There are two ideas that people on the internet love to hide behind when they get in trouble, despite the fact that they have absolutely no understanding of what those ideas actually mean. The first is freedom of speech, which countless assholes have used as justification for death threats, rape threats, and other things that fit under the umbrella term of “trolling,” because “being an unrepentant jackass” takes up too many characters on Twitter. The second is the idea of parody, which is a word that—and this may come as shock to many people out there—does not mean the same thing as “lie.” A parody is a pointed exaggeration of something that is meant to cast the original in a humorous light. A lie is when you say something that you know isn’t true. There’s no deeper level to it, it’s just some shit you made up.
This important distinction is completely lost on a guy named Paul Horner, who claims to be responsible for a website called NBC.com.co. For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with it, NBC.com.co is a website that is obviously designed to make you think it’s actually a part of NBC, with that easily missable URL, a home screen that looks the way an NBC page would if its graphics didn’t properly load, and an array of news articles with eye-catching headlines like “Vince Gilligan announces Breaking Bad season 6 begins shooting December 2015,” “Bill Murray is a hero in London after saving the life of a child from oncoming traffic,” “Bill Murray accidentally stops robbery in Phoenix, Arizona,” and “Fight Club 2 announced.” None of these stories are true, but they have seemed true enough in the past that news feeds have picked up stories like them without realizing how patently stupid and clickbait-y they are, further spreading this unique brand of bullshit. The site also has ads, meaning Horner is inexplicably profiting from all of this.
Now, NBC News has caught on and issued a legal threat to Horner, demanding that he cease-and-desist this deceitful scam. That comes from Variety (and not Variety.com.co, thankfully), which notes that Horner claims his site can’t be touched by NBC because “it’s a parody.” Here’s the thing about that, though: it’s not. It’s a lie. It’s a fake. Claiming there’s going to be another season of Breaking Bad when you know it’s not true is the absolute definition of a lie. It lacks the clever exaggeration or twist required for something to count as parody, and there’s really not even anything clever about it. It’s as worthless to human civilization as those e-mails that used to go around telling people they’d die if they didn’t forward it to all of their friends, and nobody except Horner is laughing when someone gets fooled into believing one of these stories—and even then he’s only laughing because of the pennies he’s getting from the ads.
Horner isn’t using any actual copyrighted logos, but he is clearly presenting his site as if it’s real, which means NBC has a good chance at getting it shut down. Hopefully it is, too, because then everyone can move on and forget about ever having wasted time on this. Guys like Horner, though, who get their kicks from lying to people and making them look stupid, will have to go on with the knowledge that they created something here—and in various other corners of the internet—that is utterly and eternally pointless. Nobody will mourn NBC.com.co when it’s gone, and it will probably be forgotten as quickly as it appeared.