My Response to Whoopi Goldberg Suing Me

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On February 21, I started a fake news satire website that would accumulate over 1 million page views in the course of nine days. I simply scribbled out short stories, espousing the most ridiculous conspiracy theories and nonsensical banter, often involving celebrities or high profile politicians. I plastered disclaimers stating that the site was a work of satire – its contents fiction and presumably fake news. I would post the stories in a few ‘Trump groups’ where they would often spread like wildfire, despite the disclaimers and high level of absurdity.

 

My most viewed and shared story, by a decent margin, featured actress Whoopi Goldberg proclaiming US Navy Seal Widow, Carryn Owens, attended the Trump inauguration to be honored because she was “looking for attention.” On Monday’s episode of popular ABC talk show ‘The View,’ Whoopi thrashed me for spreading fake news that she claims “endangered [her] family’s li[ves] and endangered [her] life.” Goldberg said that she would be pursuing a libel suit against me, and that “Costa Rica isn’t big enough” for me to escape the impending lawsuit. She even went as far as to say that she wants to introduce legislation that would include criminal charges for anyone who wrote satire about anyone without their permission, including President Trump and his family; a policy that would almost certainly be a slippery slope into the decline of long cherished American first amendment and free speech rights.

 

I want to take the first part of this response to flesh out a couple things Goldberg got wrong about me and my intentions:

 

Firstly, Goldberg declined to mention that I had a disclaimer on the site, which made it clear that my writings were entirely based in fiction and that everything I wrote was satire or fake news. Goldberg had even posted my disclaimer on her Facebook page the day after the story was released, so she was certainly aware of its presence. Apart from this, the website was littered with off-the-wall stories like, “Obama Plans to Use Mind Control Drugs on Trump” and “HYPOCRISY: Obama Spotted Golfing with Putin.” In my estimation, the average person would only need to view the site for a few moments to know that it was a work of satire.

 

Secondly, Goldberg had said that I had started the story simply to see how quickly “stories would spread.” It is true that I was testing the speed at which I could get ‘Shares’ when I first started the website. By the time I wrote the story about Goldberg, the project had grown into a full blown experiment with significant social and political consequences involving the spread and belief in off-the-wall fake news stories and how they relate to confirmation bias.

 

Goldberg also claimed that I had eventually shut down the site from the “crap” I was getting. This is simply false. I never shut down or retracted anything. The day after the Goldberg story was released, I posted a story called ‘Breaking: Satire Makes Fools of Gullible Trump Supporters’ detailing my nine days of adventure and experimentation in the world of online fake news.

 

Emails flooded my inbox after the segment aired, many asking me the same question: “What if someone crazy had read your story and hurt her?” After all, Goldberg claimed that she had to spend money on increased security as a result of the story. She likened it to a recent event where a man walked into Comet Ping Pong (a Washington DC pizza parlor, now famous for the debunked ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy) with an assault rifle, in an attempt to free child sex slaves he believed were being imprisoned in the restaurant’s basement.

 

While I don’t doubt that Whoopi may have perceived an increased threat as a result of the story, I would argue that in reality the story made no actual difference in her safety. She hadn’t been accused of abusing children or killing anyone, but simply for a comment that she made about a vulnerable and widely-admired person. Few people who didn’t already harbor negative feelings towards Goldberg believed the story. Many false stories circulate about Goldberg, as they do with all celebrities of her caliber. Has any one of these stories resulted in a violent attack on a celebrity? Was it the sheer size of the story that caused me to be noticed? Or was it the fact that I happen to be the one person who came out and revealed their identity after the nine day stint?

 

As perplexing as I found these queries, the one same question continues to circulate in my mind: In the era of fake news, at what point does culpability shift from the writer to the reader? As I said, I had posted disclaimers on every page of the site, and once I published the final article explaining my tales, I put a link at the end of the article for people who may have missed the disclaimer. Why had Whoopi singled me out and not placed virtually any responsibility on the readers who shared the articles, often accompanied with captions of intense hatred? Where was the focus on the bigger problem of today’s fake news culture perpetuated by us readers? After all, we could lock up every person in the world who writes fake news, and in relatively no time they will have been replaced by new propagators looking to profit from a very fertile market, just as illegal drug- and sex-trades have for centuries.

 

I think I know the answer.

 

Ultimately, an individual makes an easier target. Society would rather put a Band-Aid on a wound than look for a lasting solution if it’s easier and more popular. This tendency is central to the consistent denial of the fake news problem. It’s the same sort of mentality that led many to blame the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists for the subsequent terror attacks rather than the terrorists themselves. While I wouldn’t deny that my stories had an impact for the short time I was publishing them, I think that Goldberg misidentified me as the primary villain in the whole fiasco. Suing me or locking me up will not stop fake news, which was clearly around before I started my experiment and is still happening now that I’ve stopped. If we really want to stop misinformation, society needs to take a collective look in the mirror rather than targeting individual propagators as a long term solution.

