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How The Fake News Panic Threatens To Kill Conservative Satire

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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The Babylon Bee is arguably the most popular satire site for conservatives and Christians, but the liberal-leaning fact check site Snopes doesn’t seem to be in on the joke.

Snopes has “fact checked” the Babylon Bee’s satirical articles dozens of times, most recently when the Bee poked fun at Erica Thomas, a black Georgia politician who had to walk back her claim that a man had yelled racial slurs at her in a grocery store. The Bee’s satirical version stated “Georgia Lawmaker Claims Chick-Fil-A Employee Told Her To Go Back To Her Country, Later Clarifies He Actually Said ‘My Pleasure.” This was the 38th time Snopes has gone after the Babylon Bee. This time, however, the Bee has retained a law firm and threatened legal action.

Snopes has not been biased in choosing what satire to target: they have fact checked secular, left-leaning satire sites such as The Onion many times as well. But the Bee’s founder, Adam Ford, argues the difference lies in Snopes assigning malicious intent to the Bee, but not the Onion. He listed several supporting examples of Snopes using language that implies the Bee is actively trying to fool their readers, rather than simply entertain them. Snopes later deleted that language and posted an editors note when the Bee threatened legal action. (RELATED: Snopes Fact-Checks Themselves For Omissions On Erica Thomas’ ‘Go Back Where You Came From’ Claims)

“Some readers interpreted wording in a previous version of this fact check as imputing deceptive intent on the part of Babylon Bee in its original satirical piece about Georgia state Rep. Erica Thomas, and that was not the editors’ aim,” read the editors note.

The Bee is also more forthcoming with its political bias and its satire than the Onion. The front page of BabylonBee.com is emblazoned with the phrase “Fake News You Can Trust,” while the Onion identifies itself as “America’s finest news source.” The Bee also identifies each member of its staff by name, while the Onion isn’t nearly as transparent.

The Onion did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Caller for this article.

Ford makes no effort to hide his socially conservative views on Twitter, and Onion Editor Scott Dikkers spends his personal time bashing President Donald Trump, but Ford argues Snopes only ever impugned the Bee’s motives.

Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon told theDC that he fears the fact checks could cause the Bee and other conservative satire to be lumped in with actual fake news, the boogeyman of the 2016 election cycle that politicians and tech giants have become eager to quash.

The Bee has already had this happen once.

In 2018, Snopes took offense at a story saying CNN had “purchased an industrial-sized washing machine to spin the news before publication.” Snopes, a fact-check partner with Facebook at the time, deemed the article false, and Facebook subsequently threatened to suppress the Bee’s content if they continued posting “false news.”

While Facebook later apologized and claimed it had only been a mistake, the incident left a lasting impression on Dillon. He said his staff had mostly been amused by Snopes initial “fact checks,”  even retweeting some of them as a joke. But he became frustrated when they began to threaten his company’s success. (RELATED: Snopes Gets The Facts Wrong On Ocasio-Cortez Campaign Finance Scandals)

“There is an ongoing pattern of ‘mistakes’ in tech and the media. They call them mistakes, but they always seem to cut in one direction against conservatives to a point that is way beyond coincidence,” Dillon told TheDC. “These are huge companies and nearly 100 percent of their employees are liberal. They are bound to say or do something inappropriate, and they wont even notice because they all agree.”

Dillon noted that accusations of political bias are sometimes overblown, but as the 2020 election cycle continues to ramp up and the pressure on social media giants to squelch fake news increases, he says Snopes’ perceived insinuations that the Bee is trying to mislead its readers become more dangerous.

“For better or worse, the media, the public, and social networks all look to Snopes for authoritative answers. By lumping us in with fake news and questioning whether we really qualify as satire, Snopes appears to be actively engaged in an effort to discredit and deplatform us,” the Bee wrote in a note to its readers.

While the Bee has retained a law firm, they have yet to take any legal action.

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