Snopes can no longer be trusted

July 27, 2016

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:


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:


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:


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.


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:


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”, 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.)


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.