ATW is posting this article because the tactics used against Joel Osteen are similar to the bullying, identity theft and libel used by some of the abusive advocates revealed on this blog; and to show that this kind of attack could happen to anyone.
April 2013 – Pastor Joel Osteen was targeted in a sophisticated scam in which false online accounts were created using his name and personal information, a fake website was created and false messages were sent claiming Osteen “lost his faith” and “rejected Christ” and was going to resign. Millions of people saw or heard about these messages and were shocked..but NONE of these came from Osteen, they were all fake–a form of online identity theft and cyber bullying.
The attack began on April 1st when the imposter, Justin Tribble (of Minnesota) created Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other social media accounts using Joel Osteen’s name/image. The YouTube video generated 170,000 hits alone.
Tribble created a fake website as well, copying Osteen’s legitimate website exactly but missing one “e” in the web address to misspell Osteen’s name as “Osten”. The web site featured a fake letter from Osteen titled “I am leaving the Christian faith” that included this statement:
“[...] For a number of years now, I have been questioning the faith, Christianity and whether Jesus Christ is really my, or anyone’s, ‘savior’.
I believe now that the Bible is a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times. There is zero evidence the Bible is the holy word of God. In fact, there is zero evidence “God” even exists.”
Tribble also created a fake WordPress site. The fake pages sought friends requests and asked for money. Over a million viewers visited the websites, many believed this hoax.
All of this–Tribble admits–cost him about $12 and about 5 hours to get the sites up and running. What it cost Osteen is beyond any monetary value–Osteen has been libeled, his faith questioned, and his congregation manipulated and his reputation attacked. Osteen’s Lakewood Church (Texas) was flooded with phone calls from all over the world, with people desperate to know if any of this was true. The sites have since been taken down. To his credit, Osteen has said very little–instead focusing on his faith and asserting that he is not leaving the ministy.
Tribble says he is a “fan” of Osteen though he is also an atheist. Tribble says he created the sites to get people to question Osteen, and specifically to expose “hypocrisy” in his teachings. It seems to us, that this is another way of blaming the victim–Osteen–for the actions of a bully–Tribble. Tribble also hoped to use Osteen’s name and reputation to push his own social and political views–implying that Tribble needed Osteen’s fame to accomplish what he (Tribble) could not do on his own.
Other hoax sites have since been created but none have gained as much traction and notereity as Tribble’s site. No word yet on if Osteen is going to file criminal charges.
The Joel Osteen Hoax Original Blog and Website Where it All Began, Christianity News Texas,
The Houston Chronicle, Lakewood Church warns of Osteen Facebook hoax, Craig Hlavatary
The Huffington Post, Joel Osteen Hoax: Man Allegedly Behind Ploy to Discredit Leader Wants Televangelist to Change His Message, Meredith Bennet-Smith,
NPR: Osteen is the Target of a Complex Online Hoax, Bill Chappell