Fake News Profiteer or Social Justice Warrior?

AP Photo/Ben Margot, File

The NY Times published a story about Christopher Blair, a retired construction worker who now makes a living making up fake stories on Facebook. Blair says he is a liberal trying to satirize a certain type of online conservativism, but he's also clearly trying to make a buck.

He doesn’t see his work as fake news. He has long defended himself, including in profiles in The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, as a comedian who trolls conservative Facebook users into believing news that they should clearly question. He compares his work to that of Sacha Baron Cohen, the British comic who frequently dupes conservative Americans in an attempt to ridicule them. Mr. Blair uses a small “satire” label on each image he posts to Facebook...

Mr. Blair now posts dozens of false stories to the social network each week on his main account, which has more than 320,000 followers and more than 225,000 likes. He populates his posts with a colorful cast of celebrities: actors like Tim Allen and Whoopi Goldberg or musicians like Jason Aldean and Kid Rock. He often stages them in dramatic but entirely fictitious feuds over culture war topics. A post from April, claiming that Beyoncé was criticized for “playing dress-up” by releasing country music, received more than 50,000 shares and 28,000 comments.

Before Jan. 6, Blair was making as much as $15,000 a month with posts about explicitly political topics. But after Jan. 6, Facebook started to clamp down on stuff like his and he found he had to move toward culture war material to survive. 

Recently he's picked up a lot of imitators, some of whom are simply taking his ideas and running them through AI. The competitors are now getting more likes than he is in many cases.

“My material, my cast of characters, my keywords, my hot buttons — they take everything,” Mr. Blair said of the recent plagiarism. “They put it into an A.I. program, and it just spits out headlines. There’s nothing original about any of it.”...

His biggest competitor now is a site run from Pakistan by a guy who cites him as an inspiration. He seems a little irked that he's being out-played by someone who probably doesn't understand or care about his own social justice views.

“I’m a liberal troll social justice warrior serving satirical nonsense with a mission,” Mr. Blair said. “He’s selling fake news to American conservatives from Pakistan for profit.”

There has to be room for satire in a healthy society so I'm sympathetic to the idea. There's a pretty funny guy on X who guys by the name Three Year Letterman who does stuff like this. He just makes up funny responses to things which sort of mock the whole idea of having conversations on social media with the kind of deeply insightful people you often encounter there.

I find it funny but I don't think the guy behind it is making a living doing it.

In the case of Blair's site, humor isn't really his main goal. His main goal is profit and most people aren't really in on whatever joke he's telling. Here's how one of the commenters put it.

"I'm a liberal troll social justice warrior serving satirical nonsense with a mission"

He can phrase it to sound as righteous as he wants, but this guy is  further poisoning the waters with content that's meant to dupe for engagement. 

His content confirms biases without ever revealing or even seeming like it was all a joke. No one ever feels played.

That's not satire, and he's not helping anyone but himself.

And another:

Read the example posts. I fail to see the mission and I am not sure that Blair knows what satire is. It's not at all like Sacha Baron Cohen's work- which is always sly with a clear wink. No wink, just disinformation here that he's profiting off of.

Some were skeptical he's really a social justice warrior at all.

Am I the only one who feels like his claim of being liberal and that his content is satire just not true? These claims seem like an easy way to get around restrictions and keep making money. If he votes, I’d be interested in his voting history.

I think some readers just don't like the idea that this guy is on their side of the aisle. They'd much rather believe he's secretly a conservative because they don't like what he's doing. Personally, I believe he's a liberal but I'm not convinced striking a blow for the progressive cause is his main motivation.

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