SATIRE VS. FACT – CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE?

The Septuagenarian Speaks – published September 4, 2019, Siskiyou Daily News

I try to write satire.  Some time ago a friend who reads my column put me onto The Babylon Bee, a free Christian conservative satirical newsletter that comes to my email inbox on a daily basis.  Its tagline is “Fake News You Can Trust.”  When I go through my emails, I go to the Bee first, because its humor lifts my spirits and puts me in a good frame of mind to meet a new day.  Although the Bee holds itself out to be Christian and conservative, it doesn’t hold back from lambasting stupid things Christian and conservative people and organizations say and do, when circumstances call for it.

The Babylon Bee has recently been drawn into a pissing match with none other than Snopes, the venerable website that we have all relied upon to fact-check the onslaught of material bombarding us daily on the internet.  For years I have gone to Snopes to fact-check assertions, often political, promulgated on Facebook and other sources, that turn out simply to be untrue.

But Snopes lost its credibility with me when it began fact-checking the Babylon Bee.  Fact-checking satire?  You have to be kidding.  It would be like fact-checking Mad Magazine.  (Mad, by the way, is now defunct, much to the chagrin of people like me who, as kids, anxiously awaited its monthly arrival at the drugstore magazine rack.)

After being criticized for its attack on the Bee, Snopes should have just raised its hands, apologized, and moved on.  Unfortunately, it didn’t do that.  Instead, it doubled down, criticizing the Bee’s brand of satire, calling it “junk news,” and accusing it of intentionally muddying the details of current events to fool people.  This, notwithstanding that the Bee clearly identifies itself as satire.

Snopes goes on to suggest that the American people need a superior mind like Snopes to protect them from being misled and misinformed by insidious satirists.  They point out, with some truth, that it is becoming more and more difficult to distinguish serious news from satire.  I agree with them on that point.  Here are a couple of examples from this week’s news cycle.  You tell me, fact or satire?

Headline: “Court Orders Idaho To Pay For Sex Offender’s Trans Surgery.”  The story: “Citing constitutional protections against ‘cruel and unusual punishments,’ a panel of three judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the State of Idaho must pay for the male-to-female gender reassignment surgery of an inmate sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing a 15-year old boy.  The cost to the taxpayers will be $20,000- $30,000.”

Headline, from the San Francisco Chronicle: “SF Board of Supervisors Sanitizes Language of Criminal Justice System.”  The story: “The words ‘felon,’ ‘offender,’ addict,’ and ‘juvenile delinquent’ will be banned from official government documents, under a resolution passed unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  For example, a convicted felon released from jail would now be referred to as a ‘justice-involved person,’ or simply a ‘returning resident.’  A ‘juvenile delinquent’ would become a ‘young person with justice system involvement.’  And so on.”  You’d think the SF supes might have other things to do, given that the homeless population in the city now exceeds 8,000, a 17% increase since the last count.

In this day and age, it is sometimes a little hard to distinguish between real news and satire.  Can we as ordinary citizens be trusted to do that?  I’d rather take my chances than have to rely on someone else to explain it to me.

On an entirely different subject.  I’m happy to say that my novel was recently published.  It’s called The Septuagenarian – An R-Rated Thriller.  If you like graphic mindless thrillers, give it a try.  It is available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

Bob Kaster
Yreka, CA

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