In recent years we've seen a proliferation of self-appointed "fact check" websites. All claim to be selfless, impartial, politically neutral bastions of accuracy whose only concern is battling fake news.
A closer look at these organizations, however, tends to show the exact opposite. In this article, we'll take a long, hard look at the highly dysfunctional outfit known as Snopes, one of the oldest and best-known fact check sites.
Snopes began life as a novel website 'debunking' urban legends, and in its early days had more in common with the popular TV show Mythbusters than sites like FactCheck.org or PolitiFact. But over the years, Snopes became increasingly political. As with most of its 'fact checking' brethren, that increasingly political stance has been a distinctly left-leaning one.
Snopes bills itself as "the internet’s definitive fact-checking resource." The self-proclaimed debunking site was founded by husband-and-wife team Barbara and David Mikkelson, who used a letterhead claiming they were a non-existent society to start their research. They are now divorced, with Barbara claiming in legal filings her ex-husband embezzled $98,000 of company money and spent it on "himself and prostitutes."
Meanwhile, David's new wife Elyssa Young is employed by the website as an administrator. She has previously worked as an escort and porn actress.
Until 2018, Snopes.com main 'fact checker' was Kimberly LaCapria, whose blog 'ViceVixen' – according to the Daily Mail - proclaimed she had posted on Snopes.com while smoking pot.
She also proudly declared she was in touch with her "domme side" (for those of you who grew up in more proper times, "domme" is short for dominatrix ... you know, a woman who dresses up in black leather and chains and, uh ... never mind).
Last year I tried searching for LaCapria’s blog to verify these comments, but it seems it has since been removed. The first obvious port of call, ViceVixen.com, retrieved a Japanese-language site containing pictures you definitely don’t want your kids to see. LaCapria's current bio, still posted at at Snopes despite her departure in 2018, states that, "When not working, she enjoys air hockey, jjimjilbangs, and casual mermaiding".
Look, I try not to judge, and I'm sure there are environments in which the ability to dress up like Catwoman's shady sister and spank pathetic men on their keesters with a leather paddle is a highly prized skill. But fact checking is not (or definitely should not be) one of them. Fact checking, if to it is to be performed effectively and in good faith, requires ruthless impartiality and an unwavering commitment to the facts. LaCapria and her former colleagues at Snopes fail dismally on both counts.
Before writing for Snopes, LaCapria wrote for Inquisitr, a left-leaning blog billed as general topic but dominated by entertainment and celebrity gossip.
While at Inquisitr, the future “fact checker” described herself as “openly left-leaning” and a liberal.
She derided the Tea Party as “teahadists.”
"Dunham," claimed LaCapria, "addresses with candor and a casual tone the very aspects of female agency the GOP wishes to suppress, hates with the smallest fibers of their being, and ultimately fears will contaminate their females."
Kim, did you even watch the ad? It features a boyish-looking girl who, for 58 excruciatingly long seconds, talks about voting as if it were sex. I've done both, and trust me, there is no comparison. Well, at least when the latter is with alluring women possessing genuine "female agency." As for tattooed leftists who look like guys and who think a creepy liar like Obama is "gorgeous" ... ugh ... I'd rather go vote.
To sum up, Snopes is run by a guy who patronizes prostitutes and his ex-porn actress/prostitute partner. Meanwhile, its primary fact checker between 2014 and 2018 was someone who smoked pot while on the job and was so left she made left jealous.
The Facebook Farce
Until 2019, Snopes acted as a fact checker for that bastion of hypocracy and privacy invasion, Facebook. Then things went sour. Upon ending its deal with Farcebook, Snopes said it it was "evaluating the ramifications and costs of providing third-party fact-checking services."
Snopes further claimed it agreed to partner with Facebook "without financial benefit to ourselves," even though the deal reportedly earned Snopes around $100,000 annually.
In 2018, current and former fact-checkers - including LaCapria - told The Guardian that Facebook was the problem.
Former Snopes writer Brooke Binkowski said that on at least one occasion, it appeared Facebook was pushing writers to prioritize debunking misinformation that affected Facebook advertisers, which she thought crossed a line: “You’re not doing journalism any more. You’re doing propaganda.”
But propaganda, as you're about to learn, is a Snopes specialty. It seems for writers like Binkowski, propaganda is perfectly fine when it originates from the left.
