The 2016 Presidential election, from start to finish, was marked by shocking revelations. From Hillary Clinton's email scandal, right on through to Donald Trump's last minute sprint to victory, it all seemed pretty unbelievable. Well, that's because it was.
Fake news, shared largely through Facebook, whipped the world into a confused voting frenzy. But what does the man of the hour have to say on the issue? To find out we sent our reporter, Josh Pappenheim, on a peyote-fuelled vision quest to find out what President-Elect Donald Trump thinks about fake news.
The moon hung fat and white in the gusty Winter air as I stalked the streets of Manhattan, making my way back to my high-end penthouse after a long day of hunting for Pulitzer prize-winning content. I sipped down the last of my matcha frappe latté and took a long drag on my vape, the dankest I've ever known. Another day down, I wondered aloud to no-one, but what fresh takes shall tomorrow bring? What more is there to remember? What viral delights may I create?
I may not have known it then, but I was about to embark on the greatest adventure of my young, yet staggeringly decorated, journalistic career.
It was then that I noticed my Italian loafer was untied. Funny, I thought, it was tied when I left the office, and I was wracking my brains trying to fill out a piece on 90s fashion mistakes. Oh, for the simpler times of Velcro, I mused, as I stooped down to rectify the gross indecency. I would make a note of my hilarious nostalgic insight later.
As I took the limp shoestrings in my hand, I was soaked through by a passing car, its selfish pursuit of speed trumping its concern for a large puddle to my right. Trumping. It's funny, for reasons that will become clear in a sentence or two. I raised my fist in consternation, and thought to shout Hey, I'm tying here. I would have, and proceeded to chuckle to myself for this Radio 4-level wit, had the car not stopped not five feet away from my soggy body. There was barely enough time to catch my breath, let alone deliver a devastating one liner, as my mouth fell agape. Looking out from his prize jet black limousine was none other than President-Elect, Donald Trump.
"Hey, kid. Need a ride?"
"No, Mr. President-Elect Donald Trump, it's okay, my high-end penthouse, paid for by my string of highly-successful hot takes and fire tweets, is right around..."
"Come on, kid. I don't bite. Lemme buy you a Big Mac."
I would like to say I turned down President-Elect Donald Trump. Would like to say I tied my shoes, shook myself off, and rambled back to my high-end penthouse apartment, paid for by my string of highly-successful hot takes and fire tweets, to dry off. I would like to say all these things and more (I like saying things), but alas, the story I tell is much more fantastical, far more terrible, and infinitely more click worthy.
With a whisper, I replied. "Of course, Mr. President-Elect Donald Trump." And I slid into his car.
In all my life I had never seen such a vehicle. The thick golden hue of President-Elect Donald Trump's skin was matched only by the interior of his pimped out ride. Reader, there must have been an inch of gold leaf covering every available surface. It was a wonder it was even able to drive at all.
"Beats walking, huh?"
Tentatively, I attempted to initiate conversation.
"You sure like gold, President-Elect Donald Trump."
"Have you ever been to McDonald's, Mr..."
I suddenly felt naked. Everyone on Earth knew who President-Elect Donald Trump was. There wasn't a news outlet or online content depository who hadn't covered President-Elect Donald Trump's campaign, from inception to glorious, terrible conclusion. But who was I? Sure, I was the most highly-decorated viral content producer in the Northern hemisphere, with a high-end apartment paid for by a string of hot takes and fire tweets, but what did that mean next to the man due to inherit the nuclear codes, despite no prior political experience? I felt myself shrink, as if viewed from some universal vantage point, a swell of existential indifference rising up within me. There was no time for ennui. I pushed it back down. Not today, death.
"Pappenheim. Are those?"
He chuckled to himself as I motioned to the whirling mass of house flies in the middle of the limousine, undulating with the rhythm of the sweet ride.
"Have you ever been to McDonald's, Mr. Pappenhiem?"
"Yes, I have. And actually, it's Pappenheim."
In one fluid motion his long arm and muscular, normally-proportioned hand extended to snatch a fly, which he promptly wolfed down with toad-like glee.
