Commentary

No hopes, Snopes

 

So this is what the state of news has come to:

Snopes –  the formerly Facebook-associated website that was supposed to help fact check the media, one of a variety of these fact-checking websites that are supposed to help save America from “fake news” –  is now “fact checking” satire.

Yes, you read that right. Snopes fact checked “The Babylon Bee,” a website that clearly labels itself the “Trusted Source For Christian News Satire.”

“Satire: the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncingor deriding vice, folly, etc.”

By its very nature, satire is meant to be untrue. And what did Snopes find when it checked on the satire that the Bee headlined as “Jussie Smollett Offered Job At CNN After Fabricating News Story Out Of Thin Air”?

Snopes discovered – surprise, surprise – that it was “false.”

Thankfully so because surely tens of millions of Americans would otherwise believe that CNN correspondent Brian Stelter would say that “Smollett has exactly the kind of skills we look for at our fine organization.  He picked a narrative, made up all the relevant facts and details, and stuck with his story in spite of glaring holes in the plot. It’s hard to find people who understand our core values here at CNN, but Smollett seems to be just the guy for us.”

OK. Maybe we’ve reached the point where people in this country would believe that statement if it was attributed to a “CNN correspondent who asked not to be identified,” or to a “high-ranking CNN official.”

But even former Fox commentator and half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would recognize that neither Stelter nor anyone else at CNN would attach their name to a statement basically saying that “here at CNN, we just make shit up” if for no other reason than that CNN spends a lot of time insisting it doesn’t do that as President Donald Trump Tweets that it does.

Humor; it’s humor!

And no American with more than half a brain is going to believe any of the rest of what is on the Babylon Bee website no matter how entertaining the stories might be:

The Babylon Bee is at least funny or trying to be. Snopes?

Well, Snopes has now reached the point of  pathetic. This is the fact-checking organization that couldn’t decide whether Nathan Phillips lied about being a Vietnam veteran even though he once looked into a camera and said he was a Vietnam Vet even though he isn’t.

Phillips is the American Indian activist who went and banged a drum in the face of some Catholic high school kids and then hornswoggled major U.S. media into believing he was attacked and threatened by the teenagers.

The family of one of those teenagers, NPR reported yesterday, is now suing the Washington Post claiming the publication “targeted the Covington Catholic High School student and defamed him for political purposes when it reported on a January encounter on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial….”

The Post made the “Make America Great Again” hat worn by teenager Nicholas Sandmann a hot-button national issue.

The Post’s fashion critic labeled the hat a symbol of “exclusion and suspicion, of garrulous narcissism, of white male privilege, of violence and hate” although there have been women and people of color known to wear the hat.

Meanwhile, the Post’s original news story, based almost solely on Phillips as a source, said “he felt threatened by the teens and that they swarmed around him as he and other activists were wrapping up (their) march and preparing to leave.

“Phillips said a few people in the March for Life crowd began to chant, ‘Build that wall, build that wall,’ though such chants are not audible on video.”

Why the Post decided to print Phillips’ claims as to statements about the “wall” when its reporters had video calling those claims into question has never been explained. More video of the confrontation have since appeared and rather than showing Phillips being swarmed by the teenagers, it shows Phillips marching into the middle of them.

To date, no video has turned up of anyone saying “build that wall.”

The case is interesting in that the youthful Sandmann is a private individual. Libel laws in the U.S. gives news organizations broad latitude in what they can report about public officials and public figures. Those people must prove reporters acted with “reckless disregard” for the facts in order to win a libel or slander action.

A lower standard applies to private individuals; they need only show that the media acted negligently. Given that standard, the Post’s decision to go with what Phillips said while admitting no evidence of the “build the wall” claims could be found on video does raise questions.

So, too, the newspaper’s portrayal of Phillips as a “Vietnam vet,” a label that these days tends to bring with it both sympathy and respect. The Post later corrected that statement, but appears to have made no attempt whatsoever to verify it in the beginning.

