Snopes.com began as an investigator of urban legends and rumors, exposing myths in an exercise that was useful and often fascinating. More recently, despite its founder’s weak argument to the contrary, Snopes has fully revealed its bias against certain political viewpoints, along with a tendency to avoid reporting some actual facts as facts when it suits itself. Lately this has reached a pathetic level, with the site drawing amused reaction to its confusion over the satiric nature of The Babylon Bee. The Bee is a truly funny site similar to The Onion, but it bills itself as “Christian Satire”. If you find that off-putting or think it means the humor must be cornpone, think again. Of course, there is no doubt that the Bee’s humor often pokes fun at the Left, which probably explains Snopes’ motives.
Snopes itself has not been above a bit of fibbing. Its “political fact-checker”, Kim Lacapria, is a former leftist blogger, known to have maligned the Tea Party as “Teahadists”, a funny mischaracterization of the unquestionably peaceful movement as violent. She’s not exactly a person you’d trust as an impartial arbiter of political “fact”. Linda Sue Grimes wrote an informative article with several prominent examples of bias by Snopes. There have also been reports of sordid personal and financial exploits by one of Snopes’ founders, much of which stands up to scrutiny.
In its latest misadventure in fact-weaving, Snopes’ has charged that the Bee published a story “intended to deceive” readers, and it claimed the Bee had done so in the past. The story was entitled “Georgia Lawmaker Claims Chick-Fil-A Employee Told Her To Go Back To Her Country, Later Clarifies He Actually Said ‘My Pleasure“. It was inspired by an incident in which the same Georgia lawmaker apparently had too many items in the express checkout at a Publix grocery store. She claimed that an angry white man told her to “go back to where you came from”. However, the Publix clerk with whom she had the altercation, who happens to be Cuban, denies having said any such thing, though he did admit to calling her a bitch. The lawmaker’s allegation seems suspiciously coincidental, having come in the immediate wake of Donald Trump’s controversial tweet that the quartet of federal lawmakers known as “The Squad” should “go back to where they came from”.
Apparently, the humor in the Bee’s article was just a bit too subtle for Snopes, whose “woke” employees have particularly vivid imaginations. The Bee article was funny precisely because it ridiculed those who hear racial “dog whistles” everywhere. The idea that a Chinese employee working a drive-through at Chick-Fil-A would say such a thing is unlikely to say the least. Anyone who has ever visited a Chick-Fil-A knows it. Too many of those with whistles in their ears haven’t had the pleasure.
Has the Bee intended to deceive its readers in the past? Perhaps Snopes was referring to an article entitled “CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine to Spin News Before Publication“. Snopes went to the trouble of calling that story false and bringing it to Facebook’s attention. Facebook actually issued a warning to the Bee (for which FB later apologized). But here’s the thing, in Grimes’ words:
“Debunking a piece of satire renders the debunker as functionally illiterate, appearing too ignorant to understand that a piece of satire does not function to relay information as a news report would.”
It’s actually much worse than that. If Snopes wants to to assess the objective truth of claims, that’s one thing, but it has drifted into the assessment of literary and authorial intent. That’s ominous for the cause of free discourse, especially to the extent that social media sites rely on Snopes as a filter to deplatform certain voices or silence points of view. Snopes has no business attempting to draw distinctions between satire and “fake news” or any intent to deceive, because it’s bound to get it wrong and already has. They might as well fact-check stand-up comics whose routines might confuse a few dimwitted members of the public, and Snopes just might do so if the comic doesn’t support its preferred political narrative. Snopes’ role is not to protect the unsophisticated from satire, and apparently its fact-checkers feel no compulsion to debunk the satire produced by The Onion, for example. The Bee’s pointed satire often serves the purpose of exposing the Left for its congenital stupidity, but that is anything but an effort to deceive, as much as Snopes might wish it was so.