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Op-ed

Liberal fact-checkers like Snopes keep embarrassing themselves because they don't even attempt to understand conservatives. Here's why that matters.

Giving big tech companies more cover to suppress and limit the reach of conservative websites

Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Snopes used to serve a semi-useful purpose on the internet. Back when it seemed that the vast majority of information on the internet was disseminated through forwarded emails, when your crazy uncle would forward you his latest insane conspiracy theory, you could reply to him with a link to a Snopes article explaining why this latest mass email forward was false. That's not exactly a vital service, but it is at least a little bit useful.

These days, however, the main purpose Snopes serves is to function as a punching bag for ... Snopes. Snopes has turned itself into an internet punchline by repeatedly "fact-checking" obvious satirical articles from a site that is well known for publishing only satirical articles — the Babylon Bee.

Snopes' latest self-beclowning at the hands of the Babylon Bee concerns this satirical article lampooning Georgia state Rep. Erica Thomas, who claimed that a white man verbally assaulted and abused her in a Publix grocery store, telling her to "go back" to where she came from. Thomas later backtracked on those claims and then surveillance video pretty conclusively established her as a liar.

So the Babylon Bee, assuming that its audience knows at least these basic facts about the story, published a satirical article titled, "Georgia Lawmaker Claims Chick-Fil-A Employee Told Her To Go Back To Her Country, Later Clarifies He Actually Said 'My Pleasure'."

Funny, right? An obvious joke. And in case you are a humorless liberal and miss the fact that it's a joke, the banner in your web browser as you load the Babylon Bee says: "The Babylon Bee: Your Trusted Source for Christian News Satire." And in case you are STILL confused, there's a giant banner above the story inviting you to sign up for their newsletter that reads: "Fake news you can trust, delivered straight to your inbox."

If a person is going to somehow miss ALL those warnings that they are reading an obvious joke, a dumb "fact-check" from a different website (Snopes) is certainly not going to help.

Now, you might at this point be wondering, "Why do you care if Snopes wastes their time 'fact-checking' obvious satire?"

The answer is that in the case of Snopes and many other so-called fact-checkers, they aren't just pointless wastes of time, they are agenda-driven hacks who would like to see non-liberal online publishers driven out of business.

You see, the big tech companies have responded to criticism from Democrats about the proliferation of "fake news" by contracting with so-called fact-checking companies like Snopes to flag articles that are "false" and de-rank websites in searches and social media distribution that publish "false" articles.

Virtually all (possibly all) these "fact-checking" services are staffed by ex-mainstream media people who have been laid off by those companies due to budget cuts. In other words, they are a) media liberals; b) the most dispensable and least talented media liberals; and c) in many cases, are people who have an axe to grind with alternative conservative media outlets that forced them out of their jobs by presenting alternate viewpoints.

In some cases, the bias of these fact-checkers presents itself overtly. One of the most prominent fact-checkers, Politifact, has repeatedly been dinged by studies showing that they are highly more likely to rate stories from right-leaning outlets as false.

The far more common form of bias, however, involves what the fact-checkers choose to fact check. Millions of pieces of content are created on the internet every day, and it simply isn't possible to "fact-check" them all. By looking at what fact-checkers choose to examine, you can see where their biases lie.

Snopes is a pretty good example of this. If you read the Babylon Bee on a regular basis, you know that it regularly lampoons conservative figures as well as liberal ones. For example, the Babylon Bee has roasted Sean Hannity, Ron Paul, President Trump (multiple times), Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, and countless others. Snopes has been curiously uninterested in "fact-checking" any of these satirical Babylon Bee articles that make fun of conservatives. In fact, utilizing the search function of its website, I could find only one fact-check of such an article: this one about Jim Bakker.

Whenever the Babylon Bee satirizes a liberal, however, Snopes leaps into defense mode. They have rated "false" obviously satirical Bee articles about Bernie Sanders, Bernie Sanders (again), Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, CNN, Bill Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Planned Parenthood, Bernie Sanders (again), and countless others.

Another useful comparison: since Jan. 1, 2018, Snopes has "fact-checked" exactly two articles from the liberal satire site The Onion (they also ran this article about Yahoo News accidentally posting an Onion article as news, but that is not a fact-check). In the same time period, they have "fact-checked" 16 Babylon Bee articles.

There's only one possible explanation: Snopes and the people who work there clearly understand why The Onion is a joke, and assume that everyone else does, too. The reason for that is that they share a worldview with the liberal people who write The Onion.

The Babylon Bee, on the other hand, is something they cannot even understand — conservative content that is funny. They also can't understand the Bee's audience and operate from the assumption that the mostly conservative evangelical audience that reads it must be stupid and in need of protection from brave fact-checkers like themselves.

The failure to appreciate or even understand the conservative worldview is the reason the supposedly objective fact-checkers spend an overwhelming percentage of their time perusing the right-leaning web for mistakes, even resorting to fact-checking obvious conservative satire, while largely ignoring the fever swamps on the left, which are just as rife with errors and conspiracy theories, if not more so.

And this failure will give the big tech companies more cover to suppress and limit the reach of conservative websites, while ignoring faults and actual fake news from liberal ones.

One last thing…
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