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This is the year I become a charlatan. I mean ‘influencer.’

As the Liver King saga has shown, Internet celebrity can be very fake, but the money is very real.

Brian Johnson, aka the Liver King, on Dec. 15, 2022, in Los Angeles.MEGA/GC Images

Back in December, it was revealed that the shirtless social media star who calls himself the “Liver King” did not achieve his superhuman physique — picture a silverback gorilla who doesn’t eat carbs — from clean living and eating raw organs, as he repeatedly claimed.

No, as he confessed in a now-viral video, the Liver King is pumped full of steroids, a revelation that came as a huge surprise to the people who cannot tell the difference between a human and a gorilla.

It has also come out that the entire Liver King character (his real name is Brian Johnson) was carefully created by a consulting agency he hired. Because underneath it all, Johnson owns a supplement company and used his influencer power to sell more than $100 million worth of organ supplements to the geniuses who believed the secret to King Kong arms involved ingesting a “Grass Fed Beef Tracheal Cartilage Supplement with Liver” (only $48 on Amazon, which is much cheaper than the $11,000-plus a month Johnson was reportedly spending on steroids, according to leaked e-mails).

Many of those same geniuses have just filed a $100 million class action lawsuit against Johnson on the grounds they had been intentionally duped. It’s quite the saga, and it all leads to one obvious question: Why am I not getting in on this influencer game? Will anyone remember my name if it has never been a promo code?


And the timing has never been better for me. As a recent Fast Company headline declared: “After the Liver King’s fall, the ancestral living movement will need a new dad.” Not to brag, but I am such a dad. My kids tell me that all the time, right before they say, “Can you not talk in front of my friends?”


The playbook to become an influencer seems very clear-cut: Build brand and platform; sell your soul and #ads; count money. Lots of money. Staggering amounts of money, because you wouldn’t believe what some influencers make nowadays.

The two highest-paid influencers are reportedly soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who can command fees of more than $1 million per social media #ad. This kinda makes sense, as they are two of the biggest stars of their generation in the world’s biggest sport.

But then there are the people who are famous for being ... famous. People who do makeup tutorials. People who unbox toys. People who film themselves playing video games all day. People who film themselves giving away piles of money to strangers (then make double that on #ads).

I have a platform already (hello, if you’re still here) and sorta kinda already have a brand, but I’m not sure how marketable it is to be the “why does the Globe put this on the front page” guy.

So I need to reinvent myself, and the fastest way to do that is with a proper scandal. Unfortunately, the old-school, Kardashian way doesn’t seem to work anymore, which is unfortunate as I am certain my tape would have sold dozens on VHS.

Instead, I’m gonna steal a page from the Liver King and hang my reinvention on a new promise that is too outlandish to be ignored but just plausible enough to lure in some clicks, and then some checks. It is the hero’s quest for the Internet age, best summarized by a now-famous quote from a disillusioned early Facebook employee that goes like this: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.”


Agreed. I also agree that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So let’s return to the silverback gorilla and his amazing arms and washboard abs.

In doing my reporting for this story, I googled “silverback gorillas” to confirm they ate carbs, just to make sure my opening joke wasn’t any worse than it already is. They taught us to do this at the Columbia Journalism School.

It turns out silverbacks eat fruit. But guess what else they love to eat, their absolute favorite source of muscle-building protein? Termites.

Guess who sells termite supplements? No one!

I take it back: I do!

Use promo code BILLYBAKER for free shipping on your first termite.

Billy Baker can be reached at Follow him on Instagram @billy_baker.