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Is Snopes a Satire Website?

by James Silberman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

Since 2016, Snopes, a publication that describes itself as a fact-checker, has bizarrely insisted that the Christian satire website The Babylon Bee is a fake news source in need of being publicly corrected. A search for “Babylon Bee” in Snopes’ website search bar turns up more than 30 articles fact-checking The Bee.

Among Snopes’ “fact checks” are articles titled:

  • Did Democrats Really Demand That Brett Kavanaugh Submit to a DNA Test to Prove He’s Not Actually Hitler?
  • Is California Considering a Tax on Breathing?
  • Creflo Dollar Debuts New Pulpit Made Entirely of Hundred Dollar Bills?
  • Did Joel Osteen Launch a ‘Sheep’s clothing’ Apparel Line?
  • Did CNN Purchase an Industrial Sized Washing Machine to Spin News?

It’s difficult to believe that “fact checks” of Bee articles about Democrats accusing Brett Kavanaugh of being a literal, reincarnated Adolph Hitler or about the washing machine CNN uses to spin news could come from a serious publication, raising the question, is Snopes a satire website? If the stupidity were limited to Snopes, one could assume so and laugh hysterically at the nonsense of it all, but it’s not.

CNN’s Brian Stelter, apparently determined to make the Bee’s satirical claims about CNN a reality, accused The Babylon Bee of being a fake news site using satire as a cover to spread misinformation. As Matthew Dempster pointed out on Twitter, Stelter’s take on The Onion, a left-leaning satire site was quite different.

Further, Snopes is one of the “fact-checking” websites utilized by Facebook to determine which information to censor. In 2018, Adam Ford, who at the time was Editor-in-Chief of The Babylon Bee, got a notification from Facebook explaining that The Babylon Bee would be punished by Facebook’s algorithms if it continued to published articles Snopes deemed to be fake news.

“A page you admin (The Babylon Bee) recently posted the link (CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washington Machine To Spin News Before Publication) that contains info disputed by (Snopes.com), an independent fact checker. Repeat offenders will see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertise removed.”

In Facebook’s case, sanity prevailed when the social media site apologized for the mistake of taking censorious action based on Snopes’ “fact checks.” Likely as a result of the Facebook debacle combined with The Babylon Bee hiring lawyers, Snopes recently changed their rating of The Bee’s articles from “False” to “Satire.” Still, Snopes maintains that The Bee is a hub of misinformation.

On August 16th, Snopes republished an article featuring a study published at the academic website The Conversation purporting to show that significant portions of media consumers believed The Babylon Bee’s articles were serious rather than comedic. The surveyors’ methods, however, were questionable if not fraudulent.

Rather than showing people a Babylon Bee article and asking them if they thought it was real, the surveyors showed survey participants reworded headlines from The Bee making the articles sound serious before asking participants whether they thought the story was real or satirical.

For instance, The Babylon Bee published an article on April 18th entitled “God Allowed the Mueller Report to Test Our Unshakeable Faith in Collusion.”

ATLANTA, GA—Anchors at CNN headquarters have made a bold statement of unwavering faith after the Mueller Report revealed no actual evidence that Trump colluded with Russia. “We believe in collusion with all our hearts and will never let the world’s teachings get in the way of that,” said Jim Acosta while mumbling mantras quietly in a room misty with burning incense.

“If God allowed this report to be written in the manner that it was, He did so to test our unshakable faith in what we know to be true,” said Anderson Cooper.

“We believe in the one true Russian collusion, the one that was spoken into truth and made real far before any evidence was brought before this dark world,” added Natalie Allen.

All of the anchors began to speak in unison, reciting their statement of faith with eye closed and hands raised:

We believe the true Mueller Report, regardless of the one released by men.

We believe that there is collusion, eternally existent in the person of Trump and the country of Russia.

We believe that there is collusion, eternally existent in the person of Trump and the country of Russia.

We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful man, collusion is absolutely essential.

We believe in the collusion of Trump and Russia. All statements and evidence that purports to contradict that truth are lies of the Dark Lord.

Forever and ever, amen.

The anchors then began speaking in tongues and weeping while tearing at their garments.

Reporters fled after Acosta got out the poisonous snakes.

It’s difficult to imagine how The Bee could’ve made the article more clearly satirical. Yet when asking survey participants whether they believed the story was serious or satirical, here’s what the surveyors showed the participant: “CNN News Anchor Anderson Cooper said that his belief that Trump colluded with Russia is unshakable; it will not change regardless of statements or evidence to the contrary.”

This explanation used to represent The Bee’s article bears no semblance to the obvious absurdity of the actual article headline and body. The survey is a transparent sham that should bring disrepute to three Ohio State communications professors who authored it: R Kelly Garrett, Robert Bond, and Shannon Poulsen – as well as those who parrot it, including Snopes and, unthinkably, Christianity Today.

With The Babylon Bee now retaining legal representation, expect Snopes’ aggression and slander against them to continue to soften, but that this ordeal ever began brings into question the seriousness of Snopes – are they a serious website or a satirical operation to mock the practice of fact checking?

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