On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Josh Owens, a former staffer at the fringe conspiracy theory site InfoWars, admitted that his team knowingly promoted fake stories about Islamberg, a rural religious community founded by mostly Black Muslims from New York City on the border between New York and Pennsylvania.
According to Owens, InfoWars initially conducted interviews with people near the community, hoping that they would tell horror stories about a group of militants hellbent on enslaving America under Sharia law. Instead, locals described the people of Islamberg as “kind, generous neighbors.” This wasn’t a story Alex Jones would have been able to sell to his far-right conspiracy theorist audience — so, Owens said, his team decided to just lie.
“The information did not meet our expectations, so we made it up, preying on the vulnerable and feeding the prejudices and fears of Jones’s audience,” wrote Owens, who resigned not long after the Islamberg stories were published. “We ignored certain facts, fabricated others and took situations out of context to fit our narrative.”
Some of the headlines, according to the Times, included “Shariah Law Zones Confirmed in America,” “Report: Obama’s Terror Cells in the U.S.,” and “The Rumors Are True: Shariah Law Is Here!”