National Public Radio launched an investigation of “fake news” sites — which Democrats blame for President-elect Donald Trump’s victory — and found, to its surprise, that the “godfather” of fake news is a liberal Democrat from Culver City, California.
NPR’s Laura Sydell described the process of tracking down fake news sites — many of which had names and formats designed to look like real news websites — and discovering many that led to one company in particular:
The sites include NationalReport.net, USAToday.com.co, WashingtonPost.com.co. All the addresses linked to a single rented server inside Amazon Web Services. That meant they were all likely owned by the same company. Jansen found an email address on one of those sites and he was able to link that address to a name: Jestin Coler.
Online, Coler was listed as the founder and CEO of a company called Disinfomedia.
Coler’s company, Disinfomedia, owns many faux news sites — he won’t say how many. But he says his is one of the biggest fake news businesses out there, which makes him kind of like a godfather of the industry.
Once Coler agreed to an interview, he told NPR that the purpose of starting his fake news empire in 2013 was “to highlight the extremism of the white nationalist alt-right” — or, in Coler’s exact words: “The whole idea from the start was to build a site that could infiltrate the echo chambers of the alt-right, publish blatantly false or fictional stories, and then be able to publicly denounce those stories and point out the fact that they were fiction.”
Coler claimed that his fake news stories worked because “they fit into existing right-wing conspiracy theories.” Left-wingers, he said, were less gullible. (NPR did not question that claim — even though one of the largest social media sites, Occupy Democrats, produces fabricated or exaggerated news for liberals to share on Facebook and elsewhere.)
The moral questions raised by fake news did seem to trouble Coler, though not all that much. He admitted that he has a financial incentive to keep going — and, more important, a political one: “Really the financial part of it isn’t the only motivator for me. I do enjoy making a mess of the people that share the content that comes out of our site. It’s not just the financial incentive for me. I still enjoy the game, I guess.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.