We Are the Snopeheads

I have a bad habit of getting into Twitter spats with purveyors of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience and general nonsense. Last week, I stumbled on a tweet pushing the discredited bit of “news” that President Obama had threatened treason charges and arrest against 14 state governors who had formed “State Defense Forces” that would allow them to create their own armies and take control of the country. The post, linked from notorious hub of weaponized crap Before It’s News, opined “and why isn’t this in the news?”

To which I tweeted back “because it never happened.” The story doesn’t have any compelling evidence to support it. It doesn’t even have any un-compelling evidence to support it. It’s just made up. It never happened. And to “prove” it, I attached a link to the corresponding entry on Snopes.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to do this. I mean, if you really believe that President Obama threatened over a quarter of America’s governors with treason charges, and it never made the news, a link from Snopes won’t change your mind. But I did it and went about my day. The response I got back was something I’d never seen before, but fit in perfectly with a small segment’s view of Snopes as a wretched hive of scum and bias.

There was no text, only a picture of a woman rolling her eyes with her mouth hanging wide open against a goofy blue and white background, with the following written under it [sic]:

Snopehead: noun \ˈsnōp – hed \
1: A person or a liberal that believes snopes.com is an actual fact-checking site.
2: A person or a liberal that either isn’t aware that snopes.com is privately funded by Marxist billionaire, media mogul & Obama crony George Soros, or does know, yet elects ignorance anyway.
3: A person or a liberal which uses the term “debunked” when referring to snopes.com, despite the fact that snopes.com was debunked in 2011. This type is also sometimes referred to as the “most annoying human being in existence.”

Well, then.

The picture I was sent.

The picture I was sent.

Some of this is obviously nonsense designed to provoke argument, but there are some very real nuggets of conspiracy here. Skeptoid blogger Eric Hall wrote an excellent piece shooting down the idea of Snopes’ perceived liberal bias, so I won’t rehash that here, other than to say it doesn’t appear to be true, based on a close reading of the site. All of the evidence says that the site’s owners, David and Barbara Mikkelson, go about their work in as unbiased and neutral a way as they can.

But to those who see bias, the bias is there. So is Snopes really owned by George Soros? Was it debunked? Does it not actually check facts? And more importantly, do people who would normally trust it turn away from the site because of these accusations? And am I a Snopehead??

Let’s dive in and address these points one by one. There are only three, so it won’t take long.

1: A person or a liberal that believes snopes.com is an actual fact-checking site.

First, let’s ignore the idiocy that liberals aren’t actually people. It’s just trolling. The key word in the sentence is “facts.” Checking facts is exactly what Snopes does. Facts have no political biases or leanings. They can be spun any number of ways, but in the end, they’re either true or not true. Something like the story of President Obama rounding up 14 governors either happened or didn’t happen, regardless of whether one thinks Snopes is biased.

If Alex Jones or Glenn Beck told me there’s no conclusive evidence that shape-shifting lizards run the world, it would have as much veracity as it would if the most august skeptics told me so. Likewise, if Michael Shermer or James Randi wrote that fracking unleashes psychic energy waves that cause GMO corn to turn toxic, I’d have a pretty hard time trusting them without a lot of solid research to back it up.

Obviously, the track record of a source matters. And there are sources I’m inclined to trust and sources I’m inclined to run screaming from. But whether or not a hypothesis is actually true only depends on whether the research proving or disproving the hypothesis has been done correctly, not on the political views of who did it.

2: A person or a liberal that either isn’t aware that snopes.com is privately funded by Marxist billionaire, media mogul & Obama crony, George Soros or does know, yet elects ignorance anyway.

This is a perfect example of something that’s either true or not true, no matter the source. As a bit of background, George Soros is a Hungarian-American investor and philanthropist who has donated considerable money to left-leaning causes. He is certainly a billionaire, though whether he is a Marxist is both debatable and irrelevant to this discussion.

The rumor about Soros owning part or all of Snopes seems to have originated in May 2010, on Glenn Beck’s radio show. I don’t know where Beck got it from, but now it’s accepted as fact by those with an axe to grind against the site. The Mikkelsons have consistently denied that either Soros or anyone else owns any part of the site, and claim that all of their revenue comes from advertising. Soros has never claimed to own Snopes, and nobody has uncovered any compelling evidence that he or any other politically-leaning organization does.

Of course, we can’t completely discount the idea. Maybe there’s evidence out there and it’s just really well hidden. Maybe the Mikkelsons are lying. Beck being the source of the claim doesn’t automatically invalidate it, but the total lack of proof behind it just might. Remember, it’s up to the people making the claim to prove the claim is true, not the other way around. Until they do, it can’t be accepted as fact.

