It’s just over a month into Hillary Clinton’s historic presidency, and Milo Yiannopoulos works as a Starbucks barista, the Koch brothers have fled the country and the first woman to occupy the Oval Office is the sober, exacting policy wonk that millions of Americans expected.
Her approval ratings are skyrocketing, her news conferences “oppressively intelligent,” “boring” and “too sane.”
And her vanquished political opponent, Donald Trump, is on the verge of being charged with treason by the Department of Justice.
This liberal fantasy on steroids arrives courtesy of Hillarybeattrump.org, a satirical news site designed to dive deeply under the skin of President Trump and anyone who supports him.
The site channels the Onion’s humor, the National Enquirer’s whacked-out headlines and the Huffington Post’s progressive indignation. It’s a parody-based parallel universe whose creator intended for it to serve as a trap for Trump supporters online, with a mocking masthead that says: “President Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
In recent days, Breitbart, Fox News, Yiannopoulos and the Daily Caller singled out the site as “fake news” and a place for liberals to seek “refuge from reality.”
The site’s founder – a 30-year-old East Coast writer who asked spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of becoming a conservative target in real life – told The Washington Post that her conservative critics are partially correct: Hillarybeattrump is meant to serve as a refuge from reality for liberals.
But mostly, she said, it’s a chance to troll the opposition whose party actually won the presidency.
“I wanted it to be a joyful middle finger,” the site’s founder said when reached by phone. “I didn’t want to wallow or argue with people who can’t be argued with. There’s something about humor as confrontation that I instinctively thought would work – like a good right jab that I could keep using.”
The joke, it would seem, is not hard to get, even when the joke is just barely a joke. Using humor as protest, the site operates according to the plainly stated position that Clinton is, in fact, the 45th president of the United States.
“In the midst of a Constitutional crisis, this is our response,” the site’s “About Us” page states. “Long live the true president, Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
How does she respond to critics who accuse her of perpetuating fake news?
“I empathize with people who feel frustrated that things they see on Facebook do not reflect reality as they see it,” she said. “But no, I don’t think anyone can accuse me of misinforming the public en masse or undermining the collective intelligence of public’s political discourse by writing fake news that is so obviously satire.”
She decided to launch the site in January as a defense of Clinton’s legacy and now has five other writers providing additional content. Although fake, the stories often highlight Clinton’s actual policy positions, such as raising the federal minimum wage and guaranteeing paid maternity and paternity leave.
The site also serves to remind Trump supporters that the actual president lost the popular vote to the fake president by enough voters to populate the city of Chicago – a fact Trump has falsely attributed to voter fraud.
If her bulging inbox of violent and misogynistic hate mail is any indication, the bait appears to be working with some unsettling results. Since Hillarybeattrump.org was picked up on the conservative-media radar, the site’s creator says it’s been getting about 200,000 visitors per day – enough to keep her busy deleting angry emails for a solid hour each night.
In recent days, she said, news about the site bubbled up on 4chan and various subreddits before appearing on the Daily Caller and then Breitbart and Fox News. The entire journey from the fringes of the conservative map to the news spotlight took about 12 hours, she said.
Now, as if on cue, the furious email stream gushes any time she publishes a post that identifies Clinton as president.
“You can always find your paradise in heaven,” one reader said in an email the site’s founder shared with The Post. “Its just one bullet away.”
“I know in your fake world she won but in the real world she did not,” another reader said. “To the people who made this Web page go get a real job like the rest of real Americans.”
“Your dad must have abused you while mom watched, right?” another reader added. “YES Liberalism IS A METAL DISORDER and YOU ARE POOF!”
The founder said the vitriolic reaction says less about her content than it does about her new readers.
“I think it has to be a deep sense of insecurity, and I think they also can’t abide by dissent,” she said.
“I’ve been amazed by how willfully determined they are not to get the joke,” she added.
Browsing the site, the notion of Clinton as commander in chief can feel temporarily real.
Headlines regularly note the first female president’s skyrocketing approval ratings (89 percent, according to one recent bulletin), new executive orders furthering liberal causes and grammatically correct tweets.
Conservative media has blasted the headlines as a sort of pathetic alternative reality for bitter liberal snowflakes.
Breitbart referred to the site as “the ultimate safe space” and said it offered Clinton supporters a place they can “pretend.”
“The website’s tagline is ‘News From The Real America, Where The Majority Rules” – a reference, of course, to the oft-cited notion that the popular vote actually means something,” a story on Yiannopoulos’s blog said.
The site’s founder seems to revel in the attention – albeit anonymously.
“For a lot of people who feel like an important chapter was stolen from feminist history by the Russians, by Julian Assange and by the FBI director, hillarybeattrump.com is restorative,” she said.
She devotes about 35 hours a week to the site and said she plans to keep it going as long as she can summon the energy, though she’s not making any money and considers it “a labor of love.” Because Clinton offered decades of detailed policy prescriptions, many of which will remain at the center of political discourse for years, she’ll have no shortage of material to work with moving forward, she said.
If hillarybeattrump.com’s audience keeps growing, through hate clicks or otherwise, the site’s founder might launch a YouTube spinoff – perhaps a nightly newscast with headlines from Clinton’s first term in office.
Along the way, of course, she plans to continue to remind her readers that she believes the wrong person is in the White House, she said.
“I’m unwilling to concede the legitimacy of this president,” she said. “I will continue to gleefully, sadistically emphasize Clinton’s landslide victory in the popular vote on the site to underline the point that this Trump fellow has no business being president.”