Someone spun an extremely fake yarn about Brexit and lots of people fell for it

Moya Lothian-McLean@moya_lm
Friday 03 July 2020 08:30
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(Getty/iStock/indy100)

Lockdown can get very boring, we’re all aware of that by now.

But just how unstimulated do you have to be to spin an extremely lengthy, and increasingly unbelievable yarn involving Brexit supporters, a second home in France and HP sauce?

Step up ‘R.S Archer’ a mysterious Twitter user who claimed to be, among other things, the author of the “David Saunders” book series.

This alone should have sent alarm bells ringing; no such series exists, as a single Google search tells you.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday, the account belonging to Archer began to tweet about a strange, Brexit-related story he was supposedly embroiled in the middle of. The entire thing can be read here.

It began with Archer describing the plight of an elderly British couple who had a holiday home near him in France, and apparently voted for Brexit.

According to Archer, the couple had only just clocked their rights weren’t protected under post-Brexit regulations and were very upset.

At this point he introduces the character of an “idiot son” who messages Archer to to say he’s not going to be “pushed around by Brussels”.

As three posts in the 66-tweet long saga read:

The son has been back on, it seems he will be, "Taking this to the top" I have no idea what that means.

He's not going to be "pushed around" by 'Brussels' and he's spoken to his friends at work who all agree with him. Seems this is the EU bullying his parents and being vindictive toward British people because they are jealous of Brexit. My only reply was "Well ok then".

Received a largely incoherent message from the idiot son via WhatsApp.

Says that my wife and I are 'part of the problem', wants to know what we are doing to help, should have warned his parents, Farage was right, (not sure what about), something about the War, the Empire etc.

Archer claimed he was tweeting in “real-time” as the story unfolded. And boy did it unfold! Very believably!

He claimed the Brexiteer couple were “angry” and said that their “idiot son” had decided to make an impromptu visit via Eurostar to the town to speak to the mayor to “sort it out”.

Archer then ends Tuesday’s chapter by claiming he has to go and eat “canard à l'orange” that his wife has prepared.

How very realistic and French.

On Thursday, Archer returned to his audience of now extremely thirsty fans, most of them Remainers who were enjoying the yarn.

As the day wore on, he detailed more farcical exposition that brought in various zany outside characters, including a wry lawyer, a chuckling mayor and some xenophobic Facebook posts from the son who Archer describes as a “tyre fitter”.

A sample:

On [the son’s] facebook page

"Off to France tomorrow to sort out stuff for my parents house. Not going to let some Frogs push my family around, Brexit is about not letting them push us around anymore. Might have to go to Brussels as well if they no listen. Wish me luck "

He just sent me a message asking how far is it from my house to Brussels. I said about 850km.

Finally – finally – Archer gets to Thursday.

To cut an already far-too-long story short, the son apparently has a cancelled Eurostar, gets bitten by a dog and a fight with a “tramp”.

But just as the son gets on the Eurostar, Archer says he’s experiencing a “co-ordinated attack” on his Twitter password and he’s getting threatened by Brexit supporters.

Minutes later the whole account is deleted.

What a shame.

Of course, the entire thread was fake. As Guardian journalist Alex Hern detailed in a thread debunking major points of the story, including that Archer’s profile picture and header photo were ripped from stock images.

Archer addressed this, claiming that he was using a “nom de plume” and a stock photo to protect his identity.

Which doesn’t explain the fictional book series he’s claimed to be responsible for either but oh well.

Hern also pointed out that the account had only been created in April 2020.

There was more too though; Hern revealed that no Eurostars had been cancelled that day and the next train left much sooner than Archer claimed.

At this point Archer blocked Hern, many people thought for getting too close to the truth.

There were also spoofs by authors who are demonstrably real.

And as journalists are pointing out, buying into such an obviously fake thread, that caricatured Brexit voters in a way that was borderline offensive (working class, “idiots” who voted for something they didn’t understand) reflected pretty poorly on a lot of Remain voters who were eating it up with a spoon.

But as it turned out, they didn’t care much whether it was fake or not.

One person said it was “close to reality” (except it wasn’t, because it was made up).

Another person was so passionately invested that they story-boarded the entire yarn.

Someone else likened it to “Wodehouse” (cut to Wodehouse spinning in his grave).

All in all, it seemed no one really cared whether it was real or fake – only that it made Brexiteers look foolish.

Not embarrassing at all.

It's also fascinating that when choosing to highlight the potentially negative impacts of Brexit via a falsified story, someone would select 'not being able to go on holiday as easily' as the number one issue, and that be applauded as a incisive piece of comedic political commentary.

What a brilliant piece of satire.

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