Sunday, April 25, 2021

Is the Mad Magazine Cancellation News Report Truth or Is It Satire?

Since being linked on Instapundit (thanks to Ed Driscoll) and Maggie's Farm, the recent "news report" on No Pasarán — "Mad Magazine Fact-Checked by Snopes, Denounced by the New York Times, Censored by Amazon, Banned by Facebook, and Slammed by SJWs" — has caused no small amount of commotion in a number of comments sections, with a rather large number of readers either taking it outright as truth or wondering whether it was truth or satire. (An additional number of readers have been noting — correctly — that the very fact that we are wondering about whether it is fact or fiction is quite a sad commentary on our times.)

To answer the question, and since Poe's Law has been mentioned, you must first understand how the Mad Magazine news report came about. (If you are pressed for time, scroll down to the sentence in bold.)

1) THE BIRTH OF THE BABYLON BEE

Three or four years ago, devoted Instapundit readers started learning of a new humor site by seeing hyperlinks to hilarious and often spot-on "news reports" penned by members of "Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire."

In March 2018 came the scandal or, perhaps, the consecration: In a news report — one that not even The Babylon Bee could have made up — a Bee "news report" was fact-checked by Snopes (and called False). What makes the news item (the real one) doubly funny — and the Snopes website open to ridicule — is that the news item (the fake one) is utterly preposterous. (Just take the title: Did CNN Purchase an Industrial-Sized Washing Machine to Spin News?)

Soon, news outlets start chiming in — and doubling down in their defense of Snopes — saying basically, "Sure, the Bee says it is 'Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire', but how can we expect everybody to know that it is news satire?"

FYI (and in Snopes's defense), David Mikkelson has invented a whole new group of ratings (after True, Mostly False, etc), including one called Labeled Satire (which, indeed, has replaced False on the CNN washing machine report); now regularly subtitles its Bee reports as A routine review of content labeled satire; and has penned a far-from-unreasonable editorial called Why We Include Humor and Satire in Snopes.com (although he gets points off by managing to avoid any mention whatsoever of the Babylon Bee ).

Still, that hardly justifies the Bee getting threatened regularly with cancellations, de-platformings, or demonetizations by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

As Christian Toto writes on RealClearInvestigations, satirizing George Orwell's 1984 in the process,

The Babylon Bee, the right’s online answer to the satirical site The Onion, has been at war with Facebook for years

For this reason — and because the Bee's reports are so spot-on — Glenn Reynolds and Ed Driscoll have transferred the title usually bestowed on the New York Times, "The Newspaper of Record," to the Bee. 

“Satire doesn’t have the intent of misleading people.
… It’s communicating truth through satire.” 

— Seth Dillon, CEO of the Babylon Bee

Incidentally, before we get to the meat of this post, as an aside, here are a couple of Babylon Bee stories that prove Seth Dillon's words correct and that I have most enjoyed in the past month or so:
Elizabeth Warren Barred From Entering Country Thanks To Travel Ban On Indians,
In Push For Diversity, Military Canine Units To Give Equal Opportunities To Chihuahuas (For the first time, the military — which has always favored German Shepherds in the past — will admit other breeds such as Chihuahuas and Pomeranians),
New M1 Abrams Tanks To Come Equipped With Changing Tables (In addition to the changing table, each new tank will also be slightly larger in order to fit a private lounge for breastfeeding … The new tanks should be deployed worldwide very soon, as many hotspots aren’t doing very well since backup troops had to be rerouted to rebut Tucker Carlson on Twitter),
Billions In Damages As Military Allows Women To Park The Tanks (Billions of dollars of military equipment were destroyed today after several women were asked to park the tanks, even though women are really bad at parallel parking), and
Biden Admits His First 100 Days Were A Failure Since America Hasn't Been Completely Destroyed Yet (It was a simple plan. After the wildly successful Trump presidency made America great again, the Democrats used the pandemic (which wasn’t really a big deal) to destroy the flourishing economy. All that they needed after that was to steal the presidential election (check) and get a meager majority in Congress to enact a radical, unconstitutional agenda to finish off the nation, the people Democrats hate more than any other).

2) THE BIRTH OF THE MAD MAGAZINE YARN

And here is where things get interesting: it may have been Ed, or Sarah Hoyt, or Stephen Green, but I believe it was Glenn who linked to a Babylon Bee article written by an outside source who had contributed to the website

It turns out that people who are Prime Subscribers to the BB are (or were: see below) allowed to submit (or to pitch) articles.

Since I am known for having quite an appetite for satire, and since I am a comedy writer, I start developing my ideas for another humor outlet undergoing the same treatment and travails as the Babylon Bee. The Mad Magazine report would double as a very strong point in their favor, which they would love (I thought) to have added on their website.

Besides, I agree with the comment "The Babylon Bee Needs Your Support. Help us Save Comedy. Fight Against CNN and Snopes", and so I opened my wallet last year to become a prime subscriber.

After I put a lot of effort into the piece and after a long series of ordeals (after I finished the article in November, I lost 85% of the article on Blogspot — do not press Control Z more than once in a row after Blogspot's recent (so-called) upgrade (sic) or the entire text disappears! — and it took me four months to get the courage to re-write it), I — proudly — submitted it to the Babylon Bee last week. 

Result? 

Extreme letdown. 

In spite of their promise to this (and to all) Prime Subscriber(s), the Bee replied to the pitch with the comment that they cannot, and do not, accept outside material (with the exception of headlines). (What happened? Who knows? Maybe they had problems with one of their contributors and/or maybe some lawyer intervened with copyright issues or something…)

So there is your answer: the Mad Magazine news report
was intended to appear on the Babylon Bee website.
As a typical piece of Babylon Bee news satire.

And since I had put a lot of work into the story, and since I was pretty proud of the result, I simply decided that if nobody else wanted it, I would publish it on my blog No Pasarán. (I still read — and laugh at — the Bee's articles, although I probably laugh only 90% as heartily as before.)

If it had appeared on the Bee, everybody would have known immediately that it was satire, needless to say. (Are you listening, Facebook? Snopes?)

As for Instapundit's readers, quite a few, presumably, headed to the comments section in outrage after reading the headline without also clicking the hyperlink and reading (or skimming through) the story.

If they had, they would have had their antenna up already by the second sentence, with the identification of the Snopes spokesman as a certain Bobby Snopes Jr (even without realizing it was an homage to the Babylon Bee's parodies, often referring to a Snopes spokesman as one Bob Snopes).

There are, needless to say, many more hints that the story is not true, but to mention just two, there is the name of the SJW spokesperson (a typical Don Martin-type joke) and there is the lengthy paragraph (where the blockquote is located) of the demented Twitter spokesman who proceeds to try to prove why Alfred E Neuman is an undercover "conservative spewing Republican propaganda."

That said, even the title itself, to tell the truth, should have made people suspicious: it is utterly improbable that a headline would have listed all of the various cancellation actors — especially with a different action verb for each one. A real title would have used something like "controversial magazine in danger of cancellations from Snopes, the New York Times, and other sources," or something in that (jugular) vein.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well played, Sir. Perhaps this could go in "The Lighter Side of Unsolicited Satire Submittals."

-Tommy Shanks

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