Archives for category: Fake

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has made himself the face of the anti-vaccination movement, embarrassing his family. His book attacking Dr. Fauci is at the top of the Amazon nonfiction bestseller list, and his foundation has raised millions of dollars. Even before the pandemic, prominent members of his family wrote a public letter criticizing his anti-vaccine views, which were spreading “dangerous misinformation.” How much worse they must feel now!

But when he threw a party, Politico reported, the guests were required to be vaccinated.

Kennedy blamed it on his wife, a likely story. This is akin to “the dog ate my homework.”

What a shame to see this man sullying his family name, although some might say there were plenty of others sullying it before him. But their private peccadillos fade in comparison to a man who urges the public not to protect themselves against a deadly virus.

This is what Politico posted:

TALES OF AN ANTI-VAXXER — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is one of the most prominent anti-vaxxers in the country. So it came as a surprise when an invitation to a holiday party at his home in California last week urged attendees to be tested or vaccinated beforehand, two people familiar with the matter told Daniel Lippman.

When we called up Kennedy for comment, he pinned it on his better half, actress Cheryl Hines of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fame. Kennedy said the party was for her entertainment industry friends and cast members, and he was unaware of what the e-vite invitation said before the day of the party.

“I guess I’m not always the boss at my own house,” Kennedy told Lippman. There was also no effort to verify vaccination or testing status of the attendees before entering, he said. (Hines didn’t respond to a request for comment.)

Just this week, Kennedy was the subject of a major AP profile titled “How a Kennedy built an anti-vaccine juggernaut amid COVID-19.” The article reported that the revenue of his charity, Children’s Health Defense, more than doubled in 2020 to $6.4 million. Last month, he released his new book, “The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health,” which continues to be a best-seller on Amazon.

Maurice Cunningham is a retired professor of political science in Massachusetts who specializes in following the trail of Dark Money into school issues. He was a major influence in turning the public against a state referendum to expand charters in 2016; he revealed the Dark Money behind the charter advocacy and that revealed the lies behind the rosy rhetoric.

In this post, he describes the role of Koch money behind “parent groups” harassing educators in Newton, Mass.

He writes:

On Friday Travis Anderson of the Boston Globe reported that two Black principals in Newton had received “racist and confrontational” messages for doing their jobs: to help their students process the verdicts in the Kyle Rittenhouse and Tracy McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan Jr. (murderers of Ahmaud Arbery) trials. The hate came rolling in after the educators’ teaching methods were blown up in the right wing media network. Yes it’s terrible but it’s also deliberate.

The Globe reported that the hateful messages came after the radical right Breitbart News ran a heated misrepresentation about the Newton educators. Similar bulldust was published by conservative provocateurs Daily Caller, Washington Examiner, and The Federalist.

The generator of the story to the right wing propaganda network was Parents Defending Education. PDE is run by veteran Koch operative Nicole Neily, who refuses to discuss who funds the outfit (she can’t; it’s bad for business). PDE has ties to the Council for National Policy (CNP) which, as Anne Nelson has shown in Shadow Network, manages and coordinates strategy and tactics for an array of radical billionaire funders and Christian nationalist activists.

PDE is working on a model Koch and CNP have long used to attack college professors. Isaac Kamola explains how it’s done in “Dear Administrators: To Protect Your Faculty from Right Wing Attacks, Follow the Money.” Some information is received (PDE encourages anonymous tipsters) and then twisted or taken out of context. This works best if the educator is a woman, person of color (like the Newton principals), or LGBTQ. Then fringe outlets like Breitbart, Daily Caller, Federalist pick it up and publicize it. (With a little luck and the CNP’s connections, it might get on Fox). Post it online for the lip reading haters who act on this garbage and just sit back. The racist hate mail, phone calls, and social media posts will flow.

It’s depressing right? But it’s also intentional. This is part of a coordinated right wing attack on public schools (Critical Race Theory, anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, billionaire funded “parent” groups) and an assault on our government and American democracy. Parents Defending Education, Campus Reform, Moms for Liberty, Breitbart, Federalist—they all know what they’re doing and they know the results that eventuate from their tactics.