LaCapria, who is now working with Binkowski on her new site TruthorFiction.com, said it became difficult to report on Facebook at Snopes due to the financial arrangement: “We knew that if anything involved Facebook it was at risk of being compromised.”
Right. Just like Snopes was compromised by LaCapria's rabdily pro-left bias and her penchant for smoking whacky weed while on the job.
Did Snopes really instigate the split? Or did the already scandal-plagued Facebook consider the increasingly controversial Snopes a liability? Or did disgruntlement on both sides lead to a mutual split?
We may never know. What we can say for sure is that not only was there controversy surrounding the people behind Snopes, the site also has a penchant for creating misinformation - the very thing it claims to be fighting.
In March 2018, Snopes labeled a story by Christian satire site Babylon Bee “false” after the latter published an Onion-style article about CNN buying washing machines to “spin the news.”
Despite the article clearly being a send-up, Facebook wrote Babylon Bee complaining that "A page you ... recently posted the link (CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine to Spin News Before Publication) ... contains info disputed by (Snopes.com), an independent fact checker,” and threatened to penalize the site. “Repeat offenders will see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertised removed.”
At no point did it occur to the geniuses at Snopes or Facebook that the clearly satirical article was ... a clearly satirical article.
Before I discuss the next example of Snopes' penchant for blatant bollockery, I should mention that, as the son of immigrants and as a volunteer that assists migrants, I am in no way anti-immigration. However, I do not believe in fudging facts for some allegedly greater good, and if I feel the need to call out anti-immigrant BS, I'll do it without resorting to BS myself. The way I see it, lying for the cause ultimately serves to undermine the cause, because people will come to view your cause as so flimsy it requires dishonesty to uphold.
This is yet another way in which I clearly differ from the fact fudgers at Snopes. In June 2018, a Time Magazine cover caused a storm of controversy when it depicted a smirking Donald Trump towering over a crying immigrant girl. The image was extracted from a photo of 2 year old Honduran girl Yanela Sanchez, snapped during a border search in Texas.
The photo was circulated right around the time the separation of children from their parents at the border became - quite rightly - a hot-button issue. Time - which has a long history of sensationalism despite its upmarket pretensions - promoted the cover as "A reckoning after Trump's border separation policy."
"What kind of country are we?" asked the sanctimonious magazine.
Well, it turns out the US is the kind of country where duplicitous media outlets like Time can mislead the public without suffering any real repercussions. The magazine and many of its leftist ilk used the image of frightened, crying Yanela to decry Trump and his questionable border policies.
But there was a wee problem.
Yanela was never separated from her mother. Yanela's father told multiple media outlets that mother and daughter were detained together while seeking asylum in Texas. Border Patrol agent Carlos Ruiz backed this account in an interview with CBS News. He said that when he encountered 32-year-old Sandra Maria Sanchez after her illegal crossing, he detained her for a search — but asked her to set her daughter down before doing so.
"So the kid immediately started crying as she set her down," Ruiz told the network. "I personally went up to the mother and asked her, 'Are you doing OK? Is the kid OK?' and she said, 'Yes. She's tired and thirsty. It's 11 o'clock at night.'"
"They're using it to symbolize a policy, and that was not the case in this picture," he added. "It took less than two minutes. As soon as the search was finished, she immediately picked the girl up, and the girl immediately stopped crying."
Bottom line: The mainstream media was caught, yet again, exaggerating and sensationalizing a story, distorting it into something it was not.
And so along came Snopes, to try and clean up the damage caused by its leftist comrades in the mainstream media.
In an egregious display of bollockery, Snopes denied that media outlets reported Yanela was separated from her mother. Here's a screenshot of the original Snopes fact fudge, by LaCapria:
Time made no effort whatsoever to explain Yanela had not been separated from her mother. In contrast, it deliberately allowed the opposite impression to fester and spread around the globe. Check out this muck-raking cover by the trashy New York Daily News:
Time had the opportunity to set the record straight when it published an article about the cover a few days later, but did not. Instead, it further fomented the impression that mom and daughter had been separated.
Time asked the photographer for his reaction "to the scene of a two-year-old Honduran girl crying as her mother was being detained in McAllen, Texas."
Time could have easily explained both mother and daughter were being detained together, but of course that would have spoiled the raging, sensationalist bonfire it had started.
