Have you seen that flyer claiming anytime you think about vaping maybe you should masturbate instead? It’s been going viral on right-wing social media thanks to commentators like Erick Erickson who say it’s part of a federal government program being unleashed in U.S. schools. But the flyer is completely fake.
“A friend passed this along. These were hanging in the bathrooms at a local public school. ‘The Real Cost’ is a project of the federal government,” Erickson tweeted on Monday.
The fake flyer reads, “Pleasure yourself with nicotine? Try masturbation instead! Masturbation is a safe and healthy alternative to vaping as a solution to relieve stress. Try it by yourself or with a friend.” It includes the logo of The Real Cost, an anti-tobacco initiative from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
But the flyer is a joke that’s been around for quite a while.
As KMOV4 reported back in February of 2020—more than a year and a half ago—the original flyer was created by a high school student in Missouri. The kid placed a couple of his photoshopped posters in the boy’s bathroom. Photos of the flyers went viral in 2020 on conservative social media, with people indignant that the government would promote masturbation. Except that it wasn’t real.
The student in Missouri who created the poster was suspended from school for ten days and apologized for the harmless joke. But it looks like his joke has a life that will last much longer than he intended.
“I didn’t mean for it get this far. I wasn’t trying to do anything wrong. I was just being a stupid kid,” the high school student told local media in 2020.
How could people fall for such an obvious fake? Well, you have to consider who’s sharing this garbage—people like Erick Erickson, a highly principled man who went from Never Trumper to full blown Trumper way too easily.
Erickson, who frequently expresses pro-fascist and anti-gay views, is considered a mainstream figure in the Republican Party and somehow gets invited to major panels, like his frequent appearances on NBC’s Meet the Press during the Trump era. He also has his own radio show spouting absolute nonsense in the Atlanta area, when he’s not literally shooting copies of the New York Times with a gun when he disagrees with their views.
Maybe keep this incident in mind whenever you see something shared by Erickson, a man who often claims his family never ate “Asian food” on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. He’s a real winner.