “fake news” would require shutting down The Onion. Sure, you may know its satire — but others get fooled by The Onion all the time. And that’s part of the fun — in part because it can spark discussions, debate and (gasp) actual introspection. Under the rules being pushed in Europe right now (and which some in the US would like to emulate), banning or punishing satire would cripple some of the best social commentary out there. “A Modest Proposal” may have made some people angry, but it made many more think. Just because some people get fooled isn’t a reason to ban such things or to push for censorship. It’s a reason to encourage discussion, debate, introspection and learning — which is often pushed forward thanks to satire.

Now, when’s that Gorilla Channel going to be available to the wider public?

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Comments on “The Gorilla Channel Satire Demonstrates The Ridiculousness Of Banning Fake News”

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Jinxed (profile) says:

The only issue I have with satire are by those who read it, and believe it, then refuse to accept the truth when it’s exposed as satire (fake).

When this happens, all bets are off any side believes there’s still any “funny” left in the “joke”.

I suppose it could be worse, though. Imagine if a prestige medical journal published facts vaccinations can be linked to autism.

When the lines get blurred and innocent people suffer for it, at what point does news lose its integrity to be honest.

Anonymous Coward says:

The worst fake news is from NYTimes or WashPo. -- You still believe the "Trump-Russia collusion"!

Set aside this silly satire, because you’re using it only to claim that “fake news” is perfectly legitimate. But it’s NOT, it’s knowing lies intended to harm all discourse.

READ “1984”: fake news is a tactic to destroy minds. The globalists don’t care what you believe that’s fake, but don’t want you to believe ANY Truth.

However, we’re not quite there yet, so if want to impeach Trump, still need some substance, not fictions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The worst fake news is from NYTimes or WashPo. -- You still believe the "Trump-Russia collusion"!

  1. References and sources are cited at the end of each wikipedia article so you can fact check it yourself.

    2. Wikipedia staff don’t write every page, Wikipedia is open for the public to edit, so not every page has been written by staff.

    3. There are hundreds, thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of people monitoring changes to Wikipedia so incorrect entries are usually caught fairly quickly.

    All this is not to say that it never has any incorrect information or doesn’t contain mistakes on occasion, but that tends to the exception, not the rule.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The worst fake news is from NYTimes or WashPo. -- You still believe the "Trump-Russia collusion"!

I’d also add:

4. There have been studies that show that there’s not a higher rate of errors compared to more traditional encyclopedias, and

5. Nowhere does anyone state that Wikipedia is a primary source for information. Like any encyclopedia, it’s a quick reference tool and starting point for any subject, not the only thing you should look at. Primary sources are linked, not contained within.

Anyone who criticises Wikipedia in the manner seen here generally either a) doesn’t understand how it actually works, or b) can’t refute any of the evidence presented so prefers to attack the platform that presents it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: The worst fake news is from NYTimes or WashPo. -- You still believe the "Trump-Russia collusion"!

“READ “1984””

Why do I get the feeling you’ve never followed this advice yourself?

“However, we’re not quite there yet, so if want to impeach Trump, still need some substance, not fictions.”

Yes, that will be why the ongoing investigations are taking place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The worst fake news is from NYTimes or WashPo. -- You still believe the "Trump-Russia collusion"!

READ "1984": fake news is a tactic to destroy minds.

I’m guessing you never read it. If you did, you would certainly ascertain that fake news was what was being produced by (wait for it, dipshit…wait for it…) the state.

Or did you think Winston was a self-employed journalist?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

This is a completely wrong analysis

"Staff edited out all the parts of the documentaries where gorillas weren’t hitting each other, and at last the president was satisfied."

Trump actually complained that he didn’t see himself on the Gorilla Channel hitting male gorillas and feeling up female gorillas. His actual complaint was that it didn’t seem real enough, for some reason.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There are plenty of crazy people in the world both pro and against Trump, or anything else, for that matter.

Trump is the US President. Being mentally unstable is BIG NEWS. Genuine news. And truly something to be concerned about.

I think Poe’s Law applies perfectly. It’s the very definition of such a case.

In the 18 months leading up to the election, the things Trump said got daily news coverage. I was asking myself if he could sink any lower, or say anything worse or more offensive. But there never seemed to be any limit. He was always able to top yesterday’s definition of outrageous.

This is EXACTLY what makes Poe’s Law possible. No mater how crazy of a fake false story someone might concoct, people will take it as just another example of Trump not having any limits on how crazy he might act or how far he might go.

And for a US President, that is a real problem to have.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I think you missed my point.

Trump is not the walking poe’s laws. Poe’s law requires that Trump not convey his intentions and attempt parody. 2 requirements for Poe’s law.