This is a hard story for daily journalism to tell, but it has to find a way. American democracy doesn’t have much time left.

We all need to stand up for our democracy and our public schools.

Cunningham recently published a new book, Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization.

Olivia Little of MediaMatters for America investigated a rightwing group called “Moms for Liberty” and posted her findings online.

She writes:

Moms for Liberty, a nonprofit claiming to advocate for “parental rights,” appears to be using parents as pawns to advance a far-right agenda.

The group — which has quickly gained substantial media attention, becoming a right-wing sweetheart and mainstream spectacle — has attempted to paint itself as a grassroots entity driven entirely by passionate parents. But in reality, it benefits from right-wing funding and ties to traditional Republican political figures.

As issues related to parents, schools, and so-called “critical race theory” drive local organizing and elections, it is essential that media report on Moms for Liberty and similar groups with the appropriate context.

The Washington Post published a report on Moms for Liberty in October, framing the organization as “channeling a powerful frustration among conservative mothers.” In fact, these well-connected partisans are opportunistically manufacturing outrage and selling it to parents under the guise of empowerment.

The article not only wrongly portrays the group as a grassroots organization and suggests that it’s primarily member-funded, it also leaves out key details about the co-founders and the group’s right-wing affiliations. For example, after interviewing the vice chairman of the Florida Republican Party about his enthusiasm for the group, the Post notes that his wife is “loosely aligned with Moms for Liberty.” In reality, the group’s initial incorporation documents list her as a co-director.

Moms for Liberty has county-specific chapters across the country that target local school board meetings, school board members, administrators, and teachers. The group advocates to strip districts of protective COVID-19 measures and modify classroom curriculum to exclude the teaching of “critical race theory” (CRT) and sex education, all in the name of “parental rights.”

To learn who is funding and promoting this group, open the link. You will see some familiar names.

Governor Gregg Abbott wants to win the competition to be the most immoral, dishonest, loathsome, and extremist Governor in the nation.

Pastor Charles Foster Johnson, leader of Pastors for Texas Children, called out Abbott for his latest, most disgusting ploy.

Pastor Johnson writes:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued not one but two letters this month calling for Texas public schools to “ensure no child is exposed to pornography or other inappropriate content.”

The first letter on Nov. 1 to the Texas Association of School Boards stated that “Texas public schools should not provide or promote pornographic or obscene materials to students,” and that “the organization’s members have an obligation to determine the extent to which such materials exist or are used in our schools and to remove any such content.”

Dan Troxel, executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards, responded in a Nov. 3 letter reminding the governor that his organization “has no regulatory authority over school districts and does not set the standards for instructional materials, including library books. Rather, we are a private, nonprofit membership organization focused on supporting school governance and providing cost-effective services to school districts.”

Charles Foster Johnson

Furthermore, Troxel took the opportunity to give the governor a civics lesson, informing him that the responsibility for the review of schoolbooks and materials belongs to the State Board of Education and the Texas Education Association — two organizations over which the governor himself has responsibility and authority. Both organizations are led by individuals appointed by Greg Abbott.

Presumably now embarrassed, but not to be outdone, Abbott then issued a second letter to the two bodies his appointees oversee, instructing them “to immediately develop statewide standards to prevent the presence of pornography and other obscene content in Texas public schools, including in school libraries.”

Instead of apologizing for his error in misidentifying the role of the Texas Association of School Boards, the governordoubled down on his attack on them, saying “Instead of addressing the concerns of parents and shielding Texas children from pornography in public schools, the Texas Association of School Boards has attempted to wash its hands clean of the issue by abdicating any and all responsibility in the matter. Given this negligence, the State of Texas now calls on you to do what the Texas Association of School Boards refuses to do.”

What is going on here? Why, after seven years of gubernatorial tenure, is Greg Abbott now launching a crusade against public school books? If the governor believed our Texas public schools were teaching objectionable material, why didn’t he address the issue years ago? Why is he only now concerned about it?

Here’s why: Greg Abbott knows it is open season on public schools in our current political climate, and he is cynical enough to capitalize on every single misconception of it.

“Greg Abbott knows it is open season on public schools in our current political climate, and he is cynical enough to capitalize on every single misconception of it.”

