Meet the Man Who Sells Memes, Michael Bentley

Five years ago, Michael Bentley was a music publicist and A&R, who also sold social media services like Twitter followers and Facebook Page likes. His clientele was mostly musicians, rappers, and producers along with a few major record labels, and he had no desire to enter into the world of politics. As social media evolved into the force it is today, Bentley found his expertise was needed more and more by clients in every field including politics.

Today, Bentley is a online brand consultant, and has played a role in the last two Presidential Elections. How big of a role he played is hard to say, but the self-proclaimed, Laptop Hustler, defiantly had his digital fingerprint involved.

In the summer of 2012, Bentley was contacted by a representative from a representative of Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney’s campaign team, about providing Romney with more followers on Twitter. At the time, Bentley considered himself a Democrat, he was a supporter of Barack Obama, and even donated to his 2008 campaign.

Bentley provided the service as he was paid to do, but then he leaked that info to the media.

The news was quickly picked up by most of the mainstream media, and it made Romney look out of touch compared to Obama. Obama won the election, and headed back to the White House for his second term. Did the leaked news from Bentley have any role in this? It is difficult to judge, but there was an impact felt by both candidates after the news was leaked. Romney was slightly ahead in the polls before the leak, and he fell behind quickly after to Obama. Obama never fell behind again.

In 2014 Bentley started his own company, Laptop Hustler to focus on online branding and social media. In the music industry Bentley had seen how the popularity of memes and hashtags had changed the entire industry. Artists like Drake, Future, Bobby Shmurda, Riff Raff, and even Rebecca Black, used memes, short videos known as Vines, and other outlets to create and maintain a buzz for their music.

Laptop Hustler began selling services like the creation of memes and ability to make something trend on Twitter, and soon Bentley was right back in the mix of another presidential election. Memes played an important role in the 2016 election race between now President Donald J. Trump, and his rival in the race, Hillary Clinton. Now as we all reflect on the wild race, we can see how things like fake news, memes, and social media played a role in deciding the winner.

How was Michael Bentley involved, and how much of a role did he play in this race? I got a chance to talk with Michael Bentley via Skype twice after the last month and ask him.

TPD: Your role in the 2012 election is well known, but it has been reported that you worked for Donald Trump’s campaign this time around. What did you do exactly, and working for Republican goes against what you stood for when you leaked news to help the Democrats and Obama in 2012?

MB: Well I don’t think I went against the party as much as the Democrats shot their own foot with the bullshit they did with picking a terrible candidate. I wasn’t in this election to have a winner, and when a business opportunity came up, I jumped on it. I have a family to feed, and well, look after the 2012 ordeal, I didn’t get contacted back to work with the Democrats in 2014 or for this election in 2016. I reached out to them, and presented them with what I thought could help the party make an impact online. I really think the Clinton people thought they had the race tied up from day one, and they didn’t think they needed any help at all.

TPD: So you reached out to them, they didn’t contact you back after what you felt was you helping them out in 2012 so you went to work for Trump and the other side?

MB: I wasn’t a gun for hire, but when I became a gun that wasn’t wanted, I became a gun for hire. We live in a society where the dollar is king. I did a job, but also Trump’s people came to me. I didn’t go to them, they reached out to me. They had a plan in place, and they wanted to see what my ideas were as the social media guru. Trump had better ideas, he had a better grasp on not only what people wanted to hear, but where they would need to hear it. His team, and I don’t know everything about his campaign team, but they understood that there were voters who were undecided. They went after those people, and they spoke to these people.

TPD: So what exactly was your role?

MB: I can’t talk about a lot of this, but since someone forget our last payment, I am telling you what I can. It wasn’t like when Romney came asking for Twitter followers. No, Trump’s team came with a non-disclosure agreement. They didn’t want anything they were doing or about to do to leak or get out at all. My partner and I spoke with them, and then went back to think about what we should do.

My partner and I did a few things before we took the job, and one of those things was to put out fake rumors and see how far it would spread. Within 4 days our fake rumor was on a not to be named TV news station, and we started to get a little scared. In a good way scared, but still we didn’t think things would go this way.

News isn’t what it use to be, and I don’t mean that they are covering or reporting fake news. I mean that people aren’t watching the news that much. So much information that people get doesn’t come from the Wall Street Journal or CNN. The right isn’t getting all their news from Fox News and the left isn’t just on CNN, a ton of people on both sides are getting it right from Facebook and Twitter just from their friends sharing it.

But they aren’t looking at sources, they aren’t even clicking on articles a lot of times. They are reading headlines and memes, and hey if it’s on the internet it must be true, right?”

TPD: So you created fake news?

MB: I well just say that fake news, fake headlines, fake memes, fake quotes, and more all played a role in how this thing turned out. I saw the fake rumor hit the mainstream media, but I didn’t think the American people as a whole would buy this stuff.

I was taking a pay check to do things, to try to manipulate things, but I didn’t think anyone would buy it. I guess I overestimated the intelligence of the American people. I really didn’t think that this stuff would fly on this many people. I could see at the time maybe 10% of the general public buying into things, and I figured that 10% would probably buy into anything. It didn’t seem like a big deal, but now looking at it from my point of view now, it’s amazing what people will believe.

TPD: So besides you company, how much of this was going on?

MB: I don’t have a clue, but it was going on at a lot of different levels. I wasn’t the only one. It was also going on from both parties and all the candidates. It wasn’t by any means just Trump doing this, Trump just ran a better campaign. I don’t know if that was him personally, he just understood things better than Hillary and before her the other Republican candidates or what. Trump was the difference though, it wasn’t Kellyanne Conway or Hillary losing it by being such a bad candidate, no, Trump won the election.

TPD: What about the Russians, there has been several reports that they helped spread things?

MB: I didn’t see anything from the Russians. If anything I think the Russians might have played a role in what came out with Wikileaks, but I really don’t know. I wasn’t apart of that, and again some of that stuff that came out with Wikileaks was true stuff like Hillary screwing Bernie over.

There was also an element of just plain bullshit thrown out, and I would know more about that. It was really just make the water as muddy as you can, and no one will know what is what.

Maybe Putin and Russians did play a role, maybe they gave Trump money, or maybe they do have a sex tape with him. I really don’t know, and it wasn’t on my level.

TPD: Do you have any regrets now that you can see Trump won an election that wasn’t fair?

MB: I don’t think you can say the election wasn’t fair. The people still had to go vote, and I don’t think there was fraud at the election booths. I don’t think any of it was fraud, and I think it was fair. Hillary’s campaign was dirty too, I mean this is politics, it is dirty, but putting out memes that say things whether they are true or not shouldn’t tilt an election. Now if votes were moved because of things that people read on a meme, I don’t know it seems like the American people already lost at that point. The education of this country lost if that is the case.

TPD: So are you happy that Donald Trump is now the President?

MB: It feels good to know that I worked on something that was successful, but Trump was never my guy. Actually, Trump gets a bad wrap from his words being misconstrued which is worse than any meme or any fake news story because you have real journalist saying false things about him. He stays in the press, which is something as a publicist I want all my clients to do, but there is a ton of just plain BS that comes out about him.

I am not a fan of certain Republicans like Mike Pence or Paul Ryan. I think they have dated views, and are probably bad to have in charge. But those people already have positions in the government before Trump was even running for an office.

Trump was more left most of his life, and I think he means well for the country.

Part two of my three part interview with Michael Bentley will be out February 2nd.

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