BeBest, a frequent publisher of junk news and inflammatory misinformation, targeted former NFL quarterback and current political activist Colin Kaepernick in mid-2019, reporting that he had been lobbying to “remove the National Anthem from football.” That story — filed under “it’s satire” — invented a group named “Colin Opposes Political Statements” (or “COPS”) that sought to remove political statements from NFL football. Such political statements, BeBest wrote, included standing during the National Anthem.
None of this was true. “BeBest.website” is part of a network of purportedly satirical websites run by junk news purveyor Christopher Blair. Blair frequently creates inflammatory content that goes viral online and shields himself from scrutiny of the ramifications of his business by claiming his work is solely for comedic value.
On July 16, 2019, another Blair website posted a story claiming that U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had complained that “we pay soldiers too much.” Among the people who may have not “understood” this post was satire was a police officer in Louisiana who shared the story on Facebook with a threat against Ocasio-Cortez’s life, writing: “This vile idiot needs a round ... and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve.” That officer, and another who liked his statement on Facebook, were fired on July 22 after news media reports exposed the posts.
This Kaepernick post, shared thousands of times on Facebook, is no different. As one example, the “BeBest” post was shared to a Facebook group supportive of conservative activist Candace Owen. The top replies to this post took it seriously, going so far as to suggest Kaepernick be “removed” from the United States: