Conservative Sites Falling for a Twitter Joke Is Funny Until It’s Not

A vote-rigging joke with a long tail.

Twitter_logo_blueDrudge, Rush Limbaugh, a whole rightwing blogospheriverse—they all fell for it, taking the bait on a joke tweet from @randygdub posing—incredulously, for anyone who would have taken a minute to check out his feed—as an Ohio postal worker ripping up Trump ballots. The tweet and the accompanying outrage story spread, and the players didn’t realize they were being played.

At times, the little vortex grew into a tornado of conspiracy. Here is Rush Limbaugh, taking a humble tale of vote rigging and adding a lay of liberal media collusion claims, explaining why the shining truth of vote rigging was not being taken seriously. Forget the political scientists trying to claim otherwise. Here was a form of truth more perfect than the historical record and all that research could ever produce. Here was a tweet. From a transcript of his program:

But there’s a guy out there with an account on social media. By the way, I need to add social media into this top 1% of deceit, this intricately woven web of deceit, you have the Democrats, Wall Street, media, and social media. I would throw them in. That’s the top 1% that everybody needs to be concerned about. There is an account on social media from a guy claiming to work for the post office who is bragging about how he is destroying Trump absentee ballots.

Let me ask you this. If a postal worker went on social media, don’t care whether it was Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, you name it, and was bragging about destroying Hillary absentee ballots, do you think they’d be trying to hunt this guy down and put him in jail with the guy who made the video that started Benghazi? They wouldn’t be stopping. They’d find this guy, they’d hunt him down, give him to Marilyn Mosby and say, “Have at him.” Charge him here, charge him there, put him in the back of a Baltimore police van and let’s see what he looks like when he comes out. Whatever it takes. They would be unearthing everything to find out who this guy is.

While we’d like to leave it as an illustration of how easy it is to dupe those who deal loosely with facts, fact-checking, and verification, all that ultimately unfounded outrage also caused the USPS to investigate, finding, of course, that @randygdub was not a postal worker. It also reached Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

And while many were in on the joke, those being duped were giving more oxygen to the trash fire of vote rigging claims. Even with an update (“So this Twitter user now says his tweet was a joke. Because voter fraud is funny? I’ve seen people get banned from Twitter for less than this,”) on the Gateway Pundit blog, one of the first to pick up the tweet, the comments being left on the site indicate that readers still believe the tweet was real. And on Twitter, the claim, along with links from sites that picked up the story, is going strong.