Snopes can no longer be trusted

If there is one strategy the left has used to move our country in their direction it’s this: They find institutions that have built up public trust, often over generations, and they take those institutions over, corrupt them, and put them to work on the leftist agenda. It’s happened most notably with academia and the media, but they’ve done it everywhere.

Snopes, the urban legend debunking site, has not been building up credibility for generations, but since 1994 Snopes has been the go-to site for debunking misinformation travelling the internet. Now they seem to be carrying water for the Democratic party. Case in point: the Snopes article on American flags at the Democratic National Convention.

First let it be said, this is a somewhat silly controversy. But never mind that. It’s a question of fact that Snopes weighed in on; let’s see how they handled it. The allegation is that there were no American flags on display at the DNC, and Snopes rated it False. Not “mostly false”, not “mixed”.

You can read the Snopes article here. The thrust of their debunking is two-fold:

  1. A widely circulated image featured Donald Trump on a stage festooned with flags, but those flags weren’t real. They were digitally added in real-time.
  2. Look, there were a bunch of flags at the Democratic convention.

Let’s start with #1. Yes, it appears to be true that Trump’s flags were virtual, not physical. So what? Virtual flags are fine. Moreover, it has no bearing on whether there were flags at the DNC. I guess we’re supposed to think that the DNC had virtual flags too? If so, that would be a strong debunking. But they didn’t. Here is Michelle Obama, the final speaker on the convention’s first night:

All you see is a mottled gray and turquoise background. No flags.

On to #2. The Snopes article has eight photos of the DNC with flag-ish imagery in them. The first two are from a color guard ceremony:

moreflags

That image is from day two, but there was a color guard ceremony on day one as well. So there’s that.

The third image is a guy setting up some flags, and the fourth shows the podium with some flags on the far right:

democratic-national-convention-flags

That’s conclusive, right? No. That image is from the day before the convention opened. (UPDATE: I originally thought the image was from day two, but the Politifact piece I discuss below indicates otherwise.) The flags were gone on day one. Go back and look at first image in the Michelle Obama video. It briefly shows the entire stage and the flags aren’t there. You can skim the entire first day on video; no flags on stage. The flags reappear on day two, after the Democrats faced criticism for not having flags.

Next they have four crowd images:

flags-at-DNC-1024x853

Three of those are not actual flags. (In fact, the two on the left are improper uses of the flag on apparel, but never mind that. I seem to be the last person in America to care about that sort of thing.) But the upper-right is an actual flag. And, if you skim the full-day video, you can occasionally see other flags among the crowd.

Finally, they have a video of Fox News conceding that there are flags on stage. But, again, that’s from day two. (You can tell from the chryon, “roll call vote underway.”)

ASIDE: Bonus points for Snopes taking their Fox News clip from the far-left Media Matters.

Let’s take stock: There were no flags on stage on day one, except during the opening ceremony. On the floor there were a few small flags. (If there was a big one, I haven’t seen it.) On day two the flags appeared, but still pretty subdued.

The controversy seems to have started with a story in the Daily Caller. (ASIDE: Snopes calls them a “right-wing web [site] known as purveyors of misinformation.” Nice.) They mention a few other sources, including a Facebook page, but all of those came after the Daily Caller story.

The Daily Caller story is dated the evening of day one. On day one, the story was true, except for a color guard ceremony and a smattering of flags in the audience. There’s no way you can honestly call that story anything but mostly true.

POSTSCRIPT: When you google “dnc flags”, the first hit is the Snopes page. The second is the Daily Caller story. The third is on a blog called Occupy Democrats. It says largely the same thing as the Snopes page. In fact, almost the whole post is ripped off from the Snopes page. At the end, they conclude:

Flags are so ubiquitous at the DNC that it is not possible that conservative websites made a ‘mistake.’ They created a lie using a minority of DNC images, and they deserve to be held accountable.

