When I clicked on the link for Snopes’ recent article debunking a purported quote from Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, I was met with a pop-up which declaimed, “Let’s Fight Misinformation Together.”
Apparently, Snopes wants my email address so that it can tell me about essential work that it’s doing. Indispensable work like, say, telling me that a quote from one of the web’s best-known satire websites is indeed fake.
Well, consider me signed up.
Yes, Snopes — arguably the most liberal and inessential of the “fact-checking” services that have grown like kudzu since the 2016 election and the “fake news” scare — felt the need to address an article by The Babylon Bee, a Christian/conservative-leaning satire site I’m assuming most of our readers are at least vaguely familiar with.
Here was the obviously satirical headline for the obviously fake article, published May 6: “Ilhan Omar: ‘If Israel Is So Innocent, Then Why Do They Insist On Being Jews?'”
I think everyone gets the joke just by seeing that much. Rep. Omar tends to shift the responsibility for blatantly anti-Semitic remarks onto Israel, because after all, she’s really just criticizing their policies. You don’t even have to read the article to get the point. The headline suffices.
But here was Snopes’ reaction: “In early May 2019, social media users began sharing posts alleging that U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), one of the two Muslim women currently serving in the U.S. Congress, issued a tweet asking, ‘If Israel is so innocent, then why do they insist on being Jews?’
“Many of the posts included disparaging remarks about Omar, accusing her of being ‘anti-Semitic’ and ‘anti-American,’ for example, and proclaiming that she should be ‘banned from Congress.'”
To prove the more extreme outliers they mentioned, what they did was find two credulous people that fell for it:
— DarTell )0v0( (@DarTell) May 6, 2019
Ilhan Omar: ‘If Israel Is So Innocent, Then Why Do They Insist On Being Jews?’ https://t.co/EHG1YC1eo8 via @TheBabylonBee Muslims admit they want Jews GONE! Says them “being Jewish is taunting”.This woman should be BANNED from Congress, her hate for NON Muslims is unacceptable!
— Michelle Turner (@Michelle2619731) May 6, 2019
“Despite its attracting an outraged constituency of believers, however” — and get ready for a shocker here! — “the quote and the article from which it came are completely fictional. The Babylon Bee, which advertises itself as ‘Your Trusted Source for Christian News Satire,’ publishes only satirical content aimed at a conservative Christian readership.”
“Unfortunately, satire often isn’t recognizable as such in social media posts, which rarely carry the appropriate disclaimers, nor on blogs and websites (such as CNMNewz.com) that repost articles from sites such as The Babylon Bee without alerting readers that they’re satirical in nature. Under such conditions, the distinction between satire and misinformation is effectively meaningless.”
To start, pretty much every article on every satire site has fooled at least dozens of people on social media. I’m surprised they could only find two.
If this is how they feel they can best use their resources, I can’t wait to see them debunk The Onion’s “National Weather Service Releases Composite Sketch Of Tornado It Believes Ravaged Midwest.” Or any of the seven satirical jabs at conservatives that appeared on the homepage before that article. (Yeah, I counted. And?)
Furthermore, have you heard of CNMNewz.com? I haven’t, either. Alexa doesn’t even have enough traffic data from the website to analyze anything beyond the fact that it’s the 3,979,561st most popular website in the world. (The Babylon Bee is the 22,769th most popular, and the official website of the Squatty Potty is the 220,209th most popular, to put that in perspective.)
None of the social media posts they listed referenced CNMNewz.com — I would assume for the very salient fact that none I could find seemed to reference it, either, despite multiple searches — and the last original material from the website I could find was an obituary for Rev. Billy Graham back in February of 2018.
“Under such conditions, the distinction between satire and misinformation is effectively meaningless?” This is a completely busted website visited by absolutely no one including, one suspects given the lack of new material, its webmaster.
Are its chimerical readers also being fooled by headlines like “Trump Awards Medal Of Freedom To Legendary Golfer Happy Gilmore?” I don’t see anything at Snopes about that. How am I supposed to know that Happy Gilmore isn’t actually a professional duffer but a stock Adam Sandler character from a 1996 movie best known for a fistfight scene involving Bob Barker?
We know why this “fact-check” was carried out and it has little to do with the fact that facts were being checked. The story when it comes to liberal solecisms is never that the liberal made a mistake or said something offensive. It’s always how conservatives react to or “pounce on” it. And since conservative satire is one of the obvious reactions, that has to be part of the story, too.
Ilhan Omar has demonstrably said and done anti-Semitic things. Snopes doesn’t need to put “anti-Semitic” in quotation marks. There’s no plausible way to explain her consistent use of anti-Semitic tropes beyond the fact that she holds an animus toward individuals of the Jewish faith. That’s called anti-Semitism.
As for anti-Americanism, I can’t tell what’s in her heart. She’s certainly said enough that one could plausibly make that argument, although I don’t feel confident making it myself. “Some people did something” won’t go down in the annals of history as a great moment in patriotism, however.
As for people who say she should be “banned from Congress,” again, debunking satirical articles because of people who say uninformed things on Twitter would be the world’s most time-consuming game of digital whack-a-mole ever. What they’ve done is chosen a specific article about a very specific person they want to make a very specific point about.
If you don’t believe me, let’s examine another Snopes take on a Bee article, this one from April:
Ocasio-Cortez Appears On ‘The Price Is Right,’ Guesses Everything Is Freehttps://t.co/miOjlrrQz9
— The Babylon Bee (@TheBabylonBee) April 12, 2019
“This is not a genuine photograph of Ocasio-Cortez on the show,” Snopes reported. “This image was created for a satirical article that was originally published by The Babylon Bee.”
Two of the above should be satire. Only one is.
And then there was this dumpster conflagration, in which The Babylon Bee got in a bit of a kerfuffle with Facebook over the fact that Snopes flagged one of their articles involving CNN:
But nearly every fake news site claims to be “satirical” in nature, so that approach would put us in a position of having to be the Facebook arbiters of what is or is not “real” satire. That’s something for Facebook to decide, not us.
— snopes.com (@snopes) March 2, 2018
As for that pop-up window, I ended up giving them a fake email address. Debunk that, Snopes. Really, your time will be just as well-spent.
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