Abbott faces not one but two opponents in the upcoming primary elections next spring, former State Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas and former U.S. Congressman and state Republican Party chairman Allen West of Garland. Both are rightwing firebrands who constantly question Abbott’s conservative credentials and bona fides. And his own lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, continues to pressure Abbott from the far right.

Nothing like a good old-fashioned book ban to throw some red meat to his right flank.

With the rampant COVID chaos afflicting our nation at this time came opportunity for well-funded forces of confusion to wreak their havoc on our most cherished institutions, including medicine, science and education

In September 2020, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, listens to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, left, during a news conference where they provided an update to Texas’ response to COVID-19. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

This is what spawned the national meltdown over so-called Critical Race Theory alleged to be taught in our public schools. When cooler heads finally prevailed, one could hardly find a K-12 public educator who knew what Critical Race Theory was, much less committed to teach it. But that didn’t prevent national fringe organizations from funding the disinformation campaign against our public schools on the basis of it.

What resulted was trumped up legislation all over the country, including Texas, that was designed to put a chilling effect on any content or curriculum that addressed complex issues of race and our country’s sordid history surrounding it. Abbott and his counterpart, Lt. Gov. Patrick, pushed such a bogus bill in Texas, and it passed.

But with the 2022 election season upon us, and with chaos and confusion on the winning ticket, why let clarity and calm prevail? Having wielded the ruse of reverse racism so effectively, Abbott reached into the demagogue’s favorite bag of tricks again and found — voila! — that old saw of adolescent sexuality as his next contraption of chaos.

“Abbott reached into the demagogue’s favorite bag of tricks again and found — voila! — that old saw of adolescent sexuality as his next contraption of chaos.”

Anyone with a lick of sense knows we have long-established and effective safeguards to prevent inappropriate content in local public schools. With such content readily available on the world wide web, child protection is one of the main responsibilities of our public educators, and they discharge this moral duty with astonishing distinction.

Pastors for Texas Children sees through this stunt. We are not amused.

To imply that our public schools are centers of pornography and our educators purveyors of smut is a devil’s lie. Greg Abbott knows it. And does it anyway.

Here is the real moral crisis: The highest office in our land advancing his political ambition on the backs of dedicated, deeply moral public school teachers, who work hard all day at low pay in the work of love for our children, most of whom are poor. It is beyond cynical. It is morally reprehensible.

The de rigueur political attack on public education is based on lies. Our children suffer from it. We must find the moral courage to stop it now.

Charles Foster Johnson is founder and executive director of Pastors for Children.

Nancy Flanagan is a retired teacher with decades of experience. In this post, she remembers when she used to take standardized test scores seriously. Then she went to a state board meeting in Michigan, where the topic of discussion was setting cut scores. Cut scores are the lines that determine whether students scored “advanced,” “proficient,” “basic,” or “below basic.”

What she learned was that the cut scores are arbitrary. There is no science involved in setting the cut scores. It’s guesswork. The cut scores can be moved up or down to produce good news or bad news.

She writes:

Here’s the (incendiary) headline: Test Scores Show Dramatic Declines!

Here’s the truth: this set of test scores tells us nothing for certain. The data are apples-to-oranges-to bowling balls muddled. If anything, if you still believe test scores give us valuable information, the data might be mildly encouraging, considering what students have encountered over the past 18 months…

The problem is this: You can’t talk about good schools or good teachers or even “lost learning”any more, without a mountain of numbers. Which can be inscrutable to nearly everyone, including those making policies impacting millions of children. When it comes to standardized test score analysis, we are collectively illiterate. And this year’s data? It’s meaningless.

Bridge Magazine (headline: Test Scores Slump) provides up/down testing data for every school district in Michigan. The accompanying article includes plenty of expert opinion on how suspect and incomplete the numbers are, but starts out with sky-is-falling paragraphs: In English, the share of third-graders considered “proficient” or higher dropped from 45.1 percent to 42.8 percent; in sixth-grade math, from 35.1 percent to 28.6 percent; in eighth-grade social studies, from 28 percent to 25.9 percent.

