Everyone Loves a Troll: How Christwire Fooled Rachel Maddow, Howard Stern, 3 Million Coachella Heads and Counting
Update, from the trenches: "LA Weekly Tries to Challenge ChristWire to a Gay Fight." We couldn't make this stuff up.
Christwire The mega-trollers, in costume as Bryan Blake and Mike Watson
Christwire.org is a joke. IT'S NOT REAL. Not a genuine bone in its blogroll. (Except for when they also fool their Christian freelancers.)
Every day, the two dudes who run Christwire read hundreds of your angry comments and emails, both as entertainment and motivation. And they profit -- to the extent that running a fake ultra-conservative website is now their sole source of income, with a book deal and a movie on the way. All 100 percent in-character.
We're far from the first to find out. The Atlantic Wire, the New York Magazine, Business Insider -- even the New York Times -- have been privy to their shtick since summer 2010. (Cracked, however, as the supreme ruler of Internet comedy, has held off in good humor, not one to hinder a comment-board clusterfuck.) We'd hold off ourselves, but Christwire co-founder Bryan Butvidas, a resident of Palm Springs, tells us it's no use:
Butvidas says that in September, when the Times story ran, reporter Mark Oppenheimer asked him: Aren't you afraid that, once I publish your true identities, the fun will be over?
When Butvidas assured him it would make no difference, he says Oppenheimer "kind of laughed" (as if once something hits the Times, it can't help but become absolute truth, and all will again be right in the universe).
But the blogger was right. Since September, Christwire's traffic has reached epic new heights, its inbox overflowing with more dead-serious scoldings than ever.
Nevermind that the fourth entry down in a Google search for the site is a Wikipedia entry identifying it, crystal clear, as "a satirical website." Every day, hundreds of outraged "liberal homogays," as Christwire would call them, continue to buy into hysterical posts such as, most popularly, April 15's "Coachella is a Festival of Disease and Sin. Your Children Most Likely Will Die."
The piece was a viral sensation, racking up over 28,000 Facebook shares (15,000 within the first hour) and 3 million views, Butvidas tells the Weekly. (Though that doesn't begin to approach "Is My Husband GAY?", which has been viewed almost 15 million times to date and even fooled the Huffington Post into reprinting it, though HuffPo has since allegedly altered the copy to appear as if they were in on the joke from the beginning.)
A video supplement to the Coachella story, narrated by Butvidas:
And some sample comments -- even after many other commenters, exasperated, tried to warn the thread that Christwire is satire:
"I'm 13 and I fucking went to Coachella with my cousin who's 18 this year , i didn't get fucked! And my cousin didn't either!! Of course people drink beer, that's normal in a festival,mabye they are drugs but if there ask you all you have to say is no!"
"Alright okay so just because those people are screaching and standing around a car they must be selling drugs? Or the two guys on the bicycle have to be gay and going to sodomize each other? What? If these things are going on then show it! Be a journalist and document it. Your story has no legs. If you came to me at a news agency and gave me this drive by media footage, I would spike the story."
"I know for a FACT you made up more than 98% of these facts and statistics. For gods sake, you even used the phrase "milk sacks" as if saying breasts was forbidden. You people make me SICK! At times I think freedom of the press goes to far, and it usually is pushed beyond the point of normalcy and sanity by jack pricks like you!"
"For real though, before you start posting this nonsensical bilge, learn some grammar... May be and maybe are two DIFFERENT things. God obviously didn't bless you with the the skills to manipulate the english language."
Note that last one, regarding Christwire's (intentionally) crappy blogging skills. "We can write something so racist and vile, and the majority of the comments will criticize our grammar," says Butvidas.
These predictable reactions are what make the Christwire machine run. It's basically become the Net's fattest troll -- a game to which Butvidas and Watson, who cyber-met on Shoutwire in 2007, are clearly addicted. Especially now that it pays their bills.
"Our whole theory is just to prove how stupid people are," says Butvidas. "No matter what your beliefs are, there are idiots on all sides."
We must say: They've perfected the baseless, inflammatory rightblogger style. But to anyone reading closely, it's too good to be real. Hilarious misspellings, cultural critiques thinly veiled as ignorance and over-the-top adjective clusters suggest at least a Bachelor of Arts.
So how do they continue to successfully troll the masses?