“Ubiquitous”? Not remotely. Yes, even on day one you could find a few flags if you looked, but as we’ve seen, they were certainly not ubiquitous.

UPDATE: Snopes is doubling down on this. They’ve posted another article attacking the Daily Caller for claiming there were no flags at the DNC. As we’ve seen, the Daily Caller was largely correct. But that doesn’t stop Snopes from writing this:

The first thing you have to wonder is, was this Daily Caller “reporter” actually “at the Democratic National Convention,” as he implied? Because his entire article was based on two Getty Image news service photographs, one of which wasn’t even taken at the Democratic National Convention. Did this “reporter” not know how to operate a camera (i.e., a cell phone) to snap a few shots of what he supposedly witnessed? Did he have a really crummy seat at the DNC that didn’t afford him a view of the proceedings (in which case he shouldn’t have been writing about the subject at all)? Or is he just incredibly inept at his job?

The tone is surprisingly strident, very unlike the Snopes of old. They also include a picture of a crying baby.

When they get down to business, they make a claim explicitly that they merely insinuated in their first article:

Of course, the Daily Callerdeceptively didn’t mention that their RNC shot captured a digital backdrop displaying images of flags, and not actual physical flags — the very same form of display used at the DNC.

This is absolutely untrue. No, the DNC did not display virtual flags on a digital backdrop. Once again, you can scan the entire first day here. They simply did not use the digital backdrop that way. To be totally clear, when introducing a new session, they did use some bunting (flag-esque imagery) on the digital backdrop, like the image below, but did not use actual flags.

dnc

After stridently attacking the Daily Caller so stridently for its poor reporting, it is ironic that Snopes did not actually go to the video themselves to check this claim.

The rest of the attack piece was similar to the original article, but they did add one element, a tweet purporting to show a flag on day one:

kopack-flag-image

But, again, this is from the color guard ceremony. You can see the color guard if you zoom in (which you have to do to see the flags anyway). The “call to order” on the backdrop is also a clue.

If Snopes’s point is that the DNC had flags on their digital backdrop, they are dead wrong. You can see that by looking at the video. If Snopes’s point is that the flags at color guard ceremony are enough to refute a report of no flags, that would seem very weak for an unqualified “false” rating, but if they want to go with that, they need at least to mention the color guard. To leave it out entirely is simply dishonest.

In all, a very bad performance by Snopes. Getting the facts wrong is pretty bad, since that is Snopes’s entire trade, but it’s the overt malice with which they do so that shows clearly that Snopes has changed.

POSTSCRIPT: The second Snopes article is titled “Daily Caller Throws Another Temper Tantrum After Being Debunked by snopes.com”, but they don’t actually say anything about the supposed temper tantrum. The article is here. It sounds indignant, to be sure, and rightfully so, but it’s nowhere near as strident as the article that Snopes published in response. In substance it says pretty much what I wrote above, but I had it a day earlier.

UPDATE: They’ve added this paragraph to the original story:

In fact, U.S. flags were present on the stage during the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, and photographs captured U.S. flags being set up prior to the start of the convention. Flags at stage left were apparently moved or removed at some point (for reasons unknown), but one or more flags were visible at stage right on Day 1:

There’s good and bad here. Good: they’ve admitted that the flags were on stage for the pledge and the national anthem (i.e., while the color guard was out). Bad: everything else. Photographs capture flags being set up prior to the start of the convention? Show us those photographs. All we see is an undated photo of a man setting up flags exactly where they were placed on day two. Flags were removed for reasons unknown? No, we know the reason: those flags were being carried by the color guard and the color guard left. One or more flags were visible at stage right? Exactly one, and only while the color guard exited to the right.

Look, none of this is hard. Just watch the video.

UPDATE: Snopes also wrote this in their second post:

The flag rumor, as is typical, went through multiple mutations as those who spread it repeatedly shifted the goalposts to try to keep up with the debunkings, moving it from “there are no flags (of any kind) at the DNC” to “there were no flags at the DNC on Day 1” to “there were no actual flags at the DNC on Day 1,” to “there were no actual flags on stage at the DNC on Day 1” to “there were no actual flags on stage at the DNC for the entirety of Day 1” — and, as is also typical, we’ve continually modified our article to keep up with the shifting rumors.

The second post, recall, was the one specifically about the Daily Caller. Did the Daily Caller change its article? I don’t think so. I didn’t keep a copy of the original, but there wasn’t much to change, it was only three sentences. (In fact, Snopes specifically insulted them for how short the report was.) No, here they switch to talking about “the flag rumor” in general. Doubtless that changed, as they tend to do, when people repeat things without reading carefully. But by including a paragraph about the rumor at large, and then going back to the Daily Caller as if nothing had happened, they give the false impression that the Daily Caller shifted its goalposts.

UPDATE: Amazingly, Politifact gets this story pretty much right. There were no flags on stage on day one, apart from the honor guard. They also show some footage of flags on the video screen before the convention opened. (Perhaps that’s what Snopes was thinking of with their talk of virtual flags, which otherwise seems irrelevant.) They also have a picture of physical flags on the right side of the stage the day before the convention opened. It’s interesting that they would have flags during the set-up and not during the first day of the convention itself.

UPDATE POSTSCRIPT: The Politifact image of physical flags on stage is from July 24, the day before the convention. (They say the photo is from the New York Times. I’ve been unable to find it with some persistent googling, but I’m taking their word for it.)

dnc-flags-july-24

This photo is interesting because the flags are in exactly the same place, and draped in exactly the same way, as in the Snopes image above (the one with the oval around flags on the right side of the stage). The flags clearly were not moved between the two photos. This shows that Snopes’s image is from July 24, and not July 26 (i.e., day two) as I previously thought.

 

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2 Responses to Snopes can no longer be trusted

  1. Ron Berg says:

    I’ve recently had a discussion with T Michael on this, who apparently took your article as proof of Snopes lying.

    Below is my response which is in support of Snopes.

    ================================================
    So, T Michael, let’s put this into historical context.

    The Daily Caller puts out a report headlined: No Visible American Flags Present At The Democrat Convention. (dated Monday 7/25/16)

    Google link for: No Visible American Flags Present At The Democrat Convention by The Daily Caller

    The context of the very short DC article was…

    “PHILADELPHIA — The Daily Caller is at the Democratic National Convention Monday and it doesn’t look like there are any American flags.

    The stage is bland and grey, with no red, white or blue present. A thorough look at the crowd present also turns up no American flags.

    The Republican National Convention in Cleveland on the other hand was filled with Americana.”

    Btw, the pic presented by the DC of the RNC convention with flags in the background is a digital presentation on a screen (not ‘physical’ flags).

    Snopes responded to a number of right-wing memes on Facebook making claims that the flag was banned, and even that a Palestinian flag was present in the audience. In addition, several right-wing websites reported that no American flags were present (this included the DC).

    Snopes verdict to ‘American flags were banned from display at the 2016 Democratic National Convention’: False.

    Next, the DC writes another article (on Thursday, 7/28/16) now claiming that Snopes lied. However, in this story they modified their original statement from: no visible flags (which would also include digital representations, since this is what the DC used for the RNC as comparison), to: several flags were briefly displayed during the national anthem and the pledge. And, the stage was devoid of any American flags for the remainder of the day. Since this statement followed “when the color guard left, so did the physical flag”, it is now implied that the DC was simply referring to ‘physical’ flags; a subtle but important change.

    This is what is referred to as ‘deceptive reporting’; and this is why we don’t trust sites like the DC which has a habit of deception and distortion.

    Did Snopes lie? No. Did the DC engage in deceptive reporting? Yes.

    Now, let’s go to the video tape. Obviously, the DC could not hold to their initial claim that no flags were present on day 1 given the C-SPAN video; so they changed their story.