These are, of course, aggregated statewide numbers. Down a few percent, pretty much across the board. Unsurprising, given the conditions under which most elementary and middle school students were learning. Down the most for students of color and those in poverty—again, unsurprising. Still, there’s also immense score variance, school to school, even grade to grade. The aggregate numbers don’t tell the whole story–or even the right story.

The media seemed to prefer a bad-news advertising campaign for the alarming idea that our kids are falling further behind. Behind whom, is what I want to know? Aren’t we all in this together? Is a two-point-something score drop while a virus rages reason to clutch your academic pearls?

It’s time to end our national love affair with testing, to make all Americans understand that educational testing is a sham that’s harmed many children. Testing hasn’t ever worked to improve public education outcomes, and it’s especially wasteful and subject to misinterpretation right now.

I recently learned of a rightwing website collecting complaints about school boards, presumably to encourage dissension and hostility at school board meetings.

The School Board Watchlist (SBWL) is America’s only national grassroots initiative dedicated to protecting our children by exposing radical and false ideologies endorsed by school boards and pushed in the classroom. SBWL finds and exposes school board leadership that supports anti-American, radical, hateful, immoral, and racist teachings in their districts, such as Critical Race Theory, the 1619 Project, sexual/gender ideology, and more. SBWL also provides information on how parents and students can get involved in their local school board and put an end to the racialization of the classroom.

This group wants vigilantes to report their school board if students learn about sexism, racism, and other realities of our past and present. This is McCarthyism revisited.

On the “About Us” page, the group identifies itself as a project of the radical rightwing Turning Points USA. SourceWatch reports on the funders and ideology of Turning Points USA.

Evidently, these people don’t understand that state standards authorize the teaching that they find reprehensible.

New post on Network for Public Education.

Peter Montgomery: The Right-Wing Political Machine Is Out to Take Over School Boards by Fanning Fears of Critical Race Theory

Peter Montgomery, writing at Right Wing Watch, lays out some of the behind-the-scenes work going on among some right wing groups.

The right-wing campaign to stifle teaching and discussion about racism in U.S. history and institutions is fearmongering about critical race theory to mobilize right-wing activists and conservative voters to take over local school boards.

The Leadership Institute, which has trained generations of right-wing activists, is promoting a 20-hour online course to train conservatives how to run for their local school boards in order to “stop the teaching of Critical Race Theory before it destroys the fabric of our nation.” Critical race theory is an academic analytical framework for exploring the existence and impact of systemic racism. Over the past year, the term has been aggressively deployed as a right-wing culture-war weapon that is being used to smear educators and social justice activists. Campaigns against efforts to examine racism in school settings are often combined with attacks on other initiatives to promote inclusion, such as anti-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Right Wing Watch previously reported that Intercessors for America and the Center for Renewing America, the latter run by former Trump administration official Russ Vought, are distributing a toolkit that encourages conservatives to “reclaim” their schools by taking over local school boards through campaigns focused on opposition to critical race theory. The Leadership Institute, with its new course, appears to be following their lead.

An email promoting an online presentation about the Leadership Institute’s new training sessions, which begin on Aug. 9, declares that “conservatives are preparing a school board takeover and you can get involved.” The presentation was made by the Leadership Institute’s director of international trainings Ron Nehring, a protégé of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist who ran as a Republican candidate for Lt. Gov. of California in 2014 and served as a spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“The left has spent many years and vast funding to stack local school boards,” the Leadership Institute’s website claims. “America’s children suffer the effects of this liberal domination every day.” The group adds, “Patriotic Americans must take back the schools.”

Read the full article here.

You can view the post at this link :

What follows is an alarming story about a young man who hoaxed thousands of people on Twitter, including Trump. The real shocker is not this particular story—which is so absurd that it’s funny— but the fact that it is so easy to set up fake accounts, collect money for fake causes, and impersonate others. This is a cautionary story for our times.

Jack Nicas wrote:

Last month, between tweets disputing his election loss, President Trump posted an article from a conservative website that said his sister Elizabeth Trump Grau had just joined Twitter to publicly back her brother’s fight to overturn the vote.

“Thank you Elizabeth,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “LOVE!”

