Did youth climate activist Greta Thunberg threaten to go on a hunger strike until President Trump is removed? No, that's not true: Greta never made such a claim. The story originated on a liberal satire website that tries to mislead Trump supporters into sharing made up stories that are clearly marked as satire. Foreign-run fake news websites frequently copy articles from the site. 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 claim originated in an article published by Bustatroll.org on December 12, 2019, titled "Greta Going on Hunger Strike Until Trump is Removed" (archived here) which opened:
At 16, she travels the world, speaking out personally against inaction to global climate change. She famously gave an earful to the gathered United Nations, accusing them uncaringly poisoning her generation. She was just recently named Time Magazine's "Person of the Year." And now, in a show of defiance to fight against who she refers to as: "The American face of ignorance and irrationality", Greta Thunberg is going on a hunger strike until it is confirmed that Donald Trump is removed from the position of President of the United States.
Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:
Greta Going on Hunger Strike Until Trump is Removed
Brave or silly?
The story is untrue, and the piece on bustatroll.org is marked as satire. Greta has never threatened a hunger strike, and she has not advocated for the removal of Trump from the White House.
The bustatroll.org site is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites. Self-professed liberal troll Christopher Blair runs those sites. The Maine resident works alongside a loose confederation of friends and allies. Blair has been in a feud with fact-checking website Snopes, and he has also criticized other fact-checkers who labeled his work "fake news" instead of satire. In reaction, he has recently rebranded all his active websites and Facebook pages, so they carry prominent disclaimers everywhere.
Every site in the network has an about page that reads (in part):
Before you complain and decide satire is synonymous with "comedy":
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 that often omit the satire disclaimer and any other hints the stories are fake. Blair has tried to get these sites shut down, 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 journalists 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:
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- Fake News: Pelosi Did NOT Say: 'If Impeachment Fails, I Will Resign Immediately'
- Fake News: Dr. Phil Did NOT Say 'Women Who Support Trump Are Damaged.'
- Fake News: Rep. Omar Did NOT Demand Capitol Tree Be Topped By Qo'Nos Crescent Moon
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