Later claims by Phillips and his supporters that he never specifically claimed to be a Vietnam vet might complicate the Post’s defense in the case if not for the fact that before Phillips went to D.C. he got on Facebook to solicit money and claimed to be a “Vietnam vet.”

Fact checkers for fact checkers

Those were the words coming out of his mouth in a video in which Snopes recounts Phillips saying this:

“….Phillips could seemingly be heard to say (at around the 9:35 mark) ‘I’m a Vietnam vet, and I served in Marine Corps ’72 to ’76. I got discharged May 5th, 1976 … I don’t talk much about my Vietnam times. I usually say I don’t recollect, I don’t recall those years.

“But in other similar videos, Phillips described himself as a ;Vietnam-era vet’ or referenced his Marine Corps service without mentioning Vietnam.”

It is on the basis of these differing statements that Snopes came to the conclusion that it is “unproven” that Phillips made the Vietnam vet claim. How Snopes reached that conclusion is impossible to determine.

In the first place, Phillips isn’t “seemingly heard to say” anything. He very clearly says “I’m a Vietnam vet,” and he goes on to say his discharge papers identify him as “in-theatre. I don’t talk much about my Vietnam times.”

“In-theatre” is “Vietnam times” terminology for someone who had boots on the ground in Vietnam.

But worst than these claims might be Phillips’ suggestion in the video that leaving the Standing Rock demonstrations in North Dakota with “all the structures on fire and like that” reminded him of Vietnam.

Phillips is big on suggesting things that happened without actually saying they did happen as with the confrontation with the Covington kids. But how anyone can watch a video of Phillips saying “I’m a Vietnam vet,” factually determine that he is not a Vietnam vet, and then conclude he is doing anything other than lying is mindboggling.

Clearly we now need fact checkers for the fact checkers and then probably checkers for the checkers of the fact checkers and on ad infinitum.

There was a time when reporters and editors thought it their job to try to check facts. That went out of vogue some time ago.

Enter the fact checkers. Only they now, too, appear to have gone out of vogue.

At what point here do Americans come to the conclusion they shouldn’t trust any news and that they must become defacto reporters themselves, ferreting out a wide variety of reports on anything in the news and from that trying to put together a true picture.

Unfortunately, that’s a time-consuming practice.

At least Alaskans can consider themselves lucky that when the media gets hoaxed here it tends to be minor and stupid stuff: a bear hibernating in an ice cave where bears don’t hibernate because ice caves are wet, noisy and regularly cave in; a moose calf being born in a Lowe’s parking lot in Anchorage sans placenta (hint to inexperienced reporters, moose calves emerge from the womb wet); a deaf boy’s service dog dying in his arms by being struck by a reckless driver even though it didn’t die in his arms and the driver wasn’t reckless.

One could go on here, but what’s the point? The problems with American journalism today are bigger than simply political bias. Healthy skepticism, intellectual curiosity and simple logic all seem to be on life support if they aren’t already dead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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35 replies »

  1. HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called “A Salute To America” and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2019

    invent halloween next dipshit

    — ceeks (@70Ceeks) February 24, 2019

    FACT CHECK IT!

    I’m gonna run for President in 2020 as Little Jack Horner! Vote for me!

    Like

  2. Great article Craig. I ceased to use Snopes a few years ago. You stated. “At what point here do Americans come to the conclusion they shouldn’t trust any news and that they must become defacto reporters themselves, ferreting out a wide variety of reports on anything in the news and from that trying to put together a true picture.” I would say many of us, if not most, are already there. Sadly it seems the desire and ability to investigate without offense is indeed going extinct.

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    • Well said. I would like to think snopes is accidentally misleading but the more I learn the more it appears they push lies with a purpose. Why are they afraid of the truth?