3: A person or a liberal which uses the term “debunked” when referring to snopes.com, despite the fact that snopes.com was debunked in 2011. This type is also sometimes referred to as the “most annoying human being in existence.”

At first glance, this appears to be a reference to the “Snopes got snoped” meme that Eric wrote about in his blog piece. Again, he goes into great detail about the claim that Snopes was caught in a lie, why it’s false and the fringe beliefs behind the person who wrote the post. But the original “Snopes got snoped” post from “worldtruth.tv” is from early 2013, not 2011. I did find a ludicrously complicated conspiracy theory involving the site’s research about a claim that President Obama lent $2 billion to a Brazilian oil company owned by George Soros. But this is hardly a debunking of Snopes so much as it is an incoherent rant about Soros. And it’s from 2010. So I have no idea what the “2011 debunking” is supposed to refer to.

As for the idea of Snopes actually being “debunked”, it’s all too easy to accuse someone of being biased or wrong when you don’t like what they have to say. We see this time and time again in skepticism and science, with everything from GMO’s and vaccines to UFO’s and conspiracy theories. Those we agree with are right, even if they’re obviously not. And those we don’t agree with are wrong, bought off, haven’t “done their research” or are just lying. The facts stop being important, and only the ideology remains.

Obviously, nobody who does fact-based research and writing gets it 100% right 100% of the time. This includes the Mikkelsons. But overall, Snopes’ track record of determining what’s factual and what’s not, and of being honest when they don’t know, is basically as dependable as it gets. They seek out facts, and facts aren’t biased. So if believing in the work of Snopes makes me a Snopehead, then a Snopehead I am.

About Mike Rothschild

Mike Rothschild is a writer and editor based in Pasadena. He writes about scams, conspiracy theories, hoaxes and pop culture fads. He's also a playwright and screenwriter. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rothschildmd.
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42 Responses to We Are the Snopeheads

  1. Julian says:

    It’s a textbook play by the right to attempt to discredit sources that are counter to their ideology (see climate change, evolution, women’s health and rights, LGBT rights, et al).

    • Erin says:

      It isn’t right or left, it’s people. You’ll find lies on both sides.

      • Julian says:

        My experience is that you’ll generally find more dishonesty on the right, however. You’re right that there are lies on the both sides, but “radical conservatism” has a special brand of dishonesty that’s just hard to deny.

        • Chris C. says:

          Not really. The left is just as bad. The half-truths, misleads, and out right fabrications in the gun debate alone are legion.

        • Clyde says:

          My experience runs to the opposite of Julian’s that being the left is generally more dishonest. Furthermore the terms radical, and conservative, are anathema. That being said I find Snopes to be credible.

        • Julian says:

          There is no way we can reasonably settle “which side lies more” in this forum, which means we’ll have to simply harbor our own opinions on the matter. More often then not, I’m sure, we’ll find intellectual dishonesty on both sides of a hot political issue.

          My opinion comes from popular memes such as 911 truthers, birthers, “America was founded as a christian nation” proponents, Global Warming, Global Warming (had to be said twice, because the conservative right consistently plugs their ears, squeezes their eyes shut, and screams “Can’t hear you” when the science is trotted out for them to look at), Obamacare, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorism, More Guns = Less Gun Violence (impossibly), etc.

          Having people like Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O’Reilly as your media champions doesn’t help the situation.

        • ALD says:

          Such as Bill Clinton’s sex scandal(s) or HRC’s emails…and right to our faces also. Where is HRC and Bill in all this #MeToo movement?

  2. SnopeseponS says:

    Well you’re obviously just a Rothschild billionaire intent on weaving a web of liberal lies in an attempt to promote your Marxist agenda of vaccines and GMO’s while ignoring the FACTS that reptilian people have taken up every position of power within the government and are here to steal all the water from the AMERICAN PEOPLE. GO BACK TO YOUR OWN PLANET “ROTHSCHILD” or should I say LURR FROM THE PLANET OMICRON PERSEI 8.

  3. Blaze says:

    Count me in! I’d rather stand with the “snopeheads” than with the sort of “sh*theads” that believes a three point list like that!

  4. Freke1 says:

    When Your president can arrest anybody in the world (incl. me) without charges and detain them indefinitely without a court process why is it that You find everything about conspiracies etc. so obvious false? Take a skeptical look at Your own country, the food, the corporate lobbying, the money printing, the UFO coverups, the trickle up of money, the planetary disaster Your country is the major cause of, the CIA coup against democratic elected people, Iran-contra. I do the same with EU – Our western lifestyles are under “attack”/pressure from the corporate-political elite who seems to want to feed us unhealthy junk food made by low wage labour while pushing us into more debt and consumerism so we don’t protest when they take away Our liberty/civil rights.
    I guess You don’t see it that way though 😉
    (it probably takes 20+ docu’s like “Inside job” and many fx. Chris Martenson interviews to reach such conclusions so You are excused my friend!)

