The “Don’t Believe Every Tweet” project that launched over the weekend — which looked enough like an official Twitter public-awareness campaign that it fooled some reporters — is actually an elaborate calling card created by an out-of-work TV writer.
The campaign, hosted at dontbelieveeverytweet.com, includes links to Twitter’s official website and a fake statement from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that says in part, “It’s a simple reminder to be skeptical of everything you see on Twitter because our users can put literally anything in a tweet.” The effort also includes a series of YouTube shorts featuring comedian Greg Barris (pictured above), who makes various bizarre claims and gives baffling instructions in presentations to different people.
The Twitter account @dontbelieveev tweeted about the project early Sunday, making it look like a real Twitter initiative — and confusion ensued. A Twitter spokesman said it wasn’t created by the company and whoever had didn’t reach out to Twitter beforehand.
— Don’t Believe Every Tweet (@DontBelieveEv) August 19, 2018
Turns out it the point wasn’t really to grind an ideological axe: “Don’t Believe Every Tweet” was the brainchild of one Nathan Gotsch, who told Variety he wanted to get noticed by the entertainment industry with the stunt.
The 35-year-old Gotsch, a graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, previously tried to break into Hollywood with limited success. He wrote a sitcom pilot, “Josh Jennings for Congress,” for FX and Apostle Productions that did not get ordered to series. Discouraged, he left L.A. and spent two years teaching film and video classes and his high-school alma mater in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Upon returning to Los Angeles to make another go at breaking into showbiz, he found it was as tough as ever to break through the noise, which led to his idea to create “Don’t Believe Every Tweet” as a kind of faux PSA. “Reintroducing yourself to the town is not easy,” he said.
Gotsch said he also was inspired by the recent controversy over Twitter’s handling of Alex Jones and Infowars. Last week, Twitter put the conspiracy theorist and his right-wing outlet in a seven-day timeout period after Jones told viewers in a video that they need to have “battle rifles… at their bedsides” to fight “traitors.” Critics on the left have blasted Dorsey and Twitter for not taking more decisive action, while conservatives are complaining that Twitter is silencing right-wing viewpoints.
“As loud as the dialogue had gotten, I thought we were missing a voice reminding us that fake news and conspiracy theories only make an impact when we mindlessly believe what we see online,” Gotsch said.
The “Don’t Believe Every Tweet” spots featuring Barris were written and directed by Gotsch. He enlisted cinematographer Jennifer Gittings, who worked on Amy Adrion’s recently released documentary film “Half the Picture,” about the low number of women directors working in Hollywood.
What’s next? According to Gotsch, he’s already been contacted by a few producers interested in “developing something” around Barris’ character either for television or as a digital series.