But the Twitter account that prompted the article was not his sister’s. It was a fake profile run by Josh Hall, a 21-year-old food-delivery driver in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. He actually thinks it’s his sister,’” Mr. Hall, a fervent Trump supporter, said in an interview last week.

It was a surreal coda to nearly a year of deception for Mr. Hall. Since February, he had posed as political figures and their families on Twitter, including five of the president’s relatives. He had pretended to be Robert Trump, the president’s brother; Barron Trump, the president’s 14-year-old son; and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. The accounts collectively amassed more than 160,000 followers.

Using their identities, he gained attention by mixing off-color political commentary with wild conspiracy theories, including one that the government wanted to implant Americans with microchips, and another that John F. Kennedy Jr., who died in a plane crash in 1999, was alive and about to replace Mike Pence as vice president.

“There was no nefarious intention behind it,” Mr. Hall said. “I was just trying to rally up MAGA supporters and have fun.”

Many of those “Make America Great Again” followers appeared to believe the posts. Records also show that some accounts served another purpose: directing people to give Mr. Hall money. They promoted a fund-raiser for a political group Mr. Hall created called “Gay Voices for Trump.” In an interview, he admitted that the group didn’t exist. The fund-raiser brought in more than $7,300.

Mr. Hall’s Twitter spree seems to be a case of mischief spun out of control, illustrating how a person simply needs a phone and some knowledge of the internet to start trouble that gets the attention of hundreds of thousands of people.

Mr. Hall was hardly the first self-professed Trump fan to try to profit off fellow Trump backers. Federal prosecutors, for example, said in August that Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former adviser, and three others had solicited donations to build a border wall and then pocketed more than $1 million.

Beware of salesmen in plaid jackets selling snake oil.

And he was hardly the first person to create a fake online persona. Fake accounts have been instrumental in the spread of conspiracy theories, and scammers have repeatedly posed as celebritiessoldiers and even Mark Zuckerberg to defraud people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Those companies said they remove millions of fake profiles each year. Yet Mr. Hall showed that it was still fairly simple to impersonate key White House officials and the president’s family, including his teenage son, and amass tens of thousands of followers before Twitter took notice.

Millions of people have been lured down dark internet rabbit holes like QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory that claims satanic Democrats abuse and eat children and is fueled by someone posing as a government official. By comparison, Mr. Hall was a small-timer. His escapades in the alternate reality universe might have gone unnoticed — until Mr. Trump’s mistaken tweet elevated him to the big time of MAGA misinformation.

The New York Times identified Mr. Hall as the person behind the fake Trump accounts, which have now all been taken down by Twitter, and constructed a recap of his deception via screenshots of some of his tweets and an archive of many others collected by Ian Kennedy and Melinda Haughey, University of Washington researchers who use software to save millions of tweets about the election and pandemic. The Times also interviewed Mr. Hall, people close to him and people he misled online.

Mr. Hall said he became interested in politics in 2016 when he was a teenager, energized by Mr. Trump. “I kind of thought he was like a clown at first,” he said. “But the more I heard him talk, I realized: Yeah, he says kind of off-the-wall things, but I do agree with what he’s saying.”

He dreamed of becoming a conservative talk-radio host, he said, so he opted against college and decided to instead build a persona online. He sparred with liberals on Twitter; created a “public figure” page on Facebook; and self-published a 49-page e-book on Amazon called “Hall Nation” that detailed his “38 essential rules to live life in order to be happy and successful.” (The first rule? “Insults are a good thing.”)

Offline, he was not so successful. He struggled to hold a job, he said, including stints as a hotel clerk and sandwich maker. Most recently, he delivered food for DoorDash.

But online, he started to develop a small following. In January, he asked followers to help him pay for a lawyer, saying “a Planned Parenthood loving radical leftist” whom he used to date had accused him of harassment. He also began selling T-shirts that said “Josh Hall did nothing wrong.” He raised $815 on GoFundMe. Court documents indicate he is using a public defender. A hearing in the case is scheduled for later this month.

Mr. Hall said that around that time Twitter suspended his account without explanation. “Once I got banned from Twitter, my attitude was kind of like, ‘What the hell, I’m just going to have fun now,’” he said. (A Twitter spokesman said the company suspended his original account because he had created multiple accounts under different identities.)

