Earlier this week many major news outlets reported upon a hilarious exchange on Twitter, in which a profile titled ‘Colin Johnson’ had bragged about placing a £500 bet on Marine Le Pen to win the French presidential election. After Le Pen lost to Emmanuel Macron, the account then posted a series of tweets to the bookmaker Ladbrokes, claiming that his young son had made the bet and demanding a refund.
But despite the tweet being picked up by a variety of outlets, all is not what it seems. In reality, the tweet wasn’t posted by a man named Colin Johnson, but rather an online prankster who was looking to get his fictional tweeted tale of a hapless right-winger in the news. To his credit he succeeded in this mission, though the hoax has had unfortunate repercussions for a real man named Colin Johnson, who has spoken out about the harassment he has received from “trolls” in the wake of the viral tweet.
The tweets, posted from the now-deleted @Wollygogg account belonging to the fake Colin Johnson, attracted thousands of retweets and saw the account being widely mocked by other users. But speaking to The Guardian, the poster has revealed that the account was created as part of an elaborate plan to “create a story” that would be picked up by news outlets. “I wanted to try to create a story”, he said. “Obnoxious Brexiteer backs Le Pen, taunts liberals while endearing himself to [Andy] Wigmore, [David] Vance, [Arron] Banks etc (I hoped to get public support from them), loses bet and then throws a fit.”
Life comes at you fast pic.twitter.com/6miFyRQzHv
— Jongle Marbells (@JonnieMarbLes) May 7, 2017
But the tweet had unfortunate ramifications for the real Colin Johnson from Yarmouth, who runs a YouTube account with 13,000 subscribers in which he mostly confronts debt collectors and bailiffs. The creator of the @Wollygogg account claimed that he never intended for Colin to be dragged into the controversy, though added that he was curious if people would make the connection. “My intention was never to link it to the real CJ”, he said. “I put the name out there wondering if people would join the dots.”
The harassment Colin received from the tweet wasn’t helped by an interview his impostor held with Mail Online, with him not distancing himself from the real Colin Johnson and the outlet even publishing a photo of him as part of the story. This has led to many criticising the fake account’s owner, saying that he should have intervened after learning that his tweet was negatively impacting someone’s life.
By stealing someones identity and plastering photos of their kids in the dailymail. Yeah what a way to fight.
— DMC (@BoB2oo9) May 9, 2017
Colin Johnson has since uploaded a video to his YouTube account discussing the fallout to his tweet, claiming that he’s been branded a fascist since it went viral. “I’ve been getting harassed something chronic by a little group of trolls, saying I’ve been betting or my son’s been betting,” he said.
“They’ve been saying I’ve been betting on some fascist group that ain’t even in this country. I don’t even know who – Le Pen or some bollocks like that. I had to ask someone that I know, because you know I don’t keep up with politics.”
He added: “Anyone who knows me, I’m not fascist, I’m not into none of that bollocks whatsoever.”
Watch the video below: