Snopes is a bad, dangerous, deceptive site. They use a very conscious, malicious form of misinformation to mislead and manipulate their readers by selective application of facts and omission of context. Usually they do this to present a partisan picture advancing a particular narrative, specifically the preferred perspective the corporate establishment wants to promote.
Their strategy, used time and time again, is simple:
1) Create a strawman statement that is clearly false.
2) State that it is false.
3) Painstakingly establish that said strawman is not true with evidence.
What is important to note is the contents of the “what’s true” section, which is usually the bulk of the story.
“How Swede is It” is an excellent nonpartisan example of their prevalent and very transparent tactics in action. This story focuses heavily on the assertion that Sweden is “officially moving to” a 6 hour workday, as described in some viral videos people share on Facebook. Focusing on the semantics and interpreting that as “the country has passed laws mandating fewer work hours” they are correct in stating that statement is false. However the video did not make that assertion. And when Snopes acknowledges that “some businesses in Sweden have started experimenting with a shorter workday” that is the lead that gets inevitably buried. That is true.
But Snopes does not care to make true claims and rate them as such.
At this point we should ask some hard questions about Snopes. Why would an ostensibly leftist publication want to advance a misconception that Sweden is not continuing to improve its impressive labor landscape in the direction of the 6 hour day and the 4 day week workers have long yearned to achieve?
You will not necessarily be able to find Snopes lying directly but even the most casual analysis will consistently reveal an abundance of extraordinarily harmful omissions, and strawmen abounding almost any even moderately politicized topic. It’s not an unfounded assertion that Snopes is rife with misinformation.
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers
C. Douglas Golden from the Western Journal remembers the first time something he wrote was “fact-checked” by Snopes. Spoiler alert: Snopes thought it wasn’t factual. He wrote,
“This wouldn’t be something I’d get myself all in a lather about — I write articles for a small, lonely conservative/libertarian website, after all, so this is about as surprising as a fart joke on “South Park” — but what sticks in my memory was Snopes’ pathetic excuse for saying the article was false. I won’t go into the details because we could be here all day, but there was a mouth-agape quality to the caviling, hair-splitting, liberal white-knighting logic used.
You can have the inbuilt distrust of fact-checking that any conservative has, but it’s eye-opening to have it done to you. The question raises itself: “Is this all there is to it?”
Four years later, the answer still seems to be yes. In a Wednesday “fact check” (there aren’t air quotes emphatic enough) about claims made by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez regarding her safety during the Capitol incursion last month, Snopes’ Bethania Palma wrote that those questioning the veracity of those claims were engaged in “another round of bad-faith smears” regarding AOC’s “emotional, firsthand account of her experience.”
Those “bad-faith smears” were rated “Mostly False,” you may be shocked to know. You may also be stunned to find out they were mostly true, but Snopes didn’t particularly like the sources.”
Now, in case you missed it, the New York Democrat went on Instagram Live on several occasions — most recently on Monday — to talk about her experience during the incursion. Depending on where you were on the political spectrum, the videos were either powerful or maudlin.
In one much-circulated clip, she said, “I can tell you that I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die.” That encounter involved a Capitol Police officer coming into her office to make sure she was safe.
AOC went on to say it “didn’t feel right because he was looking at me with a tremendous amount of anger and hostility.”
“We couldn’t read if this was like a good situation or a bad situation,” Ocasio-Cortez said, “and it was like so many other communities in this country like just that presence doesn’t necessarily give you a clear signal if you’re safe or not.”
And then there was her claim that she didn’t feel safe around Republican legislators because “there were QAnon and white supremacist sympathizers and, frankly, white supremacist members of Congress… who I know and who I have felt would disclose my location and would create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, et cetera,” according to Elle.
So, where’s the issue? Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t in the Capitol when the incursion happened.
As The Daily Wire reported, she was in the Cannon House Office Building, a separate building a quarter-mile away. While connected to the Capitol complex, rioters didn’t breach the Cannon House Office Building and Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t in any imminent danger.