So he started a new account under a different name: Rod Blagojevich, the former Democratic governor of Illinois best known for trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat. Mr. Blagojevich’s prison sentence had just been commuted by President Trump, making him a sudden ally in the eyes of some conservatives.

Our cat Dandelion (Dandy) resting on Mitzi’s bed. Mitzi was unhappy about this.

“OBAMA STARTED THE CORONAVIRUS,” Mr. Hall wrote on Feb. 27 under Mr. Blagojevich’s photo and a profile named @GovBlago. It was typical fare for the account, which eventually drew more than 26,000 followers. For much of the time it was active, the profile included a disclaimer in its bio that it was a parody account, which Twitter allows under some conditions.

The rest of Mr. Hall’s impostor accounts did not include such disclaimers.

Twitter eventually removed the @GovBlago account, prompting Mr. Hall to impersonate someone else in the headlines: Dr. Birx, the White House official working on the pandemic. “The media is lying to you about this virus,” he wrote as @DoctorBirx on April 22. The pandemic was “plotted by the powers that be to crash our economy in hopes that Trump will pay for it in November.”

The account didn’t gain much traction, so he moved on to a brand that was sure to attract more eyeballs: The Trump family. Mr. Hall said he went on Wikipedia to find Trump relatives who didn’t yet have Twitter accounts, and first landed on Robert Trump, the president’s brother.TRACKING VIRAL MISINFORMATIONWhy can’t the social networks stop fake accounts?Dec. 8, 2020As @BigRobTrump, he quickly gained more than 25,000 followers, partly by spreading conspiracy theories. “The coronavirus was planned and released onto the world by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” Mr. Hall said as Robert Trump. It was unclear if Mr. Hall believed such lies or if he thought they were just good at attracting attention, but they had become almost banalities in the conspiracy-filled corners of the internet where he spent much of his time.When Twitter removed the first Robert Trump account, Mr. Hall started a new one, this time under the username @UncleRobTrump. It did even better, ultimately collecting more than 77,000 followers from July to August.As the new Robert Trump account gained influence, Mr. Hall began using it to promote his own Twitter profile, @TheBiTrumpGuy.On that account, Mr. Hall, who said he is bisexual, called himself the founder of a group called Gay Voices for Trump. Mr. Hall used the fake Robert Trump profile to promote the group.

Mitzi, a wonderful 100-lb certified purebred mutt, at rest on her bed.

“Uncle Rob runs Gay Voices For Trump with @TheBiTrumpGuy, although I am very much a heterosexual male. It’s the Trump genes – we love women,” Mr. Hall wrote as Robert Trump in July. “But we are trying to reach out to LGBT and other minority voters. Josh is doing great work so please give him a follow and support him!” The tweets brought Mr. Hall’s real profile thousands of new followers.Tracking Disinformation ›

Not long after, Mr. Hall started messaging Trump supporters as Robert Trump, asking them to donate to a fund-raiser for his group, according to screenshots posted online by two people who received the messages.

“Hey patriot. Would really appreciate if you have a couple of bucks to spare to organization,” he wrote, according to one screenshot.

Mr. Hall denied he sent such messages and suggested that the screenshots had been fabricated. “I would tell you if I did,” he said. “I should have used better judgment and stuff. But I didn’t deliberately try and dupe people out of money.”

His fund-raiser on the website GoFundMe called his group “a grass-roots coalition of LGBT Americans” and said all donations would go to “field organizing, events and merchandise.” He brought in $7,384.

Mr. Hall admitted last week that the group didn’t exist. He didn’t do more than register about 100 people to vote. “I didn’t end up ever really doing anything with the Gay Voices for Trump,” he said. “So I never got the funds from it.” He said the money was still with GoFundMe.

A GoFundMe spokeswoman said that the organizer behind the fund-raiser — an account named Josh H. — had withdrawn the money. She said GoFundMe was now investigating how the funds were used and that the company would give refunds to any donors who requested one.

Mr. Hall didn’t respond to follow-up questions about the fund-raiser.