This in no way was intended to claim that others or Trump himself could not be a rich source of generating Poe’s Law material, which I believe was the OP’s objective, he just did not say it in a factually correct way.

So yea, just being pedantic but that is because this is how the stupid breaks out and words start to mean something they do not any more.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s known as the Tyson Zone, after a certain total wacko of a heavyweight boxer. After you do enough crazy things, people stop being surprised by reports of you doing something crazy, and they’re just like “yeah, that sounds like him.”

President Trump definitely fits in there. Other well-known Tyson Zone inhabitants include Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga.

DannyB (profile) says:

Remember back when . . .

Some years ago there was a fake story that the MPAA was going to license movies for the home based on how many comfortable chairs your room had? Essentially, so the story went, the MPAA was going to charge more to watch the movie if your room was able to hold more viewers.

This story went wild.

As TechDirt pointed out at the time, the problem wasn’t that the fake story was created. The problem was that it was, on its face, very believable. Anyone could easily believe that the MPAA would resort to the most outrageous conduct and copyright or licensing overreach imaginable. The problem was that nobody could see it as sarcasm or parody.

This is the same with Trump. It is impossible to make up a story about how crazy Trump is, without it having at least a ring of truth to it.

A fake story involving Trump and aliens might significantly move the needle on people’s BS detector. But the disbelief would be due to aliens, not Trump craziness.

proper board design requires maintaining proper circuit isolation between your genius detector and your bullshit detector

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Remember back when . . .

If you think much of what Trump posts on Twitter is not intended to troll his gullible antagonists, you underestimate him. (I don’t read his Twitter account, so I won’t conjecture about the fraction.)

“The problem is that it is so believable” does not mean the problem is with the president. “It rings true, so [we should act like] it is true” ranks up there with “fake but accurate”: Failure to think critically, check your sources, verify stories that are too good to be true, and so forth, are all failures on the part of the listener or the commentator, not the subject.

David says:

Is your characterization of "A Modest Proposal" supposed to be satire?

The classic of this genre, of course, Jonathan’s Swift’s A Modest Proposal, in which he merely suggested feeding poor children to the wealthy as a way to alleviate the problems of poverty. It was, of course, a powerful way to mock the attitudes some had towards the poor.

Seriously? Is this political correctness or just complete cluelessness? Have you read this? It’s topic is not rich vs poor but rather English controlled Protestant Ascendancy vs. Irish populace and the lack of Irish solidarity and unity that allowed the English to bleed out the Irish populace through willing Irish intermediaries, particularly the installed aristocracy.

"The poor" were the bulk of the populace rather than some isolated class. The situation painted in this bleak light by Swift actually deteriorated further and resulted in the Great Irish Famine of 1740 where more than 10% of the Irish populace died from starvation.

Let me quote from the closing paragraphs:

I can think of no one objection, that will possibly be raised against
this proposal, unless it should be urged, that the number of people will
be thereby much lessened in the kingdom. This I freely own, and ’twas
indeed one principal design in offering it to the world. I desire the
reader will observe, that I calculate my remedy for this one individual
Kingdom of Ireland, and for no other that ever was, is, or, I think,
ever can be upon Earth. Therefore let no man talk to me of other
expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using
neither cloaths, nor houshold furniture, except what is of our
own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and
instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of
pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein
of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our
country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants
of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any
longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment
their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country
and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one
degree of mercy towards their tenants. Lastly, of putting a spirit of
honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if a resolution
could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite
to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness,
nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing,
though often and earnestly invited to it.

Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like
expedients, ’till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will
ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.

Does this sound like pointing at a rich/poor scenario?

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Is your characterization of "A Modest Proposal" supposed to be satire?

In some parts of my native Ireland it’s still too soon for jokes like that. The English occupation had us under the jackboot for centuries. It’s ironic that Britain’s plan to leave the EU is likely to leave us in the strongest position we’ve ever been in. I might even see my country reunified in my lifetime. #WellDoneBrexiters

ECA (profile) says:


I dont mind fake, as long as it SAYS ITS FAKE..

Shows that say “OPINION” are not saying anything..they CAN say anything. Its opinion.. It does not have to have Any fact in it..
But People take it as ‘Some Sort of Fact’.. It has to be based on Some/A Fact of some sort..Doesnt it??
Or else its a LIE..
Then is it OPINION or FAKE??

Its like saying “Russia HACKED US”,..but If we know for SURE they did, Why cant we track all those Scam letters and Emails?? And not take YEARS to find the persons??