A few days later, Time's chief editor, Edward Felsenthal, finally acknowledged the youngster had not been separated from her mom. But he defended the magazine's fake news approach, telling CNN the image "symbolized this moment in America."
"We chose the photo because this little girl became the face of this story on front pages and home pages and TV screens and Facebook feeds," he said.
CNN anchor Brian Stelter suggested to Felsenthal that perhaps the image of the Honduran girl "shouldn't have been the face of this story if she wasn't separated from her mom."
Felsenthal replied: "None of us in the media who used the photo knew what had happened to the girl after this precise moment. And I actually think part of the power of the image is that unknown."
In other words, Felsenthal and his underlings at Time felt it perfectly OK to mislead people for the good of the cause.
The reality is that Time, Snopes and their truth-twisting ilk have hurt the cause. People don't like being duped. And any skepticism people might have harboured about the plight of desperate immigrants was in all likelihood hardened when they learned Time and its ilk had pulled a sensationalist swifty.
Incredibly, Snopes is still hanging in there, refusing to admit it screwed the pooch in its so-called fact check on the story. With LaCapria gone, the post is now attributed to David Emery, who has since changed its "Mostly False" rating of stories correctly noting the Time story was a beat-up. The alleged veracity of these stories is now given a "Mixed" rating by the revisionist Snopes. This "Mixed" rating is upheld by a new "What's False" section which now states "We found no evidence that any news outlets knowingly or intentionally misled the public about the context of the photograph." (Bold emphasis added)
But as we have just seen, even that watered down version of events is not true. Time happily let the false impression fester, because the photo of little Yanela "became the face of this story" and proved to be great attention-generating material "on front pages and home pages and TV screens and Facebook feeds."
Time even posted a grudging correction admitting it gave a false version of events: "The original version of this story misstated what happened to the girl in the photo after she taken from the scene. The girl was not carried away screaming by U.S. Border Patrol agents; her mother picked her up and the two were taken away together." (Bold emphasis added)
When is a Registered Democrat Not a Democrat? When He's a Registered Democrat, Silly!
By 2014, Kim LaCapria had left Inquisitr and was working for Snopes. Two years later, Omar Mateen went on a shooting spree at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others.
Mateen was a registered Democrat. Given that gun control is a liberal cause célèbre, this clearly made the likes of LaCapria feel uncomfortable. And so the irrepressible casual mermaid set about creating a more palatable narrative.
"What that lone fact means is the subject of a good deal of speculation," wrote the rambling revisionist, "with possibilities ranging from Mateen’s being a supporter of Democratic ideology to his simply having chosen a random political affiliation when he initially registered."
What that lone fact means, Kim, is that Omar Mateen was a registered Democrat. Period. If he was a registered "gun-toting" Republican, you would have been all over that lone fact like a fly on poo, wouldn't you?
When is a $12,495 Armani Jacket Not a $12,495 Armani Jacket? When it's a a $12,495 Armani Jacket, Silly!
LaCapria's hopelessly biased political disposition again shone through in a post dealing with the claim "Hillary Clinton purchased a $12,000 Giorgio Armani jacket to deliver a speech about income inequality."
In her so-called fact check, LaCapria admitted "It’s true that the jacket was from Giorgio Armani’s collection and bore a list price of $12,495."
So what, then, was the problem with the claim if it was in fact true?
"But on 8 June 2016," LaCapria added, "the jacket’s actual retail price was $7,497, and the jacket can now be had for about one-third of that list price."
LaCapria's article was posted 8 June 2016, which makes one wonder why Armani was pricing the jacket at $7,497 and $2,497 the very same day?
Did they meet at lunch and decide to drop the price $5,000 beginning that same afternoon?
Or was LaCapria smoking some more of her beloved "whacko tobacco" when she came up with those figures?
The rest of her article suggests the latter. She belittles the claim that Clinton's speech addressed income equality, insisting the words “income inequality” didn’t appear a single time during her speech.
No, but that speech did contain the assertion that Clinton and her campaign were "raising wages and reducing inequality, making sure all our kids get a good education no matter what zip code they live in, building ladders of opportunity and empowerment so all of our people can go as far as their hard work and talent will take them."
Quite a remarkable feat, considering she had yet to be elected (and, of course, never was).