Moonrise over harbor in Greenport, New Tork

Josiah Bruns, an engineer from Goffstown, N.H., donated $100. With his donation, he left a comment: “Uncle Rob Trump asked me too.”

Mr. Bruns said in an interview that a QAnon message board had led him to the Robert Trump account, which also promoted the conspiracy theory. “We’re trained on the Q research board to always question everything,” he said, adding that he used those lessons to scrutinize the Robert Trump account. “I’m probably 65 percent sure that it was real.”

After The Times told Mr. Bruns that he had been deceived, he said he didn’t mind. In the future, he said, he would apply more research techniques he had learned from the QAnon movement to decipher what was real on the internet. The web is a minefield of lies, he said, “especially if it’s something you want to believe, because those are the easiest lies to fall for.”

In August, Robert Trump died. The news drew scrutiny to the fake Robert Trump account, and some of its followers began to suspect that Mr. Hall was behind it, given the pattern of tweets between the profiles. In response, Mr. Hall said on Twitter that the fake account was run by “a close political friend of mine” who “did not know about Mr. Trump’s serious condition.”

He began impersonating different Trump relatives, including Fred Trump III, the president’s nephew; Maryanne Trump Barry, the president’s sister and a federal judge; and Barron Trump, the president’s teenage son.

“COVID is a scam,” he wrote on Aug. 23 as Barron Trump, a fake account that attracted more than 34,000 followers in eight days. On Aug. 25, the account posted: “Q is real. The more the media delegitimizes it, the more it shows that they’re scared.”

The Trump Organization, which has spoken on behalf of the Trump family members in the past, did not respond to requests for comment. The White House declined to comment.

The Twitter spokesman said the company eventually took down all of Mr. Hall’s accounts for violating its rules on impersonation and evading a previous ban from the site. In response to questions about why someone could create accounts impersonating the president’s teenage son and a White House official, the spokesman said in an email, “We’re committed to protecting the integrity of the conversation on Twitter, and we’re working hard to ensure that violations of our rules against impersonation, particularly when people are attempting to spread misinformation, are addressed quickly and consistently.”

A review on Saturday showed nearly 100 fake Barron Trump accounts were still active on Twitter, not counting those that identified as parodies.

Without a Twitter account, Mr. Hall felt left out after the election, as many fellow Trump supporters convened on Twitter to claim that the vote was rigged. “Why not make a comeback?” he recalled thinking. “I’m going to do something to spice things up.”

On the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 18, he created a new impostor, this time posing as the father of Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect. “My daughter is not who she portrays herself to be. She is dangerous for our democracy,” he posted.

The tweet got little attention, so he abandoned that fake for another Trump sibling. The final living sibling he hadn’t tried was Ms. Trump Grau, the president’s older sister, who is in her late 70s, lives in Florida and has hardly said anything public since her brother was elected.

Mr. Hall changed the name, photos and bio of the Mr. Harris account and erased the old posts. Then he started with a new message: “This election inspired me to break my silence,” he wrote under a photo of Ms. Trump Grau and the username @TheBettyTrump. “My brother Don won this election.”

He went viral again, collecting about 20,000 followers in 24 hours. Mr. Hall delighted many of his followers with dozens more juvenile and bizarre tweets, including claims that President-elect Biden is a pathological liar, Ms. Harris is a communist and Michelle Obama is a man.

Mr. Hall collected over $7,000 with his fake “Gay Voices for Trump” Twitter account. Photo by Ben Mack on

On Nov. 20, Mr. Hall said, he woke up and checked the president’s Twitter account, as he did most mornings. “I was like shellshocked,” he said.

He quickly began bragging on Snapchat that President Trump had tweeted about his fake account. “My friend was joking, ‘Maybe he’s not close with his sister, and you just brought him and his sister a lot closer,’” he said. “So I kind of felt good about that.”

Within hours, the account was outed as a fake.

Mr. Hall argued that his accounts were clear parodies, if anyone just looked at what they posted. As Ms. Trump Grau, for instance, he called the CNN anchor Anderson Cooper “Anderson Pooper” and said he would cover the legal fees of anyone who poured gravy down the pants of Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor.