    When viewing the C-SPAN video, I found many instances where the flag was digitially depicted and people in the audience were wearing or holding flags. In addition, there were small flags posted on poles amongst the audience. Below is just a few examples (amongst many).

    Here are the timed locations (after the 35:40 mark)…

    45:04 – digital depictions on the big screens of the American flag

    45:19 – flags on poles in the audience

    46:08 – person wearing a flag scarf

    46:16 – digital depictions on the big screens of the American flag

    1:12:11 – woman wearing an flag hat

    1:12:34 – woman wearing a flag baseball cap

    1:41:24 – digital depictions on the big screens of the American flag

    1:50:28 – women wearing flag apparel (hat, cap, shirt)

    1:59:50 – digital depiction on the side screen of the flag

    2:00:20 – man holding a flag

    2:01:23 – man wearing flag hat

    2:23:57 – onstage props with red-white-blue (stars were in white)

    2:27:19 – physical flags in the audience

    2:57:22 – digital depictions on the big screens of the American flag

    3:47:15 – digital depictions on the big screens of the American flag

    4:01:48 – flag depicted on side screen

    5:00:17 – digital depictions on the big screens of the American flag

    5:15:13 – digital depictions on the big screens of the American flag

    So, what are we left with? The original DC report was completely false regarding no depiction of flags on stage, or flags in the audience.

    The C-SPAN video refutes DC’s original story and Snopes reports there were flags present on the first day.

    “In fact, U.S. flags were present on the stage during the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, and photographs captured U.S. flags being set up prior to the start of the convention. Flags at stage left were apparently moved or removed at some point (for reasons unknown), but one or more flags were visible at stage right on Day 1.”

    (Btw, this gets to your claim of the ‘false tweet’ with a picture showing the flags stage right. Is there any evidence that they were not there the night before or the night of day 1? We don’t know; thus, we can’t make the claim it is false).

    Snopes’ statement complies with the C-SPAN video. Were physical flags removed from the stage after the pledge? Possibly. But this is not what DC first reported.

    The second DC article changes its report to convince its readers (like you, T Michael) that Snopes lied.

    I particularly like the response by Snopes to this second deceptive article by the DC. Particulary this paragraph (which I believe depicts your approach, T Michael).

    “The flag rumor, as is typical, went through multiple mutations as those who spread it repeatedly shifted the goalposts to try to keep up with the debunkings, moving it from “there are no flags (of any kind) at the DNC” to “there were no flags at the DNC on Day 1″ to “there were no actual flags at the DNC on Day 1,” to “there were no actual flags on stage at the DNC on Day 1″ to “there were no actual flags on stage at the DNC for the entirety of Day 1″ — and, as is also typical, we’ve continually modified our article to keep up with the shifting rumors.”

    While many would agree that this particular example you presented, T Michael, does not support your claim that Snopes lied (I’m sure, however, you will disagree), there likely are circumstances where Snopes got it wrong (just not intentionally, like the DC).

    So, T Michael, that brings us back to your claim that Snopes (per your experience) has lied (an intentional act).

    Per your post: “I dismiss snopes because in several instances where I had personal knowledge of the events at hand, snopes did not stick to the truth. In several other instances where I didn’t have personal knowledge they also bent the truth into vague pretzel shapes which I found out when I fact checked their own claims.”

    I’ve got to wonder why you chose this flag example as proof of Snopes lying, since it’s such a trivial matter. So I look forward to more relevant examples of Snopes lying.

  2. K. Crary says:

    I appreciate the engagement, but you’ve written nothing here that contradicts me. I already pointed out that there were some flags in the audience; I very clearly referred to the absence of flags *on stage*. On the other hand, you write “digital depictions on the big screens of the American flag” several times, but in fact there were no digital depictions of the flag. As I clearly pointed out in my post, there was bunting, but no actual flags. And that’s it. On your long, impressive list, every single item is either in the audience, or mere bunting.

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