Just Because It's Trending Doesn't Mean It's True
Hoax Alert

Fake News: Ilhan Omar's Children NOT Arrested For Starting Church Fire

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Fri, 22 Nov 2019 18:35:33 Z)

Were the children of Ilhan Omar (named Impala and Diego Omar) arrested for starting a church fire? No, that's not true. The story was published by a liberal satire website that tries to mislead Trump supporters and Republicans into sharing made up stories that are clearly marked as satire when you actually click them. Articles from the site are frequently copied by foreign-run fake news websites. The people liking and sharing these stories are enriching foreign website operators or a liberal from Maine via the ad revenue generated with the content which is probably not what they expected or wanted.

The story originated from an article (archived here) where it was published by BustaTroll on July 30, 2019 under the title "Ilhan Omar's Children Arrested For Starting Church Fire". It opened:

The fire broke out at St. Christopher's Church of Allod in the early morning hours of Saturday. Within minutes it became a 5 alarm blaze to which fire trucks from 3 stations responded. But it was too late. The historic Maine church was utterly destroyed, nothing more than a pile of smoldering ashes by the time fire crews left.

Arson was immediately suspected and a police investigation launched. Surveillance video from a home 5 miles away showed two young women laughing and running, completely carefree. Authorities honed in on them immediately as suspects for no discernible reason and they were soon in custody.

Arrested and charged with one count of first-degree arson each are siblings Impala and Diego Omar, two of the offspring of Democrat House Representative Ilhan Omar from Minnesota. They currently await trial in the holding cells of Derry County Jail.

Screenshot of https://bustatroll.org/2019/07/30/ilhan-omars-children-arrested-for-starting-church-fire/

The story was posted under a category named "Satire and/or Conservative Fan Fiction" and there were several satire logos and disclaimers on the page so anyone who actually visited the site would have known the entire thing was made up. But the article got copied by several foreign-run fake news websites that omitted the satire disclaimers in order to pretend it was real news they could peddle to unsuspecting readers.

There is also no "St. Christopher's Church of Allod" in Maine. That is just a subltle reference to the owner of the site and the network of sites it is part of. BustaTroll.org is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites run byself-professed liberal troll Christopher Blair from Maine along with a loose confederation of friends and allies. Blair has been in a feud with fact checking website Snopes for some time now and has also criticized other fact checkers in the past who labeled his work "fake news" instead of satire. In reaction to this he has recently rebranded all his active websites and Facebook pages so they carry extremely visible disclaimers everywhere.

Every site in the network has an about page that reads (in part):

About Satire
Before you complain and decide satire is synonymous with "comedy":

sat·ire
ˈsaˌtī(ə)r
noun
The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site's pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical. See above if you're still having an issue with that satire thing.

Articles from Blair's sites frequently get copied by "real" fake news sites who often omit the satire disclaimer and any other hints the stories are fake. Blair has tried to get these sites shut down in the past but new ones keep cropping up.

Here is a video of Blair explaining how his process works:

If you are interested in learning more about Blair and the history of his sites, here is something to get you started:

The Ultimate Christopher Blair and America's Last Line of Defense Reading List | Lead Stories

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below. Yesterday Eli Saslow at the Washington Post wrote a fantastic article about Christopher Blair, a man from Maine who has been trolling conservatives and Trump supporters online for years and occasionally even made a living out of it.

If you see one of his stories on a site that does not contain a satire disclaimer, assume it is fake news. If you do see the satire disclaimer it is of course also fake news.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes bustatroll.org as:

A site that publishes false stories and hoaxes that are often mistaken for real news, part of a network named America's Last Line of Defense run by hoax perpetrator Christopher Blair.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

We wrote about bustatroll.org before, here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

About Lead Stories

Lead Stories uses the Trendolizer™ engine to detect the most trending stories from known fake news, satire and prank websites and tries to debunk them as fast as possible. Read more about how we work and how we select stories to check here.

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