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  3. Snopes.com is a liberal website that was originally devoted to collecting and debunking urban legends. It was started in 1997 by husband and wife team Barbara and David Mikkelson. Because the Mikkelson’s have no formal background or experience in investigative research, it is filled with numerous, intentionally inaccurate information. The site is popular with liberals, and it tends to explain away all criticism toward liberal politicians and public figures while giving conservatives the hatchet job. In 2016, Snopes spent the entire year unsuccessfully trying to defend Hillary Clinton. Snopes is garbage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One has to wonder…. Why the hell are you still reading these articles if they are so repetitive? Do you not think that the demise of ethics and quality in media is a worthy subject to write about? Or, would you rather have Craig write about relevant topics such as who’s going to be nominated for the next Grammy?
      Also, in case you haven’t noticed, your comments are as predictable as the sun rise. Snark, no substance and personal attacks about Craig’s writing choices. Along the same lines, my replies to your junk is getting repetitive, too. I guess that I should stop feeding the trolls… I guess that I expected more substance from a person who is clever enough to make up a great online handle. Oh well.
      Cheers… I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well Jack, that is really a ‘substantive’ reply you made. One man’s snark is another man’s truth. Just do as I do – for example – I don’t read Bryan’s psychotic drivel, well, because it’s psychotic drivel. See how easy that was/is? Don’t like, don’t read. And to prove my larger point; what is THE VERY NEXT Medred piece? Surprise! something about hatchery pink salmon. Imagine that…..

        Meanwhile, slashing and burning is going on at the state level and nary a peep. Ya, know, like REAL Alaska issues….

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  4. Craig,

    Just last night on the evening news there was a report about tax returns being 8.7% lower than last year. Nowhere did they mention that less taxes were taken out through the course of the year. They had a token family who is suffering “owing” $5000 this year but last year their return was $2000-$3000. They never talked about how much of their hard earned money they were allowed to keep throughout the year, but they did show how much they made and deducted this year and last. They made roughly $190,000 each year and last year they itemized roughly $66,000 but this year for some reason they chose not to itemize and showed what their tax liability would be and low and behold using the $24,000 standard deduction their tax liability was higher. Why wouldn’t they itemize this year, not talk about that…Maybe some of the items they previously itemized were no longer itemizable, but $42,000 worth? I highly doubt it. The problem is some idiot somewhere thinks that your tax return is what you are owed, it’s not. A tax return is a return on the taxes you over paid throughout the year…hence the term return. Words have meanings.

    But it goes much deeper than the media and journalism, this is a societal shift where words don’t mean what they mean and words you said or wrote aren’t what you said or wrote. In this comment section, and many many others, where words that people write and are time stamped with their name, some will argue that the words they wrote were not the words they wrote…even though they are recorded and timestamped, it’s amazing really. Words have meanings and how we use them conveys that meaning, anything else and we are just (mostly) hairless apes grunting noises to hear ourselves against the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Steve-O, are you saying that “less taxes were taken out through the course of the year…?” Your news story doesn’t say it but that may be because it’s just not the case (or not determinable from the data). I suspect the same thing is true of why so many chose to take the Standard Deduction, rather than itemize-not determinable from the data, so far.
      You haven’t said it (and didn’t link to the news story), so we are left to guess about what you are saying, but I’m guessing here that your story is using some sort of average for their numbers. Is that true?

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      • Hi Bill,
        Can’t speak for the rest of the world, however, I did my taxes this year and paid over $1500 LESS this year than last. I had a slightly higher income level as well. My parents and 2 siblings were the same – less taxes actually paid – slightly higher income level. None of us are rich or even upper middle class. I think that the angst that everyone is feeling is due to the tax withholding tables that the IRS has simply did not work this year vs the past 30 years since they came up with them. I’m sure that they will adjust (or people will adjust their withholdings to their personal comfort level) and this will be a non issue next year. My only thought when I see that people are pissing and moaning about their income tax returns being smaller is this: Why aren’t these people investing into an IRA instead of letting the gob’ment hold their money for a whole year before generously ‘giving’ it back to them. Fools to invest in your personal refund. I’d rather pay at the end of the year than be that dumb. I hope all is well with you in your neck o’ Alaska!
        Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bill,
        Had I known last night while I was watching the news that I would write a comment the following morning on the report I was watching, I would have taken better notes and made sure to grab a link to it from my tv, but alas I did not…please forgive me. I suspect it was on abc, cbs, or nbc and that simply googling lower tax returns or something akin to that would provide you with all kinds of links since this has been a news story for the past few weeks all over just about every news channel and internet news source.