Here’s Snopes’ take on that: “It took less than 48 hours for the right-wing disinformation machine to contrive a way to minimize what Ocasio-Cortez said she had experienced.” Remember, objective fact-checking is at work here.
What did Snopes get right?
“What’s True … Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t in the main Capitol building where the House and Senate Chambers are located,” the fact check reads.
“What’s False … However, Ocasio-Cortez never claimed to be in the main Capitol building. When the attack on the Capitol began, Ocasio-Cortez was, as she stated, in her congressional office, which is located in a network of office buildings immediately surrounding the Capitol, and her office building was one of the two buildings that were evacuated.”
Palma wrote that she would “explain why the attacks on her were not just made in bad faith, but nonsensical” — but she doesn’t even get the attacks right. (She also never gets around to explaining how the attacks were “nonsensical,” but that’s the least of our worries.)
“The online attacks on Ocasio-Cortez downplayed, from a safe distance, not only the sense of fear she felt in the moment during the attack on the Capitol, but also the imminent physical danger that she and others in and around the Capitol really were in during the attack,” Palma wrote. [Emphasis hers.]
Yes, thank you for pointing out we’re all doing this from a safe distance. What Palma doesn’t mention is that the original report that AOC wasn’t in the Capitol came from a GOP representative who was two doors down from her, Nancy Mace of South Carolina.
Mace, a freshman congresswoman, didn’t sound quite so alarmed. She didn’t take to Instagram Live to say that she thought she was going to die. If the mob had gone after legislators, Mace would have been in just as much danger, if not more; she’d made it public that she wouldn’t vote to block Joe Biden’s electors, making her just as big of a target for the rioters.
Furthermore, there are 535 members of Congress — many of whom were in the Capitol and directly in danger. Few were this breathlessly emotive. AOC was in more danger than, say, those of us watching at home. She was in considerably less danger than the people in the Capitol, something The Daily Wire noted in its fact check of Snopes’ fact check.
“As its rationale for calling the claim “Mostly False,’ Snopes points to the irrelevant fact that her nearby building was evacuated by police. In other words, the ‘exaggeration’ element of the claim was left unanswered, and the location element of the claim was manipulated in order to achieve the ‘Mostly False,’ rating,” The Daily Wire reported Thursday.
Beyond that, Palma claimed that “[i]n a circus of cyberbullying that began on Feb. 3, 2021, conservative news outlets and social media conspiracy trolls latched on to the misleading claim that Ocasio-Cortez ‘wasn’t in the Capitol building’ and therefore was not in harm’s way, as she had described in the Instagram video.”
I don’t particularly need for Palma to list every single instance out there, but one of the three was from The Daily Wire, for a report that accurately described the problems with AOC’s livestream. The second was a RedState report which recapitulated the same thing; both merely said she wasn’t in the Capitol Building.
The third was “conspiracy theorist Candace Owens,” who tweeted this:
This is problematic because, as Snopes pointed out, this wasn’t a parking lot, but instead a road leading to where the kids were being kept in cages. When Owens said AOC was “faking her own attempted murder,” let’s keep in mind that Ocasio-Cortez had claimed Sen. Ted Cruz “almost had me murdered” because he challenged the electoral vote. That, I’m assuming, will be marked “Mostly True.”
Furthermore: “Snopes attempts to debunk the ‘exaggeration of danger’ claim by referencing Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘sense of fear’ and that her building was connected to the Capitol building, which was under attack,” The Daily Wire reported.
“While this makes it possible that insurrectionists could have accessed her building, it makes the false implication that they did access her building. Whether or not rioters had accessed her building is the sole factor which matters when measuring the physical danger Ocasio-Cortez was in. Since rioters had not accessed her building, she was under no imminent physical threat.”
But please, fact-check conservatives to death over this. Most said she wasn’t in the Capitol. Snopes said that’s technically true, but she was still in danger. Therefore, anyone pointing out she wasn’t in the Capitol was false. Amazing how that works.
You sit there in a kind of silent wonder at the three-card Monte game that they play with reality. Which is fine — but let’s please not pretend Snopes is really a legitimate fact-checker.
Yes, this really is all there is to fact-checking.
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