Saturday, April 11, 2009

In Snopes We Trust


My mom forwarded me a very troubling email this morning, no doubt with the intent to ruin my tranquil Saturday morning of newspaper, Internet and Diet Coke.

It was an email she’d received “exposing” my hoax bible,
Snopes.com as nothing but a liberal mouthpiece. It was, of course, the usual right-wing smear tactic, mixing truths with innuendo and adding flawed and biased assumptions.

You could see by the forwarding tracks that this had changed hands a number of times, so knowing the actual writer/speaker’s identity is impossible. At least one person added their take as an introduction:

EXACTLY what I have been saying for a long time, liberal democrats; for my trouble - constantly being called wrong. Read this and weep! I am going to have drink! ROFL

Joan

May your path be strewn with flowers,Memories, friends, and happy hours.May blessings come from Heaven above,To fill your life with peace and love.
.....An English Blessing.....

I don’t know who “Joan” is, but from her writing, I can see why she’s always being called wrong. And she should be careful… Friends don’t let friends drink and ROFL. They might spill their drink.

It also cracks me up that “Joan” quotes some pithy saying about flowers, friends and Heaven and then goes on to attach hateful, prejudicial screed. It’s typical hypocrisy of the religious right, if you ask me.

It never fails to amuse me how people will believe anything, no matter how far-fetched or unsubstantiated, as long as it supports their pre-existing opinions.

Here is the text of the original message itself:

For the past few years www.snopes.com has positioned itself, or others have labeled it, as the 'tell all final word' on any comment, claim and email.

But for several years people tried to find out who exactly was behind
snopes.com. Only recently did Wikipedia get to the bottom of it – kinda makes you wonder what they were hiding. Well, finally we know. It is run by a husband and wife team - that's right, no big office of investigators and researchers, no team of lawyers. It's just a mom-and-pop operation that began as a hobby.

David and Barbara Mikkelson in the San Fernando Valley of California started the web site about 13 years ago - and they have no formal background or experience in investigative research. After a few years it gained popularity believing it to be unbiased and neutral, but over the past couple of years people started asking questions who was behind it and did they have a selfish motivation? The reason for the questions - or skepticism - is a result of snopes.com claiming to have the bottom line facts to certain questions or issue when in fact they have been proven wrong. Also, there were criticisms that the Mikkelsons were not really investigating and getting to the 'true' bottom of various issues. I can personally vouch for that complaint.

A few months ago, when my State Farm agent Bud Gregg in Mandeville hoisted a political sign referencing Barack Obama and made a big splash across the Internet, 'supposedly' the Mikkelsons claim to have researched this issue before posting their findings on snopes.com. In their statement they claimed the corporate office of State Farm pressured Gregg into taking down the sign, when in fact nothing of the sort 'ever' took place.

I personally contacted David Mikkelson (and he replied back to me) thinking he would want to get to the bottom of this and I gave him Bud Gregg's contact phone numbers - and Bud was going to give him phone numbers to the big exec's at State Farm in Illinois who would have been willing to speak with him about it. He never called Bud. In fact, I learned from Bud Gregg no one from snopes.com ever contacted anyone with State Farm. Yet, snopes.com issued a statement as the 'final factual word' on the issue as if they did all their homework and got to the bottom of things - not!

(The bolding is from the original… bluz)Then it has been learned the Mikkelsons are Jewish - very Democrat (party) and extremely liberal. As we all now know from this presidential election, liberals have a purpose agenda to discredit anything that appears to be conservative. There has been much criticism lately over the Internet with people pointing out that the Mikkelsons' liberalism is revealing itself in their web site findings. Gee, what a shock?
So, I say this now to everyone who goes to
www.snopes.com to get what they think to be the bottom line facts...proceed with caution. Take what it says at face value and nothing more. Use it only to lead you to their references where you can link to and read the sources for yourself. Plus, you can always Google a subject and do the research yourself. It now seems
apparent that's all the Mikkelson do. After all, I can personally vouch from my own experience for their 'not' fully looking into things.

[Check out the Wikipedia page for yourself: Snopes - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

OK, here’s what I have to say about that.

Yes, the Mikkelson's are a small-time operation, no question about that. One doesn’t need to be formally trained in anything in order to do some legwork and make some phone calls. And if, as they quote, they have been doing this for 13 years, that sounds pretty experienced to me.

Now look at the 3 main areas presented here:

1) The State Farm case: If this is not just another fabrication, I suspect this was too small-time an event to elicit real activity and research. The Mikkelsons get a ton of items to research; this might not have been a big enough deal. I just searched Snopes using the words "State Farm Obama" and there were no matches. I doubt whoever wrote this ever actually looked on Snopes. He's also taking his agent's word verbatim. The agent has a dog in this fight, and may not have reason to be completely truthful.

