The first episode of Sacha Baron Cohen’s new display Who Is America? make Showtime over the weekend, and it constructs for 30 minutes of viciously uncomfortable viewing. It opens with Cohen, disguised as Dr. Billy W. Ruddick, publisher of Truthbrary.org, interviewing Bernie Sanders about Obamacare. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I actually don’t, ” Sanders eventually says after listening to Cohen tell him that if the 99 percentage of Americans not in the richest 1 percent would just move over into the 199 percentage, they’d be fine. By the end of the episode, Cohen easily convinces sitting senators to record a PSA in favor of arming three-year-olds in school with guns.
Cohen plays four different characters on the new prove: the mobility-scooter-riding Ruddick who can’t do math, an Israeli counterterrorism expert who guesses exceptional 16 -month-olds can manage handguns, a Seattle liberal who forces his daughter to menstruate on American flags, and a British ex-con looking to start a career as an artist( his media of option are feces and ejaculate ). That all sounds like over-the-top parody, but the dry-eyed brutality of Who Is America? is how, aside from Cohen’s prosthetics, so much of the show is rooted in reality. It’s simply that reality in 2018 is pretty absurd.
The existence of Truthbrary.org builds this clear. In the episode, Cohen’s alter ego Ruddick directs people to visit his website, which turns out to be home to an insane mixture of conspiracy theories.( Now that Who Is America? has aired, it also features Ruddick’s claims of being deceived by Cohen .) “REJECT THE MAINSTREME MEDIA+ THE LIEbrary OF FALSE INFOMATION THEY TRY TO PUSH INTO THE PUBLICS MIND’S. THE TRUTHBRARY WILL SET YOU FREE. THIS IS A LIBERTY WEBSITE FOR TRUE AMERICA AND TRUTH LOVING AMERICANS, ” it reads.
Along the left-hand side, the site presents an indicator of articles. Three are about 9/11, naturally. The other 25 cover topics like chemtrails, Hillary Clinton being a satanist, and why Pearl Harbor was faked. The articles are long and rabid, written in the breathless style that characterizes online conspiracy sites. A guest to Truthbrary who is in on the joke might read them and think that Cohen and his squad did a great job of mimicry. In reality, they didn’t have to. As others have noted, it seems they just took text from all over the web and set it on the site.
This website is post-parody. Parody that’s literally reality, copied and pasted. And that’s the scariest part.
WIRED reached out to Showtime to see if Cohen and the show had permission to reprinting these articles. Representatives for Showtime said Cohen’s team at Sunshine Sachs, a PR firm, controls the Truthbrary site, and referred questions to them. WIRED reached out and will update this story when we hear back. We’re particularly interested to hear how they picked which articles to include on the site, whose URL was registered in October 2017. Because many of these sources are the very definition of misinformation, WIRED is not connecting to them.