Babylon Bee Ethics

The Babylon Bee, as you should know by now, has taken over from “The Onion” as the hot political satire website, in part because its writers are excellent, and in part because its orientation is conservative. This is discomforting for progressives, who believe that the proper state of political humor must be all-conservative/Republican/Trump bashing all the time.

This, of course, not a healthy state of affairs, but for Democrats and progressive it is a useful one. How many network and cable comedy TV shows are there that essentially target only non-progressive positions and figures?  Seven? More? How many are balanced, or chide the liberals and Democrats as their main prey? I count…none. Comedy, at least what remains of it after the scourge of political correctness and metaphorically castrated comics cowed into their place by the “cancel culture,” is now part of the Left’s indoctrination machine.

The allies of the Democratic Party/”resistance”/mainstream media collective, what Ethics Alarms calls “the Axis of Unethical Conduct,” or the AUC, are annoyed by the very existence of a satire site that deftly points out its hypocrisy, lunacy and ugliness. Thus Snopes, the dishonest and partisan “factchecking” site, has repeatedly checked the facts on Babylon Bee stories that anyone with a functioning cerebrum should know were gags. This weak, a particularly deft Babylon Bee story really annoyed the AUC:

Perfect. Perfect. The embarrassing efforts by Democrats and media voices to falsely represent a murderous terrorist as a “revered foreign official” (as the Washington Post described him) is objectively revolting, and shows the depth of insane Trump hate, as I explained here. Because of its sharp and revealing..and funny… message, the piece was retweeted a half-million times. Naturally, it immediately came under attack by—“Surprise, surprise, surprise!“as Gomer Pyle used to say—CNN. Two reporters complained that “Some family members just called [because] their Republican friends on FB are circulating it like it’s legit.”

First, I don’t know how someone can circulate obvious satire as if it’s “legit.” Second, out of a half million or more people, it is inevitable that some will believe anything. Third, when observing the AUC reaction to the completely justifiable droning of this evil man, Poe’s Law applies in triplicate. The reaction of some of the Trump-deranged defies parody. Bernie Sanders, for example, called it the equivalent of Putin assassinating a political rival.

Then there’s the irony of news organizations like CNN, which have been flamboyantly trafficking in fake news during the entire Trump administration, complaining about satirical news stories that, unlike theirs, are not meant to deceive.

On one hand it’s annoying when another writer beats me to the punch on an issue; on the other, it does save me time. Here is The National Review’s David Harsanyi:

...There will always be chumps who fall for bogus news stories — in particular, bogus news stories that comport with their preconceived notions about the world. Yet media coverage of “disinformation” is a highly specialized concern. In 2006, more than half of Democrats still thought it likely, or somewhat likely, that George W. Bush had had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. I don’t remember panicky reporters signing up for the disinformation beat back then. Last I looked, 67 percent of Democrats believed it was “definitely true” or “probably true” that the Russkies had altered votes to get Donald Trump elected. Why no concern over this dangerous falsehood? Perhaps because the call is coming from inside the house….The Babylon Bee’s real crime, of course, is that it mocks all the wrong people. Many of the people it mocks, incidentally, are now part of a concerted effort to inhibit political speech — or to shame tech companies into inhibiting political speech. As always, a lot of this effort is nothing but cynical partisanship. But some of it taps into a longstanding anxiety about conservative susceptibility to deception. I mean, how else could these people possibly believe the dumb things they do — right?

I disagree with Harsanyi that “it’s good satire if people believe it.” That excuses the unethical fake news sites that aim to fool readers and news aggregators by getting them to post false but plausible stories. (You can find several of these if you click on the “Unethical website” category.) No Bee story is believable as fact unless someone only reads part of it (in some cases) or is a gullible fool. For example, here’s part of the “half-mast” piece:

A teary-eyed Barack Obama was also seen solemnly lowering the flag in front of his seaside mansion. “To think, this all could have been prevented with a few pallets of cash.” He sighed and stared off into the distance, a look of pain and regret on his face. “If only Trump had targeted a U.S. citizen with a drone strike instead.” Later, Democrats clarified they meant we should fly the Iranian flag at half-mast, not the “offensive and problematic” American flag.

The Babylon Bee once had text on its home page designating it as a satire site. If there is such text now, I can’t find it, and if it cannot be easily found (in previous posts I have suggested that satire sites should have such text at the top of the home page and on every other page), then it is not a genuine disclaimer.

The Bee is ethically obligated to make its role clear, even to morons,

37 thoughts on “Babylon Bee Ethics

  1. The first sentence of the “About Us” page has the “satire” proviso, but I don’t see it anywhere on the main page, either.

  2. There are plenty of idiots to go around in both parties. It wouldn’t surprise to find some sharing it as if it is real news. Making you completely right about a SATIRE stamp be put on items.

    Sadly, as with most things, only one side will ever be held to an ethical standard.

  3. One other place…when you load the page, move your mouse to the “Babylon Bee” tab at the top of the browser and hover your mouse over it. There you will see a little fly-out hint that reads “…Your Trusted Source for Christian Satire News”.

    Again, that’s still pretty hidden.