2) Mikkelsons are Jewish: I want to look at the big bolded paragraph line by line, because there is too much bullshit there to cover in a summary.

Then it has been learned the Mikkelsons are Jewish - very Democrat (party) and extremely liberal.
First of all, who says? I’ll be the first to say that I have no idea if they’re Jewish or not. Is there some kind of proof, or are they just Jewish the way President Obama is Muslim… because a bunch of idiot keep saying that they are? The kicker is that the question of whether they are Jewish or not really doesn’t matter. This is lazy bigotry at it's best. Because they may be Jewish they're automatically raging Liberals and incapable of researching Internet claims in an unbiased manner? That's just faulty logic wrapped in prejudice, much like so many of the right-wing screeds that Snopes debunks.
Again, if the writer had ever actually used Snopes, he's see that the also debunk misinformation targeting the conservatives. If they were so biased, why would they bother to do that? The Mikkelson's actually research these things... they call the police stations, the newspapers, the town officials, and they reproduce public records and leave references. How much verification do you ever see in the original smears?
As we all now know from this presidential election, liberals have a purpose agenda to discredit anything that appears to be conservative.
Excuse me, but NO SHIT, SHERLOCK! In an election year especially, liberals try to discredit conservatives and conservatives try to discredit liberals. This proves absolutely nothing, other than the writer is unable to come up with a viable argument. A “purpose agenda?” What the hell does that even mean? I guess you could say that every agenda has a purpose, or else it wouldn’t be an agenda. It kills me how people just throw a couple words together and pretend it makes sense.
There has been much criticism lately over the Internet with people pointing out that the Mikkelsons' liberalism is revealing itself in their web site findings. Gee, what a shock?

Otherwise known as the Fox News tactic: have all your stations and commentators repeat some ridiculous tidbit and then report that said tidbit is all over the news. This sentence means only one thing: people may be complaining about the Mikkelson’s “liberalism”. You can find people on the Internet complaining about any number of hair-brained things… It has no bearing on whether it is truthful or valid. Yes, “Gee what a shock”, as in “Gee, I can’t believe that conservatives are complaining when their ill-conceived slurs are exposed for what they are.”

3) Wikipedia says so: Shows the complete lack of knowledge of what Wikipedia is. Anyone with an agenda can go on Wikipedia and enter some unsubstantiated bit of gossip. It is a user-generated system. Anyone can post on any topic, truthfully or not. Often times, users that know better can go back and change or delete the information. No one with any sense uses Wikipedia as an absolute source on anything, other than as a pool of opinions. The very thing that makes it great, being generated entirely by “the people”, is also its greatest weakness.

That said; I just went to the
Wikipedia page on Snopes to see exactly what they “got to the bottom of”. In short, nothing: just a brief history of the website, what it is that they do, and who relies on them. What this tells me is that the use of Wikipedia in this rant is just so much window dressing. The writer takes a banal factoid cited by a source he considers reputable and then adds his own conclusions. The continued citing of the reference is nothing but an attempt to confuse the reader into thinking that the reference is the source of the conclusion. And they pray to God that no one actually looks it up for themselves, or else the whole house of cards falls to the ground.

Closing ArgumentsIn my opinion, this whole article is just an attempt to smear an organization that has proven adept as ferreting out other biased, exaggerated and untruthful charges so often levied by the right. It's what they do... discredit the messenger. It's Rovian politics at its best. Feel free to pass this on to anyone that has seen the original email.

Of course, then they'd just try to discredit me.
_________________________________________________________

Epilogue
OK, that was going to be the end of this post, but before publishing just for giggles, I did a Google search using “Bud Gregg” and “State Farm”. I assure you that every word above that line was written before I saw these web pages. If only I’d looked this up before spending 2 hours of my Saturday morning on this subject.

First up was Snopes’ posting itself on the whole sign issue, which basically shows the original brouhaha. (OK, I was wrong, they did post the item, but they must not have tagged it with the words I used to search for it.) In a 2008 update, they address the email in question:

“An email circulated in October 2008 falsely claimed that we contacted neither Bud Gregg nor State Farm about this subject. FactCheck.org has verified that the email is false.”
There was a link provided to the page in question on FactCheck.org and I clicked it to find not only a thorough debunking of this particular email but example upon example of the Mikkelson’s diligence in debunking internet rumors, regardless of ideology.

So don’t just take my word for it. Look for yourselves. It’s exactly what the ideologues don’t want you to do. And that goes for the next preposterous email you receive, too, regardless of ideological bent. If Snopes or FactCheck say it's true, that's Word. That's Church. That's da fact, Jack!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for giving up your Saturday morning, Diet Coke and all. (At least you weren't having Pop Tarts).
    Your rebuttal went to the Rovian who sent the email. He thinks you take after me, smart and good looking too.
    Thanks with love, lil Mom

    ReplyDelete

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