There is a flood of fake news sites on the Internet that many of us have disregarded or mentally categorized as bad takes on an Onion for conservatives. Then we voted a squealing blood sausage into the highest office in the land and fake news became an acknowledged epidemic.
On Monday’s episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, correspondent Michael Rubens interviewed one of the people responsible for some of the election’s most shared lies, a man named Jestin Coler. According to NPR, Coler is the CEO of a company called Disinfomedia. In an interview, he identifies as liberal and says the whole fake news thing was actually a secret plan to discredit conservatives:
Late 2012, early 2013 I was spending a lot of time researching what is now being referred to as the alt-right. I identified a problem with the news that they were spreading and created Disinfomedia as a response to that. 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.
In the interview with Rubens, Coler describes the kind of stories that do well on his sites, of which he has more than a dozen: “Any sort of a gun grabbing story. Anti-abortion, anti-Obama, anti-Hillary, anti-Muslim, anything anti-Mexican, anything anti-immigrant—it’s kind of this right wing red meat.”
Coler voted for Hillary Clinton, and when Rubens points out that many of his stories are full of inflammatory lies about her that were widely circulated during the campaign, he more or less repeats what he told NPR about trying to “infiltrate” what he identifies as the alt-right. “My point from the beginning was kinda of to educate consumers of content on how to best identify the fake versus real,” he says.
Ruben responds, “It’s sort of like you were doing a public service by teaching people about the dangers of drugs by giving them drugs.”
“This is true,” Coler answers, and explains that he still thinks the responsibility for telling the difference between real and fake news is on the reader. His websites do contain a “Disclaimer” tab explaining that the content within is unreliable. Those websites also contain advertisements that make him an estimated $10,000 to $30,000 a month. His big reveal to those he sees as his enemies about how stupid they are is surely coming any moment.