"Pappenheim. Pappenhiem. What matters is you have been to McDonald's."
He leaned forwards in his seat, and I was instantly entranced. A thick musk of sandalwood and sewage-flecked ocean spray enveloped me, transporting me back to my childhood summer retreat in the Hamptons - the cheap side (It wasn't until much later, after my string of hot takes and fire tweets, that I was able to improve my socio-economic standing). Proust may have had his moment, but I was having the time of my life.
"Would you like to go again?" He purred.
I struggled to meet his eyes, such was my nostalgic, sanitary arousal. I nodded.
"Driver!" He roared. "To the Golden Arches!"
The car sped through the New York City twilight traffic, making great time compared to my CityMapper estimate, which warned of significant congestion owing to New York City's unforgiving one way system.
"Do you like our unforgiving New York City one way system?" President-Elect Donald Trump asked.
"Yes, I believe it makes for efficient transport along certain routes, though the congestion caused during rush hour is quite frankly... But that's by the by. Mr... President-Elect Donald Trump, now that I have you here, I was wondering if I could ask you an important question. What do you think about the rise in fa..."
I was cut off mid-sentence as our golden chariot screamed to a halt.
"How's that for congestion?"
From the moment we entered the McDonald's, it became obvious that there was no way this conversation could be private, not in such a popular modestly-priced and reasonably-satisfying fast food establishment like this. A cursory glance around the establishment revealed a menagerie of eyes, each more interested in my and President-Elect Donald Trump's presence. A cheer went up from the waiting diners.
President-Elect Donald Trump gestured around the modestly-priced and reasonably-satisfying fast food establishment.
"These are my people."
"YOU SUCK!" Shouted a solo protestor. I expected some sort of witty retort or withering look from our future commander-in-chief, but he simply smiled and turned to his aide.
"They certainly are, Mr President-Elect Donald Trump," said our McDonald's server, Kanye West. "The usual?"
"The usual. And for you?" President-Elect Donald Trump turned to me.
"The usual." I chimed in, but McDonald's server, Kanye West, was already preparing President-Elect Donald Trump's order.
President-Elect Donald Trump gave out a hearty guffaw.
"You gotta be quick in this gaff, guvnor." He quipped, mocking my stereotypical and, as yet, unrevealed cockney accent.
"YOU SUUUUUUUUCK." Screamed the solo protestor.
"I can see that." I quipped, ignoring the solo protestor. "Now please, Mr President-Elect Donald Trump, can I ask you about the rise in fak..."
"Dinner is served." Said McDonald's server, Kanye West.
But the moment the McDonald's server, Kanye West placed the plate of delicious and nutritious fast food in front of President-Elect Donald Trump, the solo protestor appeared, knocking President-Elect Donald Trump's meal onto the floor. He leaned forwards, the smell of a thousand pseudo-satisfying vegan meals and imitation Calvin Klein cologne wafting from beneath his ironic moustache. There was no way this man could have had a golden limousine.
"You. Su... AGRHHHHHH!"
A great bald eagle, the size of a 1998 Diesel Volkswagen Polo, soared through the open McDonald's doors, and took the solo protestor in its mighty, patriotic talons. His screams dwindled in sync with his heart beats. The eagle turned its blood-soaked beak to President-Elect Donald Trump, who gave it a long, slow, stroke.
"Have you met my man-eating eagle, Vladimir Putin?"
"You know, I don't believe I've had the pleasure."
I extended a shaking hand to meet man-eating eagle, Vladimir Putin's steely talon.
"ARK TAKK TAKK TAKKAAA!" The man-eating eagle, Vladimir Putin, screeched.
"Lovely to meet you too."
"So sorry about that, President-Elect Donald Trump." said McDonald's server, Kanye West. "We'll have another "the usual" meal out momentarily. We don't usually do this but please, take a seat, and we'll bring it right over to you."
My mouth agape, I watched as man-eating eagle, Vladimir Putin extended his mighty wings, and departed the modestly-priced and reasonably-satisfying fast food establishment.
"Much obliged, McDonald's server, Kanye West."