  4. I post virtually every Bee satire (I love their stuff) as I do Horowitz and Duffle Blog. All three represent different political niches for their audiences. I post on FB and add in **SATIRE*** when I do it. Still far too many take it as serious.

  5. “The Babylon Bee’s real crime, of course, is that it mocks all the wrong people.”

    Bravo Indigo November Golf Oscar!

    It used to have as a banner: The Babylon Bee is Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire.

  6. I love The Babylon Bee. When you see headlines like the one on the article below (“Iranian Leader’s Tears a Sign of Respect for Slain General”), all you really want is someone out there to point out the extraordinary anti-American behavior of the Democrats and their allies in the news media and entertainment industry.

    I can’t imagine the AP, upon the death of Field Marshall Rommel, printing the headline, “German Fuhrer’s Tears a Sign of Respect for Slain General”. Can you?

    But, yes, the Babylon Bee really should make it more clear on the site itself that it’s business is satire. Plenty of people, for better or for worse, only read the headlines. I have no doubt some conservatives are sharing this article without having read it, fully believing that it’s true (Can you blame them, though?
    Much of what the so-called resistance has done for the past three years has been so unbelievable that I expect almost anything from them.) just as there are liberals who will read it, thinking this is a serious site passing on fake news.

  7. I saw the headline “Democrats call for flags to be flown at half-mast…” on some YouTube videos and I didn’t bother to check if it was true or not. I didn’t click on their videos either. I just assumed AOC or Rashida Tlaib, or some junior assistant vice-chair of the Cook County Democratic Party said it and some YouTubers ran with it for views. At this point, I don’t think the headline was too unbelievable, but good satire can easily have a believable title. Then, in the article, you really want it to go off the rails. Other headlines the Bee has that I find believable include “Trump: ‘I have done more for Christianity than Jesus’, “Clintons outnumber crowd at latest speaking engagement’, and “Iran announces they will stop pretending to follow nuclear deal”. Remember, we are all so conditioned by horribly slanted headlines in the ‘Respectable’ media, that I read each headline very cynically. When I see “Democrats call for .”, I assume that some minor Democratic Party official in San Francisco said it and this is being sensationalized for ratings. Remember, we had a Democratic Party Candidate state on national TV that he would (1) confiscate our guns, (2) ban our cars, and (3) relocate us to a house or apartment close to our workplace so we can walk. Remember, we have Democrats in Virginia who have said that (1) we should have the National Guard take over counties and confiscate guns (2) we should get the UN to come and take over some of the counties and confiscate guns, and (3) they want to find a way to cut power and all communications within specific counties to facilitate such actions. In such an environment, it seems impossible to write a headline with the beginning “Democrats call for…” and make it so that people can realize it is satire. That is why the Babylon Bee founder left the Babylon Bee to produce a ‘serious’ news site.

    Although the Babylon Bee doesn’t identify itself directly as a satire site, it does bill itself as “Fake News you can trust” as opposed to The Onion which proclaims itself “America’s Finest News Source”.

  8. I went to the Bee via a google search. The official website came up at top of the pile and its first line of description was: “The Babylon Bee is Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire.” Going to the site you initially see the warning about “fake news” as noted back upstream. Someone has to employ a very set of blinders to get to the point of believing this stuff.

    And, yes, their writers are excellent.

    • You know what? I went to the site via different links several times, yesterday and today before my post. That window never came up. Now, as with your experience, I can’t avoid it.

      I think, with all the publicity this story has gleaned, the BB added that pop-up to every page…TODAY. Well, good. Makes me look blind, but I think that’s what happened.

  9. Bernie Sanders called [Souliemani’s killing] the equivalent of Putin assassinating a political rival.

    He did? WOW! That’s unbelievable. I hope he gets the Dem nomination and the GOP runs Comrade Sanders saying that non-stop until election day. Do we need any better evidence of Bernie’s being a Stalinist?

  10. Bull shit. The Bee is not ethically obligated to make its role clear, even to morons.

    See, eg., “A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick.”

    A taste, if you’re pressed for time: “A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.”

    If Swift isn’t taught in college anymore because he makes Irish feel unsafe or because he’s a dead white guy, that’s not The Bee’s, or anyone else’s problem.

    • Democrat Adlai Stevenson, in one of his three presidential campaigns, was approached by a woman after a speech. “You’ll certainly get the vote of thinking persons,” she told him.
      He replied: “But madam, I need a majority.”

    • Swift didn’t have the internet, or the problem of viral circulation of false information. What’s the difference between a web hoax and “satire”? Only the intent of the writer, and the skill of the satirist. Because of the damage a false story can do, anyone who places fake facts on the web is responsible for where it goes. Due care is essential, and that means due care regarding morons. It’s not as if one has to believe satire to appreciate it. The opposite is true.

  11. Further, if the public can’t detect satire, how can we expect the public to detect bias in media? How can we have a functioning democracy without a citizenry that has at least a scintilla of intelligence and common sense? Do we really have to dumb down everything?

  12. Web hoax, shmeb hoax. The medium and the numbers involved are irrelevant. Individual awareness are the only requsite antidotes. You’re proposing mandatory trigger warnings be issued by satirists? “Do not read this if you’re too much of an idiot to realize it’s a satirical piece, or certainly if you don’t even know what the word ‘satire’ means!”

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