“I’m a big Trump supporter, but I’m thinking, ‘He’s got to know that that’s a parody,’” he said. “How does he not know?”

Dan Alexander, a senior editor at Forbes who covers Trump’s businessses, writes that Trump really is a billionaire. His net worth, he says, is about $2.5 billion. That’s after taking into account more than $1 billion in Trump debts.

That makes it even more scandalous that Trump employs every accounting trick to pay no taxes in most years (while deducting $70,000 for his hair stylist), and only $750 in two years when he actually paid something to the government.

Dana Milbank has become my favorite columnist.

I hope you can open this column from the Washington Post, because he has added links to everything, too many for me to copy by hand. Since the Washington Post, like the New York Times, is making coverage of the pandemic open access, you might be able to open it.

The title: “This Cure for the Pandemic Is the Work of a Very Stable Genius.”

Forget vaccines and treatments. The very stable genius has a foolproof cure for the pandemic.

“If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any,” President Trump said at the White House Monday.

Precisely! And if I stop weighing myself right now, I will gain very few pounds, if any. What we don’t know cannot possibly hurt us. This is very much a part of Trump’s governing philosophy.

If he stops John Bolton’s book from being published, there will be very few damaging revelations, if any.

If his Office of Management and Budget stops releasing economic forecasts in its midyear review, the economy will have very few problems, if any.

If Trump’s Labor Department asks states to stop the release of their unemployment claims until later, there will be very few jobless people, if any.

If the administration stops the public disclosure of recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program, there will be very few cases, if any, of waste, fraud and abuse.

President George W. Bush famously advocated for testing so we could know if our children is learning. Trump takes the opposite view: If sunlight is the best disinfectant, Trump’s administration is festering. The administration literally shut down the transparency website “” and another one called “” As The Post’s Juliet Eilperin reported, it removed some 40,000 data sets from in its first few months.

The head-in-sand strategy has become endemic during the pandemic. Florida fired the manager of its virus-data website after she objected to the removal of records showing people had symptoms or positive tests before the cases were announced. Georgia reorganized its data in ways that made things look better than they were. Arizona attempted to stop the running of models showing the virus spreading. And the Trump administration for several weeks blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from issuing its guidelines for reopening.

Trump has evidently decided that if enough Americans are willing to suspend disbelief, there are few problems, if any, that can’t be solved by averting the public gaze. The thinking seems to go:

If we stop government reports and websites from mentioning climate change, Earth’s temperature will increase by few degrees, if any.

If we stop releasing certain information about illegal immigrants held by police, few will be denied due process, if any.

If we stop releasing records of visitors to the White House, we will have few unsavory visitors, if any.

If we stop disclosing violations of the Animal Welfare Act, few animals will be harmed, if any.

If we stop publicizing fines for workplace-safety violations, few workers will be harmed, if any.

If we stop collecting data on pay discrimination by race and gender, few employers will discriminate, if any.

If we stop the disclosure of administration officials’ ethics waivers, we will have few conflicts of interest, if any.

The administration has likewise stopped collecting various data on energy efficiency, police weaponry, labor-law violations, lending discrimination and discrimination in school discipline.

When Trump’s handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico came under scrutiny, the administration attempted to remove data showing the number of people without electricity and drinking water. Now that the administration is trying to implement a peace agreement in Afghanistan, it has stopped releasing data about insurgent attacks.

During impeachment, the White House withheld documents and witnesses from Congress, then claimed Trump couldn’t be convicted on the basis of secondhand information. The administration is still fighting, at the Supreme Court, to stop Congress from getting the grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The potential seems boundless. If the Trump administration stops measuring the federal debt, might it shrink? If Trump ignores the North Korean nuclear threat, might it go away? If he can stop enough people from believing the media, might the truth itself disappear?

He has, so far, gotten away with refusing to release his tax returns and refusing to provide a full accounting of his health. If he can stop Congress from seeing documents or talking to his advisers, stop inspectors general from investigating his administration and stop whistleblowers from blowing their whistles, there will be very few things Trump can’t get away with, if any.

And then comes the biggest test: If his voter-suppression efforts stop enough people from voting, there will be very few elections, if any, that he could lose.