President-Elect Donald Trump motioned to a dimly lit booth in the corner of the modestly-priced and reasonably-satisfying fast food establishment.
"I'll be in my usual spot - that's what I love about here. When you say 'get those lights off', they do it. Come, Pappenheim, sit."
I did as I was told.
"Much obliged." President-Elect Donald Trump stretched himself across the booth. "Please, make yourself at home."
I had never seen President-Elect Donald Trump in profile before. Pictures could not do his distinguished, aquiline nose, tasteful skin colouring, or completely believable haircut justice. Before me sat a masterpiece, nay, a God of a man. We mere mortals had truly been gifted a great leader the day the people elected to elect President-Elect Donald Trump. For years I had detested, hated the man in front of me, but now, as he vegetated three feet away, my fear and anguish fell away. I truly believed that we could make America, the World great again. With President-Elect Donald Trump's help, we could make existence great again.
"You wanted to ask me something earlier?"
His words echoes around the modestly-priced and reasonably-satisfying fast food establishment as McDonald's server, Kanye West, delivered his meal.
"Now's your chance."
There was only one question I wanted to ask, and I knew people had probably given up on the concept of the piece a while ago so I wanted to wrap it up pretty fast.
"Mr President-Elect Donald Trump. What is your position on fake news?"
I spoke to no-one. One moment President-Elect Donald Trump was there, the next he'd vanished in front of my eyes. I jumped to my feet, trapping my legs between the plastic seat and table, both bolted into place. Customers screamed and whirled around me, as a gigantic portal appeared above ours heads. I tried to avert my eyes, but I found it impossible to look away. Beyond the rim I witnessed the infinite of the Universe, the many worlds and possibilities of this, our fragile Earth, reflected in an instant and then gone, millions of possible lives winking in and out of existence simultaneously. I opened my mouth to scream, but found I could not. The skin of my mouth had fused over. In my panic I reached down for cutlery, before realising that I was in McDonald's, and no cutlery could be found here. I turned to run, but found that the table, the room, maybe even the Earth, span in my stead. The walls of the modestly-priced and reasonably-satisfying fast food establishment fell away, revealing a gaping abyss. As I stared into darkness a form began to take shape.
"President-Elect Donald Trump?"
He stood, 500 feet in height. A great toad-headed behemoth, its mouth obscured by a mass of gyrating tentacles, with the wings and eyes of a fly. It opened its mouth, perhaps in acknowledgment, but the low, gurgling roar that emanated from its unholy countenance shook me to my very bones. Had I been any lesser content producer I would have become recoiled in horror, but I was not, I was Josh Pappenheim, with a high-end penthouse paid for by a string of hot takes and fire tweets. Only one thing mattered in my life. The story. The question.
"And what do you think about fake news?"
President-Elect Donald Trump reached down one of its awesome tendrils, and with the smallest tip of the smallest tip, touched me on the forehead. Everything was darkness.
I woke, cold and terrified, on the bathroom floor of my sort-of-fine, sort-of-shitty Stoke Newington flat, my housemate crouched over me, the last remaining drips of the water now pooling under my head rolling off of his finger tips.
"I did it again, didn't I?"
"Was it worth it, Josh? Did he reply?"
"I'm not sure. I'm not sure."
And I never will be.
"Will it make good content?"
"I'm not sure. I'm not sure."
And I never am.
Josh Pappenheim - @papsby
** THE STORY, ALL NAMES, CHARACTERS, AND INCIDENTS PORTRAYED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE FICTITIOUS. NO IDENTIFICATION WITH ACTUAL PERSONS (LIVING OR DECEASED), PLACES, BUILDINGS, AND PRODUCTS IS INTENDED OR SHOULD BE INFERRED. ONCE AGAIN, NONE OF THIS HAPPENED, NOR ARE WE CLAIMING IT DID. THIS HAS BEEN A WORK OF (BARELY-PASSABLE) FICTION, AND IS INTENDED TO TITILLATE RATHER THAN INFORM. FOR REAL NEWS, TRY THE BBC OR BUZZFEED OR SOMEWHERE IDK WHATEVER **