        The report I saw wasn’t dealing with averages, it was dealing with one very specific family, as I mentioned earlier.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Steve-O. To do a story on one family is certainly one way to confuse everyone, it seems. Sorry that I read things differently. Certainly possible to be disallowed some itemized deductions this year-the big one is the limit on amount of home interest deduction.
        Anyway, the tax liability would have been nice if it had been reported but just like the amount of taxes taken out was not reported making the overall data pretty worthless IMO.
        Jack, I’ve not done my taxes yet so nice to hear that I may get a good surprise.

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      • Bill,

        There is no doubt the report was useless and the data pretty worthless, as you said. In fact that is the very reason I brought it up, reporters and journalist at one point in time shared information and informed the viewing/reading audience. Well, not anymore now-a-days they are too busy trying to spin their chosen viewpoint instead of informing people. They could have easily had a report on the nightly news that said tax return amounts are down 8.7% compared to last year because the vast majority of people kept their own money through the course of the year instead of giving the IRS excess cash, people received bigger paychecks that then the IRS has to return to the taxpayer. But that makes the tax cuts we received last year sound beneficial instead of like the report I saw where it is now a burden on these poor people making almost $190,000 a year who apparently don’t know the difference between itemizing and taking the standard deduction and how doing one over the other could lower their tax liability.

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      • Steve-O, I’m not sure how you came to your conclusion about that one family and their not knowing the difference between taking one form of deduction over another. There was not enough knowledge given to make that determination IMO.
        We, of course, have no idea of how they came to their decision to take one over the other but usually one tries both and then chooses the one that returns the smallest tax liability. That’s what a tax preparer would be doing, if they chose that route, but we just don’t know why they did what they did. You seem to think they don’t know the difference-why?

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      • I came to that conclusion by watching the report and using my brain, Bill. Virtually every other report out there on this issue does the same exact thing, they offer limited information and say that people are getting a lower return than last year, in an apparent effort to make people sour on the tax cut. While it’s true that the return of their money paid in taxes throughout the year is lower than last year, it is also true that they paid in less during the year and their tax liability went down, those are the two key points of information that are missing repeatedly.

        For some reason you are getting wrapped around the axel on this, I suggest you go look at the report yourself, then you can comment on it instead of commenting on my comment on it…inform yourself Bill. It was on one of the big three news networks two nights ago, or you can just read almost any other report about this issue.

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      • Steve-O, for some reason you think that these type folks don’t know the difference in filing their tax returns (it appears to be political, too). You can certainly continue to believe your BS but my guess is that large numbers of folks earning that kind of money pay a tax preparer and it’s out of the taxpayer’s hands.
        A story I know was of a neighbor of mine (in 81) told me that he would be moving soon to a more expensive house-he was told by his tax man that he needed a larger home mortgage deduction to reduce his taxes (Alaska had just repealed it’s personal income tax then). This was the first time I was made aware of people buying homes for that reason. How this would apply to this year’s taxes, I suspect, is predominantly in areas of high real estate values not unlike CA.
        We can certainly fault these taxpayers for not knowing (in advance) about this limit in home mortgage deductions and also the limit in state tax deductions but not everyone keeps tabs on such IMO.
        Anyway, you think these taxpayers are stupid and I think they just got caught up in one of the areas of the new tax law that did not take care of their interests. This is nothing more than another look at “elections have consequences.” And this would certainly not be the first time that you and I saw things differently. Heheh!

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      • Bill,

        Once again you fail to see the point.

        The point has nothing to do with the stupid taxpayer or the tax cuts and how stupid people do not understand what the word return means.

        The point is the biased and misleading reporting on the subject. Nothing more, nothing less. The stupid taxpayers in this case are nothing more than an empty shell used by the reporter to deliver a preprogrammed message.