    • Richard says:

      COMMUNIST!^^^^^

    • Eric Hall says:

      Yes, the NDAA is scary in its power to arrest anyone under its powers. That doesn’t mean that every conspiracy is true. Like saying because my city changed its calender parking ordinance, the moon landing must be fake – Non sequitur

    • Robrob says:

      “the UFO coverups”

      Um, yeah. About that…

      • Grey says:

        Coverups lol, even the mainstream media promotes this farce! Yup two over the hill hippies working alone out of thier basement are a lbitards definitive authority. You wacko’s crack me up!

    • Frederick says:

      Talk about off topic. Do you have the right article? The article you’re commenting on is about the reliability of Snopes.com. It’s not about the government.

  5. Groin says:

    The person above me’s real name is Poe.

  6. I HOPE it’s a joke. Otherwise we’ve been totally found out…

  7. Susan Savarise says:

    Ten gods cannot change the opinion of one fool, especially if another fool agrees with him.
    ABRAHAM MILLER, Unmoral Maxims

  8. Tony Warmus says:

    Please keep doing what you’re doing! We need more people like you countering all the ignorant people out there.

  9. Robrob says:

    “14 state governors who had formed “State Defense Forces” that would allow them to create their own armies and take control of the country.”

    A myth made even more ridiculous when you realize the Governor of every state *already* has their own army and air force – the Army National Guard.and Air National Guard. Complete with tanks and jet fighters. What would they need with a “State Defense Force?”

    • Paul C says:

      The difference is that National Guard units can be called upon by the federal government, whereas State Defense Forces are legally barred from serving the federal government and instead answer to the Governor of their state.

    • JustAnotherLurkingSkepTick says:

      The thing that really leaped at me was the “… create their own armies and TAKE CONTROL OF THE COUNTRY.” bit, which sounds a whole lot like revolution to me. Call me crazy, but I’d find it perfectly reasonable (if perhaps ethically questionable) for any government that wishes to remain in governance, to arrest people they suspect of planning a coup.
      Not to imply that there’s anything to these wild claims, but, you know, even if there were, detaining suspected “rebel scum” to prevent civil war doesn’t exactly make you Emperor Palpatine.

  10. Kurt says:

    But you forgot about the book of derp, which states that derp can derp his slaves as long as they live a life of derp. It’s all very unscientific and full of derpage. To conclude this message, religion is dying faster than the hungry children in Africa.

  11. RevAllyson says:

    Snopes is occasionally wrong, but usually pretty quick to own up about it. I tend to check two or three “fact check” sites on anything that I’m not absolutely sure of. Snopes is always the first, though, with a great track record. FactCheck.org is not bad, either. When they agree, there’s a good chance that their “debunk” is correct. 🙂

    That said, everyone can be wrong sometimes. Who knows, maybe there really is a huge conspiracy that we’re in. I’m prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse, whatever that might be, simply because it’s the right thing to do (you know, growing and canning your own food like Grandma used to do). I’m not afraid, just money conscious.

    By the by, I’m one of those conservative types. *grin* Can’t you see my horns?

  12. Based on this article alone, I think I am in love with you, Mr. Rothschild!

  13. Brian says:

    I seem to recall someone saying “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” If he were still alive I suppose he would be a Snopehead as well.

  14. ClamPeople says:

    I cannot, with any sense of credibility, take seriously any blog that conflates Glenn Beck with Alex Jones. The simple fact that Beck routinely takes Jones to the woodshed on his blatant lies, misinformation, and deranged stupidity should eliminate any comparison between the two.

    That said, does anyone seriously think that the modern skeptical movement DOESN’T have a overriding leftist bias?

    NOT LIBERAL. LEFTIST. DO THE RESEARCH.

    (I did. I don’t need to do your homework for you.)

    • Frederick Eason says:

      “The simple fact that Beck routinely takes Jones to the woodshed on his blatant lies, misinformation, and deranged stupidity should eliminate any comparison between the two.”

      I guess that means you can’t compare Mark Dice to Alex Jones either, since Mark Dice routinely debunks Alex Jones as well.

    • I wasn’t conflating them, though they have numerous similarities.

  15. MOEHOWEIRD the profit says:

    Glenn Beck,Fox News,Alex Jones,Micheal wiener Savage and the rest of the low brow right wing pseudo journalists never check the facts and when they are wrong never admit it,they don’t have to…their Brain Dead Anacephalic audience just belive them or surf on over to that bottom dwelling Media giant of truth…WND…TO REAFFIRM and lend credence to the fact that they wouldnt believe. the truth if it came up and bit them in the ASS!!!!!!

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