An Onymous Coward (profile) says:


Since when was telling a lie illegal (apart from doing so to a LEO)? Why should any diatribe be labeled as “opinion” or “fake”? If the reader isn’t sharp enough to understand that:

A) Not everything they read will be truth
B) The thing they’re reading right now might be fake
and C) A smart person looks for corroborating evidence before even approaching any conclusions

then it’s really hard to sympathize with their plight when they repeat the fake news to their friends and family and are laughed out of the room.

ECA (profile) says:


Do you think all those police programs on TV, have any facts??
How about driving along with the COPS, and Taping everything..90% of those were dismissed in court.
DO they tell you that?

How about court cases in COURT?? its all small claims and THEY are picked from a bunch of Small claims..

Do you think that ALL of the programs SHOW that DNA/Finger prints/other identifiable FORMATS ARE ABIT FLAWED?? or is everything they do, PROVEN TO BE 1000% FACT..

When I was young, a show called WILD KINGDOM was shown many times…and later it was proven that the animals involved were RENTED…was not mentioned in the program. But consider taking Cameras into the wild, in the 60’s..

MOST of the NEWS programs on not say they are OPINION.. they are not NEWS..
As soon as they say, Would have, could have, might have, should have, a chance of…ITS OPINION..

Bruce C. says:

Some sympathy for Farhad Manjoo

Manjoo’s plea to stop posting fake news was specifically referring to falsification of source material, not to satire in general. I can see where a reporter’s or columnist’s job of gleaning the truth is made significantly harder when not only is the story faked, but there’s faked evidence to back it up. Once the signal to noise ratio of real news to fake news gets low enough, it degrades even further — it takes so much time to weed out the fakery that the real news can’t be published in time to be heard over the fakery.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

My partner told me about the Gorilla Channel thing.

It seemed plausible and outrageous but none of the Wolff stuff I had heard about (e.g. 6pm bedtime, three televisions, cheeseburger) included the Gorilla Channel story.

So I DuckDuckGo’d it. The Snopes debunking story was on the top of the list.

On the other hand, I suspect there’s enough primatology material that we could have a gorilla channel and it’d have a decent viewership for a specialty channel.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Good satire is plausible

My father, who is Trump’s generation, is a Trump true-believer and even shares a few too many character dispositions with Trump was throughout my childhood obsessed with American football and would religiously approach and shout at the screen when stuff got exciting.

I suspect he still watches and shouts.

So for me that behavior is rather believable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Humor, comedy, satire…these are some of the most important forces for getting people to think and for speaking truths that are hard to hear. Even when they are speaking a mix of truth and falsehood, they resonate because even the false parts speak to a grain of truth. And successful mockery is one of the best tools for undermining an overly-inflated authority. So it is unsurprising that companies, governments, and other groups that do not want to be criticized and need others to believe whole heartedly in their legitimacy, would strain and thrash against these forces. I strongly believe in free speech and its importance, and think it would be un-American and indeed inhuman to try and shut down these funny forces. At the same time, I am confident that no matter how hard they try, the cleverness of the people to share humor will outrun the ponderous ability to stamp it out, though sadly good people will be crushed in the process. Just look to authoritarian China, or the USSR, or fascist Germany, etc, to see this. Scarily, however, today the powers that be have access to powerful tools that let them potentially hurt even more joking thinkers. The humor will always survive, but the humorists? Fewer, if would-be-monolithic entities get their way.

John85851 (profile) says:


I’m surprised no one has brought up the word “truthiness” yet, Stephen Colbert’s word for something that you think is probably true, even though there’s no basis in fact.

Does Trump watch Gorilla TV? It sounds like it could be true.
Do vaccines cause autism? Sure, why not- it’s easier to believe than looking at the medical data.
Was Obama born in Kenya? Well, he’s black, so why not?

SueBear1979 says:

Amendments! Amendments! Amendments!

Free speech people!!! How can we abridge free speech? No one wants to take away the rights of gun owners…the NRA says so….no matter how many mass shootings and how many anti-gun protests.

However will we make laws abridging free speech lest we prove imminent public danger? And I don’t think our own idiocy in believing whatever errant nonsense is spewed, presented as sarcasm, satire, or deliberate misinformation is going to count as that bar of public safety necessary to create a necessity for abridging any of our constitutional freedoms.

We’ll argue the point, no doubt. That’s what we do. But we’ll get nowhere save for wasting time, money, and energies. It’s a fantastic diversion from any real issues, because it hits at the core of our values as Americans. While we focus on this, on fake news, the real action is happening elsewhere. Come to think of it, isn’t that how magicians and many con artists perform their slights if hand, by diverting the attention of their audiences. We the United States Citizens are the "audience" of each and every politician in the land. THINK ON THAT FOR A BIT!!!

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