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      • Like I said, Steve-O your opinions are political in nature.
        Further, you’ve made an assumption about that taxpayer that doesn’t hold water IMO. And, as you surely know, anytime you make an erroneous assumption your conclusions are wrong.
        I didn’t miss the point at all, you’ve just made too many ski runs without your helmet and it’s been hard on your logical thinking. Heheh!

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      • Bill,

        No, you’ve clearly missed the point.

        Have you even seen the report I mentioned? I’ve pointed you in the right direction numerous times and yet you remain willfully ignorant. If you haven’t seen the reoport then you are commenting on something that you are wholly ignorant about, wasn’t the first time and surely won’t be the last.

        Keep talking about ski runs Bill, if that’s all you have as a talking point for any and every subject I suggest you study up because all it does is make you look like you don’t know what you are talking about.

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      • Steve-O, we’ll just have to disagree again but I’m sure that I’ve not missed the point. This is just political BS on your part with nothing to back it up.

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      • Bill,
        I assure you that you’ve missed the point. There’s no disagreement on my part, I’m simply telling you about the report I saw and you are choosing to remain willfully ignorant. That’s your choice as a grown man and an American, one you and only you can remedy at any time.

        I’m not sure where you think I went political in this conversation, does the mere mention of tax cuts make this a political discussion? Is that what a microagression is and did I trigger you?

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      • Steve-O here are your words (including misspelling): “The point is the biased and misleading reporting on the subject. Nothing more, nothing less. The stupid taxpayers in this case are nothing more than an empty shell used by the reporter to deliver a preprogrammed message.”
        Now you may not consider this to be political but my opinion is that it is. You have a lot of trouble dealing with logic, it seems. As one who thought a ski helmet would improve his sport, and now thinks he shouldn’t wear one because it might cause him to ski more at risk, is clearly at a disadvantage due to plain logic IMO.
        Anyway, your thinking has certainly given us the reasoning behind the Steve-0 Epoch.

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      • Bill,

        I’m sorry for microagressing you and triggering you by pointing out inherent bias of the media. I know you cannot understand what the helmet study article Craig means, but seriously keep bringing it up as if you actually do understand it.

        I am glad that you were able to finally understand the point of thus article and what I wrote, you’re showing signs of improvement in your reading comprehension. Please feel free to point out my spelling mistakes too, it lets me know you care.

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      • The funny thing is, Bill, nowhere in my comments on the helmet story did I say I suffered any head trauma. Reading comprehension and critical reading skills would have alerted you to that fact, and yet for some reason you keep bringing up head trauma because I shared a story about how I crashed while wearing a helmet, when I crashed wearing a helmet I did not hit my head because my body took the brunt of the collision between myself and terra firma. It taught me a lesson, using my brain I was able to deduce that wearing a helmet made me feel like I could take more risks than when I wasn’t wearing a helmet…but I digress.

        Maybe one day soon you will come to understand what the helmet study Craig wrote about means, I can only hope that it happens before you completely damage your brain beyond repair. Wearing the correct helmet will help you protect your brain, but since you insist on wearing a helmet you know does not adequately protect you it is only a matter of time.

        Like

      • Well Steve-O, it appears that your logic was faulty before your crash-that’s obvious and we also know that said crash caused the Steve-O Epoch.

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      • Sadly Bill your entire argument and logic has already been defeated by your own words when you said “as you surely know, anytime you make an erroneous assumption your conclusions are wrong.”

        I am curious though, which word do you think I misspelled when you quoted me and said I had some misspellings? I am known to mispell words from time to time, but I’m just not seeing where I did in that quote. Thanks again Bill!

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      • Thanks Bill, it takes a real man to admit when he’s wrong as you just have. Any chance you’ll point out which word I misspelled? I’d hate to make the same mistake again.

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      • Bill,

        Geez, I thought you would do me a solid and let me know which word I misspelled…cause they all look like they are spelled correctly to me. I guess I will just keep misspelling which ever word I misspelled.

        Like

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