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EDITORIAL: Satire vs fake news

July 30, 2019 at 2:09 a.m.

SATIRE has come a long way since Jonathan Swift. And the art has seen its ups and downs since. When most think of satire news these days, The Onion probably comes to mind.

But satire is a free market just like most things in this country, and The Onion is not the only game in town. Readers that want their satire bent a little more to the right can go to the Babylon Bee website, a newer outlet, but a fast-growing one. The Bee comes to the satire game with guns blazing, shooting in every direction. But maybe Planned Parenthood and AOC get a few more shots than others.

The Bee has an ongoing tiff with fact-checking site Snopes, and this most recent skirmish has drawn blood in the water. Fans of the Bee will note a running gag has Snopes “fact-checking” a number of its spoof articles and reports them “true.”

Fact-checking is important in this age of fake news, and Snopes has done some decent investigative work through the years. But the organization should know when to leave well enough alone.

Last week Snopes “fact-checked” an article titled “Georgia Lawmaker Claims Chick-fil-A Employee Told Her To Go Back To Her Country, Later Clarifies He Actually Said ‘My Pleasure’.” First, that headline is way too long. Second, why is a company wasting time fact-checking a site clearly labeled satire?

What will be “investigated” next? Crop circles?

Snopes writer Dan Evon wrote, “While this real-world incident stirred up a good amount of online anger, it wasn’t quite outrageous enough for the entertainment website Babylon Bee. In an apparent attempt to maximize the online indignation, this website published a fictionalized version of the story . . .”

In an apparent attempt? There’s no apparent. That’s exactly what the Bee does. Would you expect an outlet that publishes headlines like “Border Patrol Agent Calls Up Planned Parenthood To Get Helpful Pointers On Separating Children From Their Mothers” to be subtle or sneaky in its attempts to drive web traffic?

Mr. Evon went on to accuse the Bee of fooling its readers. But it seems pretty clear that readers of the Babylon Bee know what they’re getting into. Want proof? Just look at the Facebook comments.

The Babylon Bee says it has lawyered up, and we’re sure that a satire news organization going to court will provide some fantastic material for future headlines. But Snopes should know better than to pick fights with a site clearly labeled as satire news. It’s called picking your battles.

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