There are many ways to go viral these days. You can walk into a glass door and get caught on security cameras. You can make some sort of horribly bad social media post that gets picked up by the wrong outlet. Then there are ways to go viral while making a very stern point about your personal beliefs.
Yesterday, Bleeding Cool and numerous other outlets reported on the fact that hail-hydra.com redirected to the official White House page on Donald Trump. Bleeding Cool however also found evidence that this is not the first time this site has made a political point. In 2014, the site redirected to the 8chan board on GamerGate, and in 2015, it pointed to the official Ted Cruz campaign page. The GamerGate subreddit has asked the question: was one of them? And the answer was a surprising "no." So we went looking.
Using our resources, Bleeding Cool staffers managed to track down the owner of the website. There were a few strange things that weren't exactly adding up, but while this owner has decided to remain anonymous, they did talk to me about why they did this, who they chose to do it to, what they think of Marvel's current Secret Empire story and more.
Bleeding Cool: What made you decide to do this? Did you own the domain before you decided to do the redirect or did you buy a while ago? What made you decide to buy it?
Hail-Hydra Owner: I bought the domain in April of 2014. I'd remembered the Senator played by Garry Shandling whispering "Hail Hydra!" in Iron Man 2, then is arrested at the end of Captain America: Winter's Soldier for being a member of Hydra. His character reminded me of many GOP senators (probably a personal bias there) so I looked to see if I could come up with a good domain to redirect at Republicans. hail-hydra.com was the second I tried. Originally I pointed it at Ted Cruz's presidential campaign, then Trump's campaign and finally (and depressingly) at his White House web page.
Bleeding Cool: Ah the late and great Garry Shandling. It is one of the best twists in the MCU and he nailed it. This is interesting and subtle political commentary and I dig it. You said you still read Marvel but that you pick specific books, do you have an opinion on the Secret Empire story line and Hydra Cap?
Hail-Hydra Owner: I'm not fond of the Cap as Nazi/Hydra idea, it doesn't fit with how I've seen the character all these years. But at the same time if a writer has a good idea and can pull it off, more power to them. I won't be picking it up but if it gets some good reviews I'd consider getting the collected edition. I assume at some point they'll reset it all back the way it was and everybody will be happy again. I'd be really disappointed if they tried to make it a permanent change.
Bleeding Cool: I'm guessing you're a Marvel fans on some level, but are you a comics fan? Movie fan? Both?
Hail-Hydra Owner: I'm a fan the Marvel movies. I was a big Marvel reader way, way back in time. I switched to mostly DC stuff later on. And these days I've been reading a lot of manga. I still read Marvel, but I pick and choose more now. Captain Marvel was great, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl makes me laugh.
Bleeding Cool: What about how people are now drawing specific connotations between the Nazis and Hydra?
Hail-Hydra Owner: I think the Nazi/Hydra thing has been pretty clear all along, even back when I was reading Marvel as a kid I thought it was obvious. Even at the simplest level of during WWII Cap fought Nazis, after WWII he fought Hydra. Must be the same :)
Bleeding Cool: You said you did this to Ted Cruz as well, was there any specific timing for when you decided to change the redirects? Like did you start on Cruz when he announced that he was running? Did you switch to Trump when he became the nominee? Or were there specific news events that happen that compelled you to switch between the two?
Hail-Hydra Owner: I dug around some news sites to try and jar my memory on when i would've changed the redirects. I see Cruz announced in March 2015, so almost a year after I bought the domain. It probably took me a number of months after that to change the redirect, most likely when he started getting press as being the front runner. I would've switched to Trump's campaign page not too long after Cruz dropped out, again probably when Trump was declared a front runner.
Bleeding Cool: I also did a little digging on the Internet Wayback Machine and noticed that there are two pings for the domain in 2014. The first one doesn't show anything but one in December 17, 2014 links to the 8chan board for GamerGate. You didn't specifically mention that, could you comment on it?
Hail-Hydra Owner: Oh I completely forgot I originally directed the site at Gamer Gate. Yeah, I think there's an obvious connection there as well. Twitter was just full of people being abused by them. It was literally the tiniest thing I could to do to point out the connection. It never went viral with that redirect in place so I don't think anybody outside a few friends knew about it. And the Internet Archive, can't hide from them…
Bleeding Cool: What about the current redirect? Was it something you changed recently or was it when he was inaugurated in January? Or was this a reaction to something specific that President Trump did?
Hail-Hydra Owner: I changed it the day of the inauguration. It was the first time I knew I was going to change it and when. All the other times I'd just remembered I owned it and would pick a target based on news at the time, and then tweet a few people to try and get it to go viral. I'm not even sure what set it off this time around.
Bleeding Cool: Finally, how do you want people to react to what you've done here? Did you get the type of reaction that you wanted or did you want something more? Less?
Hail-Hydra Owner: Since this seems to be getting some news I've kept an eye on twitter reactions, most people are reacting the way I would hope. It's funny, it's political satire. Do I think Republicans are literal Nazis? No. Do I think they're over-authoritarian with a complete disregard for the majority of people in the country that can't donate a million dollars to them? Yes. Several articles say they contacted the White House for comment, I hope I don't end up on a terror list in retaliation.
And removing the subject, here is a screenshot of nearly our final email correspondence, in case Buzzfeed wants to link to it.
For the record, I hope you don't get put on a terror list either…