 

I want to apologize to Goldberg and anyone else who may have been impacted by my recent stories, but it’s important to understand that they were ultimately taking lumps for a greater cause, not just subject to the nihilistic whims of some sociopath in Costa Rica.

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31 COMMENTS

  1. If Goldberg is so concerned about the risks to her safety associated with being a public figure, she could always step out of the limelight. Clearly, fame and fortune are more important to her than her family or the Constitution.

  2. I had a knee jerk negative response when first hearing about Jimmy’s Fake Site, until I learned more about it. My concern was that it was yet another cynical profiteering click bait site offering viral Fake News stories meant to deceive. Rather, upon further examination it turned out to a political satire meant to highlight a current social problem.

    The social experiment of TheUndergroungNewsReport serves as an example exposing a deeper problem, one of credulity particularly prevalent amongst a particular segment of the population.

    For those who might make the comparison to “shouting fire in a crowded theater” – as a malicious act – I believe that it is off in two ways:

    Since the 1969 Brandenburg ruling, the Court overturned the Schenck decision that had introduced “shouting fire in a crowded theater.” No longer was “clear and present danger” a sufficient standard for criminalizing speech. To break the law, speech now had to incite “imminent lawless action.”

    Furthermore, of course, no court will fault you for warning of a fire that actually exists.
    http://civil-liberties.yoexpert.com/…/is-it-legal-to…

    For me, I think that the principle of “caveat lector” more appropriately applies here. Let the Reader Beware. There is a problem at large in society today and it needs to be spotlighted and discussed at length. Call it consciousness raising, or a canary in the coal mine credulity alarm.

    The average social media re-poster must bear most of the responsibility for what they publish, and others seeing the posts must also speak out when coming across Fake News or misunderstood satire when re-posted for actual news. It’s the same for how a community must combat gossip in its midst. Confront the gossiper in your ear, and check it out with the actual source, then return to the gossiper and call them out and inform them that they now have the moral responsibility to correct their gossip.

    Whoopi is understandably upset, but she’s going at the easy target rather than the real problem. Those who credulously hear and then spread the gossip (or fake news) without any self editorial work.

    We live in the Wild West of the internet times, and we all have a responsibility to act lawfully and to act as the law within our groups and communities. After all, five minuets of Google time is usually all it takes to some proper editor’s work.

  3. You say that you did this with good intentions. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Times have changed and so have people. Were you surprised at how many Trump supporters fell for your stories? Yes I think Whoopie could have been in grave danger because of your stories. Fake news is an extremely dangerous thing. I would sue the fucking hell out of you if it were me.

    • “Times have changed and so have people.”

      Yes, before Obama, Deborah, writing a comment spelling out the “f word” would have gotten you banned from posting.

      I don’t want children reading such disrespectful hate. You are obviously an Ashley Judd “Nasty Woman” and proud of it.

  4. You overestimate the intelligence of many Americans who do not read carefully, analyze intelligently, or recognize satire in your fake stories.

  5. Whoopi Goldberg and her colleagues on The View had the opportunity to make some real news recently when Senator Chuck Shumer appears on The View.

    I don’t blame “the ladies.” I blame their producer whom I wrote in advance of the senator’s appearance requesting Shumer be asked, during his appearance, why he/his senate staff failed to respond to my message to him about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. https://help.consumerfinance.gov/app/account/complaints/review/i_id/571152
    Case number: 131018-001329)

    During the course of an investigation I requested, the CFPB not only divulged my Social Security # to the source of my complaint, I learned the CFPB had no right to my Social Security # in the first place!

    The question was not asked and Shumer remains a major CFPB supporter.

  6. Since when is Whoopie so concerned about fake news? She repeatedly put President Trump, his family and his supporters in harms way by spreading fake news about him on her show. Especially issues that have been repeatedly debunked about Mr. Trump for Whoopie along with the fake news media all defend their fakeness no matter how many people’s lives they have ruined who actually believed the lies – all the allegations made against President Trump have zero evidence and totally unsubstantiated and despite the rise in crimes and death threats made against Trump, his family and his supporters, Whoopie Goldberg continues to be a propagator of fake news. I suggest she learns a lesson from this fake news site and start doing some research before labeling people the same labels created by the fake liberal biased media and maybe use her head and learn how to research and while she’s at it see how her fake news caused violence, hospitalizations, imprisonment, destruction of property etc. I feel all those spreading fake news need to be held accountable. Lets start with the ladies on the View! The View is a dangerous show to watch… their rhetoric about Trump and his family and his supporters is disgusting, dangerous, inflammatory, volatile and not appropriate for television. ALSO, her defense of Bill Cosby drugging a 13 year old and having sex with her is not rape according to Whoopie… that is something she should be sued for. It is not only dangerous, it demeans and deligitimizes young victims of rape. FU Whoopie “fakenews” Goldberg. Go to hell!

