Fake news vs. satire: Snopes and Babylon Bee feud

    August 1, 2019

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    Babylon Bee (left) and Snopes logos.

     

    THE CHRISTIAN humor website the Babylon Bee is being criticized by fact-checker Snopes, who questions whether or not the Babylon Bee's content might better be classified as "fake news" rather than satire.

    On July 22, the Babylon Bee posted a story which reported a Georgia state lawmaker accused a Chick-fil-A employee of telling her to, "Go back to your country!" when the employee had actually said "my pleasure."

    The problem, according to Snopes, was that the article was too close to a real event and could easily be confused as an actual report.

    "The Babylon Bee has managed to confuse readers with its brand of satire in the past. This particular story was especially puzzling for some readers, however, as it closely mirrored the events of a genuine news story, with the big exception of the website’s changing the location," Dan Evon of Snopes wrote in a July 24 article.

    "The Babylon Bee is an entertainment website that does not publish factual stories. A disclaimer on the website reads: 'The Babylon Bee is the world’s best satire site, totally inerrant in all its truth claims. We write satire about Christian stuff, political stuff, and everyday life,'" wrote Evon.

    The Babylon Bee's founder, Adam Ford, responded to Snopes' claims July 25 via Twitter.

    "What Snopes has written here is not a 'fact-check' at all – it's an opinion piece. A hit piece. Which is very problematic coming from the site that, on its 'About us' page, loudly declares itself 'the internet’s definitive fact-checking resource,'" wrote Ford. "The real problem here is that Snopes (and sites like them) *advertise themselves as objective, trustworthy arbiters of truth – and important, influential people and media routinely use them as definitive indicators of truthfulness in ways that really affect people's lives.*"

    Ford went on to write that this is not the first time that the Babylon Bee has been attacked by Snopes for presenting fake news under the guise of satire. Snopes has concluded that other satirical outlets like The Onion are obvious satire, Ford argues, and therefore the organization's treatment of the Babylon Bee seems to be a calculated attack.

    "The Bee has been 'Snoped' plenty of times before (and had to endure Facebook purgatory once because of it). But what they've written this time certainly seems like an attempt to delegitimize and demonize an important satirical outlet, and that is totally unacceptable," Ford wrote on Twitter. "A clumsy mistake or an incompetent writer are insufficient explanations for publishing something like this when you position yourself as an unbiased, stalwart arbiter of truth and presume to wield the influence that comes along with that title."

    Contact Caleb Yarbrough at caleb@arkansasbaptist.org.

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