On Saturday, August 8—as the political media reeled in reaction to Donald Trump’s bizarre attack on Megyn Kelly—I wrote a tweet.
Trump went too far this time pic.twitter.com/R8wDSaUpEI
— Zach Schonfeld (@zzzzaaaacccchhh) August 8, 2015
It was a joke. The Trump tweet isn’t real—of course it isn’t. I made it using a prank site that lets you write fake tweets appearing to be from celebrity accounts. Nor did I expect anyone to believe that it’s real. While I did try to write in Trump Insult Voice, there’s no blue checkmark, and a quick search reveals that Trump’s account has never once tweeted the word “pavement” in six glorious years of tweeting.
Why Pavement? The band was fresh on my mind because of the new compilation release. Earlier that week I published an interview with Stephen Malkmus breaking down its track list. Plus, it’s just funny to imagine Donald Trump listening to Pavement. Trump has written real tweets praising stadium acts like Taylor Swift and Aerosmith. What if he heard Pavement? He probably wouldn’t like them very much! I imagine a man of such extreme wealth and ego being repelled by the uncompromising, lo-fi aesthetic of early Pavement recordings.
Admittedly, this is not a very original joke format. I took inspiration from other writers who have humorously attached slogans about indie rock bands to 2016 presidential candidates. If you have a lot of opinions about bands and not a very high level of maturity, you might find these jokes as entertaining as I do:
whoa hillary just threw down the gauntlet pic.twitter.com/egaTbVG26s
— Josh Terry (@JoshhTerry) April 15, 2015
She's got my vote. pic.twitter.com/LXKB3LmPMl
— Dan Ozzi (@danozzi) April 15, 2015
But Donald Trump isn’t like Hillary Clinton. With Trump, anything is halfway believable—even a blustery, clueless takedown of an indie rock band that hasn’t released a new album in 16 years. I figured my tweet would get like, 12 faves, and we’d all move on with our sad lives. Instead (humblebrag!), it got several hundred retweets that afternoon and wound up being shared on the Facebook page of Matador Records, Pavements label, sans context.
Scanning my mentions and the dozens of comments on Matador’s page, I noticed something odd: a substantial flow of commenters seemed to be discussing Trump’s tweet as if it were real, bickering amongst themselves about whether the spaghetti-haired billionaire really knows about Big Star. “Dude dropped a Big Star reference,” A.J. Bridges wrote. “That almost gets my vote. Not.” “Apparently he doesn't have much taste in music either,” Joyce Tricomi replied. Tony Butler, an apparent Pavement fan, was also frustrated by the mogul’s lack of taste: “Some folks just do not get it. Don't listen if you do not like what you hear.”
In fact, I was surprised to realize there is a whole world of randos out there who now seem to believe that Donald Trump has a beef with Pavement, as a quick search confirms. It even went international, with people tweeting about it in other languages:
Last thing I expected from Trump is to have an opinion on Pavement. pic.twitter.com/FWDwFHogRY
— BargainBinBaudelaire (@JoseArielCuevas) August 9, 2015
Can't even tell if Trump's tweet dissing Pavement is real or we're all suffering a mass hallucination.
— Matt Prigge (@mattprigge) August 8, 2015
Lol Donald Trump just called Pavement a giant Big Star ripoff….Hahahahaha.
— Tim Slattery (@DATGEDJ) August 9, 2015
— niek / subroutine (@niekstetter) August 8, 2015
donald trump listens to pavement
— Criss Moon (@mooncpie) August 10, 2015
Haha. Donald Trump hat zu allem eine Meinung, sogar zu Pavement. Wann äußert er sich zur HSV-Niederlage in Jena? pic.twitter.com/MmBLTCy1hx
— Andreas Bock (@okonskiyouth) August 9, 2015
— John Everhart (@john_everhart) August 9, 2015
When a jokey tweet blows up, it gets lifted and winds its way into unexpected places, stripped of context or intent. Consider the case of the guy who accidentally fooled Conservative Twitter into thinking a Thorstein Veblen quote belonged to Lena Dunham. Conservative media types hate Lena Dunham, while liberals have nothing but contempt for Donald Trump—and who wouldn’t want to believe Donald Trump tweeted something angry and bizarre?
People on the internet are much more gullible about who said what when they’re blinded by hatred for a particular figure, or for a generation or demographic. Remember the Great Kanye/Paul McCartney Debacle of 2015? A few jokey tweets feigning ignorance about “this Paul McCartney guy” led to a BuzzFeed listicle and Good Morning America segment claiming hip-hop fans don’t know who the Beatle is. Of course, in the Trump instance, plenty of the comments and tweets were in on the joke, though it’s hard to detect much willful irony in comments like “Wait ….Donald Trump listens?”
The original tweet continues spreading. In some cases, joke thiefs will purposely plagiarize the tweet and pass it off as their own. In other instances, content creators come across it and don’t know where it originated in the first place. That’s apparently how the fake Trump tweet ended up, initially free of context, at the top of Stereogum’s August 14 comment round-up. It was a trip to see my own fake Trumpism pop up on my Facebook newsfeed when Stereogum shared it that night. Cue another round of commenters wondering whether or not The Donald digs Big Star:
One guy posted a Facebook status saying he’d “never vote for a candidate who doesn't understand the band Pavement,” which makes me wonder who the hell he has voted for. Other Facebookers left jokey-seeming messages like “You just lost my vote, Don” or “If Donald trump doesn't like Pavement, well I don't know if he's fit to be president.” I wonder if anybody was genuinely dissuaded from voting for Trump because of a bogus Pavement stance. I think there are maybe a lot of good reasons not to vote for Trump regardless of what he thinks of Slanted & Enchanted.
Oddly, Trump’s name was associated with Pavement again in August when a CNN guest suggested that his Spotify playlist should include Pavement’s 1994 classic “Cut Your Hair.” Meanwhile, nearly a month later, the fake Donald Trump tweet is still getting the occasional interaction. It recently received the honor an inexplicable fav from one of my favorite record stores, Other Music. Oh, and at some point, it was retweeted by a real, live Pavement member: Scott Kannberg, also known as Spiral Stairs.
Kannberg probably knows it’s a gag, but what if he doesn’t? If you’re reading this, Mr. Stairs, I’m sorry. Donald Trump doesn’t really have a gripe with your band. I don’t even think he’s listened to Pavement. Rest assured that if he did, I’m sure he’d fucking hate it.
Zach is just a boy with a new haircut, and that’s a pretty nice haircut. Follow him on Twitter: @zzzzaaaacccchhhh