  7. This is actually dangerous, easy and cheap; just because you know how to make a real looking website. You should be shut down and punished as someone shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

  8. Liberals have been using this tactic of claiming (and we’ve seen no evidence) that they and their families suddenly “live in fear” and need to spend money for extra security because of the evil conservatives who don’t buy into their hate. Megyn Kelly did it after she went after Roger Ailes, her former boss and mentor at Fox News. Then others used it, almost to add credibility to their nonsense.

    Goldberg makes tons on money on a daytime show for women. She’s a clown. But more importantly, she’s a public figure who constantly spouts hatred, which you would think would cause some to hate her.

    It could be that people across America don’t want their daughters to grow up to marry a morbidly obese lesbian liberal, and they don’t support gay couples adopting children. It could be Goldberg, by appearing and profiting from her role on television, makes herself a target. That’s called a consequence.

    Fake news is just that – fake. The Onion was famous for it. National Lampoon. Today you hear fake news reported as real news on NBC, CBS and ABC. Now we have The Underground Report, and I’m glad we do.

  9. “We have had a leader who’s repeatedly demeaned women, calling on the media to shut up, specifically wants to give preferential treatment based on religion, uh, are these values really much different than the Taliban?” ” Donald is a coward ”

    Two quotes of Whoopie’s on President Trump………….what is the difference ?

  10. Why in the world would you create such a ridiculous website in the first place. With all the lying that is being done about everything, even with your disclaimer, your site makes it worse. How many people do you actually believe read your disclaimer? Most likely zero. You must have a lot of time on your hands. If you are this creative, why don’t you spend your time making something worthwhile?

  11. You cancel out your apology by your explanation and I do not see anything fun planned about this being a fake new site or that it’s satire I just outlined a number of things but for some reason your site went dark! You have no idea how much people are being persecuted for being truthful let alone having to defend themselves against lies. This is not a real apology and you’re still running stories that are categorically untrue you including the Whoopi story!!!
    If you were sincere? The only thing on this site would be a sincere apology. You may not be pulling the trigger but you are supplying the gun! Shame on you you can do better than this because I believe that ultimately you are a good guy who tried something but the fact that you’re continuing it speaks volumes!

  12. While I’m a stickler for getting to the hard facts of ANYTHING I read, especially on the internet, I just don’t get why people want to put out sites like this. I mean, seriously , a “social experiment”?? Yeah, right. I’m not buying it.
    Just think, if people, such as the one that runs this sight, would not publish such sites, there’d be a lot less ‘problems’ on the internet and in real life. Why put out lies? You, like so many others, are clearly ignorant of how utterly devious, deceptive, and disgusting some of our government officials are and what they are capable of doing. That is one reason why some people do not find these kinds of “articles” hard to believe. They are not completely and 100% positively impossible nor unbelievable.
    I see people who publish these kinds of websites to be nothing more than shit stirrers. But that’s just my two cents, nothing more, nothing less.

  13. The Truth,

    According to Snopes, you placed the disclaimer after the Goldberg story was published. The archive.is link they provide seems to corroborate this, but only in that you made the disclaimer part of the page footer as opposed to a Disclaimer link, after 3 March. Seems like some CYA by you in retrospect, but for my part I don’t blame you. Here are my questions:

    Do you think making the disclaimer more “obvious” changes anything as far as liability for you? Although not as obvious as the page footer, the link was there for anyone to click if they held any reservations about the veracity of the article. Is that enough in this our new age of “fake news”?

    Looking back at how easily people were willing to be misled by stories which fit a narrative that aligned with their personal ideology, do you think having the disclaimer at the bottom of the page from the start would have made any difference?

    I consider myself a skeptic and find myself dumbfounded at the lengths to which folks will go to defend their beliefs – sometimes to the point of lunacy – even in the face of seemingly insurmountable evidence to the contrary. I think your experiment has proven in a dramatic and fascinating way how serious of a problem this can become. It’s like we’ve become our own Big Brother and tailored the NewSpeak to our own particular liking.

    • That’s correct Barry. I had the disclaimer link beforehand but changed the text at the bottom of the page shortly after. I don’t think it makes a difference in this particular case in terms of liability. I changed it because I wanted to see if the footer made any real difference or if more people noticed it and perhaps a few more did but overall the story still spread like wildfire. Thanks for the comment

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