Fake news is currently one of the buzziest of buzz phrases. President Donald Trump frequently uses it to describe the mainstream media. Critics accuse social media giants Facebook and Twitter of providing a comfortable platform from which fake news is disseminated. No matter where they turn, online users can’t escape warnings about fake news. Turns out, those warnings now have a face and a name. A new article from the BBC highlights a man who is referred to as “The godfather of fake news.”
From his home in Portland, Maine, Christopher Blair creates and then shares with the world many of the fake news stories that plague social media sites. The BBC explains how the son of liberal Democrats (who is himself a liberal) began a career creating fake news with titles like “BREAKING: Obama, Soros and the Dems Ordered The Shutdown to Stage A Coup”:
Blair spent more than two decades as a construction worker, a trade that took a toll on his body. In the late 2000s, when the Great Recession hit and his industry slumped, he started looking for another source of income in liberal political blogging.
He loved to write and found that he had a flair for making words come alive. He began a blog, the first of many. He found it liberating being able to say what he wanted – arguing in favour of a range of positions on the left-hand side of American politics.
But although it was fun and a few people started reading, blogging didn’t pay.
And so he tried another tactic. He began to write fabricated tales that looked like real news headlines. Streams of consciousness flowed from his head to the keyboard.
To his surprise, it didn’t take long before the clicks on his fake news began generating substantial income from ad revenue. By 2014, Blair was creating fake news as the sole source of his income.
He took on the personas of patriotic Americans outraged at President Obama, liberals, feminists, the Black Lives Matter movement and more.
He delighted in people who took the lies for the truth and shared the stories as if they had come from real news websites.
The success of the fakes led Blair to create a Facebook page called America’s Last Line of Defense. It was dedicated to fake news stories aimed at staunch Republicans and supporters of President Donald Trump.
The headlines were sensational and sometimes even offensive. They had one aim – to provoke an emotional response that would get people to share them.
This, of course, raises the question: Why would a liberal write and share stories that are anti-progressive, even if fake? Well, according to the BBC, Blair’s aim is “to trick conservative Americans into sharing false news, in the hope of showing what he calls their ‘stupidity.'”
Once his stories go viral, the Facebook comments burst forth. And that’s when Christopher Blair the fake news writer becomes Christopher Blair the crusading left-wing troll.
“The mission with the trolling first and foremost is we pull them into the comments [section underneath each fake article],” he says.
It’s then that he starts on the offensive. The faker becomes the exposer, weeding out and reporting the most extreme users among his fans. … “We’ve had people fired from their jobs,” he says. “We’ve exposed them to their families. Say what you want about me being a monster. I’m pretty proud.”
No doubt, like me, you have family members and friends who swallow — hook, line, and sinker — articles like the ones Christopher Blair writes. Hopefully, unmasking Blair will help encourage our more gullible friends and family members to do a little research before sharing every anti-Clinton article they see on Facebook.