Clinton also attacked Trump and Cruz during her speech for "opposing any increase in the minimum wage." Really playing up her champion-of-the-poor schtick, Clinton mentioned Maxine, "a 27-year-old single mom from Staten Island who's here tonight. She shared with me how she her way out of poverty, graduated from college." She then called out for "Mikey, from Stuyvesant Town ... is Mikey here?"
"Well, I'll tell you," continued Clinton, undaunted. "Mikey spent six months in Rikers for a low-level drug offense, and he found out how hard it is for people who've done their time to find jobs when they get out."
The point of the stories highlighting Clinton's expensive Armani jacket was to underscore the sheer hypocrisy of a woman who claims to be "everywoman," who professes to represent the underpriveliged, when she wouldn't have the slightest damn clue what it's like to be an everyday woman or to wonder where your next meal is coming from. While we don't know how much Clinton actually paid for her jacket, the possibility she may have scored it for a discounted $7,497, or the bargain basement blowout price of $2,497, or even received it free from a favour-seeking donor, is of little consolation to someone struggling to buy their kid a $20 jacket from Target!
How many $2,497 items of clothing does LaCapria think Maxine the single mom or Mikey from Stuyvesant own? And would either of them, in their wildest dreams, be able to spend $200,000 on the current season's wardrobe? That's the amount Patsy Cisneros, a political image consultant, said Clinton likely spent on new clothes to wear on her 2016 campaign trail.
These are questions LaCapria avoided answering, because she was too busy bending over backwards to defend her elitist hero. But for all her mental contortionism, LaCapria failed to debunk the main contention of the articles she claimed to be debunking. Namely, that it's pretty damn precious to grandstand as a champion of the poor while wearing obscenely expensive designer clothes. At around $200,000, Clinton's campaign wardrobe equates to thirteen years of wages for a full time worker on the US minimum wage!
When the best you can do in your attempt to debunk the claim a jacket cost $12,495 is to confirm it retails for $12,495, then your skills as a fact checker are clearly lacking. When you cite a discounted price for that jacket that is still well beyond the average person's reach as proof that Clinton is not an out-of-touch elitist, then your pro-liberal bias is so strong as to be blinding.
Little wonder that Snopes is now on a downward trajectory. While its articles still feature prominently in web search results on contentious topics (perhaps due to the similar political leanings of Big Tech), the unflattering revelations have taken its toll. Even in today's anything-goes culture, a lot of people don't want their facts delivered by people who allegedly spend company money on prostitutes. They don't want their checks on fake news conducted by people who once made their living having fake sex, nor do they want their intelligence insulted by the highly twisted logic of pot-smoking femdoms.
Compounding its woes, Snopes is now engaged in a money-draining legal battle with "a company that once provided services to Snopes," and is pleading for donations on GoFundMe (incredibly, 44,200 terribly gullible donors have donated a hefty US $1,658,260 thus far).
Mikkelson claims the legal "drama" began when Snopes "lawfully canceled a very lucrative web development and advertising management contract" with the company back in 2017. In Mikkelson's version of events, Snopes is the innocent victim and the other company is the "bully." His pleas for money contain very little in the way of factual information, so without hearing the other party's story it's hard to ascertain what really transpired. One interesting revelation occurs when Mikkelson complains "some of the owners of this vendor company acquired shares of Snopes. That’s right – they hold shares and sit on the Snopes Board of Directors."
Mikelson continues, "our position is that they did not acquire their shares legitimately and are not rightful members of the Board of Directors."
So how, then, did they come to own the shares and embed themselves as directors of a company run by Mikkelson and his partner? Snopes is a private company controlled by Mikkelson, yet his version of events makes it sound as if his adversaries acquired shares and slipped on to the board of directors unnoticed?
Barbara Mikkelson's claims that her ex-husband recklessly mismanaged Snopes are suddenly looking a lot more credible.
As Snopes succeeds in discrediting itself more than it does the targets of its fact checks, and spends more of its resources on legal battles, other fact check websites have risen to the fore. Not because they are any more credible, but because they have some very wealthy and influential backers. Foremost among these are PolitiFact and FactCheck.org.
I'll discuss these oligarch-backed propaganda sites in a future article. In the meantime, the Snopes story underscores why people should learn to be their own fact checkers.
Post updated 12 April 2021.
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