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Monday, August 9, 2021
MRC Continues To Defend Babylon Bee's Alleged Satire
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center has been helping the Babylon Bee walk the line between satire and misinformation -- getting mad at anyone criticizes the Bee for walking that line but hiding the fact that its right-wing target audience tends to treat its alleged satire as fact. A June 14 article by Nicholas Fondacaro cheered that the Bee successfully nagged the New York Times into changing an article that referred to the Bee as "misinformation" -- then hyped CEO Seth Dillon complaining that it doing so the Times pointed out that fact-checking sites had identified the Bee as misinformation (presumably because some had presented Bee articles as fact).

The next day, Heather Moon tried to discredit an academic study that claimed "conservatives couldn’t tell the difference between factual and misleading news as well as liberals," in part because "Many of the so-called “false” headlines were stories from political satire sites like the Babylon Bee," adding, "The Science Advances study’s use of satirical headlines as examples of 'false' news is misleading." Actually, it shows that the Babylon Bee's alleged really is indistinguishable from fact for a significant portion of its target audience.

In a June 18 post, Kayla Sargent cheered that Facebook would cease being as tough on outlets claiming to be satire:

Facebook appears to have finally developed a sense of humor after its history of fact-checking and targeting satire sites like The Babylon Bee.

The platform announced that it has developed a satire exception to its censorship practices in response to a recent decision from the Oversight Board (the Board). The Board overturned Facebook’s decision to censor a meme that a user had posted. Facebook said that it will “add information to the Community Standards that makes it clear where we consider satire as part of our assessment of context-specific decisions.”


Facebook’s past censorship of satirical content, however, is no laughing matter. The platform has censored Christian satire site The Babylon Bee (The Bee) on numerous occasions, and Facebook-owned Instagram has also censored the satire site’s creator, Seth Dillon. At one point, Facebook censored an article from The Bee titled “Senator Hirono Demands ACB Be Weighed Against A Duck To See If She Is A Witch.”

As usual, Sargent's definion of "censored" is laughably overbroad. Regarding the duck/witch article,  One of the examples on the MRC's Free Speech America portrays a pop-up box on Facebook asking if a person really wants to share a post as "soft censor[ship]." Pop-up boxes are not censorship, no matter how hard the MRC insists otherwise.

ON June 25, Alexander Hall got mad that it was pointed out that the Bee's alleged satire is mean-spirited and tends to punch down, and that Facebook might not like that:

Facebook made it loud and clear that satire may be OK on the platform, but only on the condition it doesn’t target people or things that it favors. Leftist, progressive outlet Slate responded by claiming The Babylon Bee is the perfect target for punishment.

Satirical humor might be protected on a conditional basis, but Facebook has decided that humor at the expense of groups it likes is not allowed. “[T]rue satire does not ‘punch down,’” Facebook whined in a June 17 transparency report. “[I]f content is simply derogatory, not layered, complex, or subversive, it is not satire. Indeed, humor can be an effective mode of communicating hateful ideas.” In short, Facebook suggested that it has reserved the right to purge satirists for making jokes about people or things it favors.” Only a few days later, Slate responded by suggesting conservative satire website The Babylon Bee has “a nasty tendency to punch down” in a June 22 blog.

Slate gave due credit and remarked that The Babylon Bee has seen a meteoric rise in popularity “now garnering more interactions on Facebook than the Onion.” Even so, the leftist news outlet accused The Bee of being “often ‘ironically’ misogynistic, as when it ‘defended’ the place of women soldiers in the American military by reporting how ‘they don’t throw grenades well, so the enemy will never know what to expect’ and how ‘you can pay them way less, which gives you more money for weapons and ammo.’” It also described The Bee’s tendency to lampoon absurd gender politics as being “frequently antagonistic toward the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Um, doesn't the fact that the Bee is "garnering more interactions on Facebook than the Onion" pretty much blow up the MRC's narrative that conservatives are being silenced?

Hall gave Dillon -- or more accurately, as even Hall surprisingly admits, "the unverified account purporting to represent The Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon" -- a chance to respond, insisting that they're not punching down, they just hate liberals:

The Dillon account rejected the premise that The Bee, a rare example of conservative entertainment, is punching down when it pokes fun at the left’s ideology: “They say we antagonize the trans community (punching down). Utter nonsense. We're attacking the top-down tyranny of the left's progressive agenda and the destruction it's wreaking throughout society, enabled and fueled by all the most powerful people and institutions.” In a following tweet, he quipped “If that's not punching up, I don't know what is. But more importantly, the left's prohibition of ‘punching down’ is speech suppression in disguise. It's people in positions of power protecting their interests by telling you what you can and cannot joke about.”

Of course, the Bee's "attacking the top-down tyranny of the left's progressive agenda" is indistinguishable from attacking the trans community because no distinction is made between the two. It comes down to the Bee being opposed to LGBTQ people having the same rights as everyone else.

The same day, Sargent served up more PR by touting how the Bee was quitting its email service because its account was suspended, dramatically declaring the Bee "has, once again, felt the sting of tech censorship." Sargent also let Dillon rant that the service "has been exercising viewpoint discrimination under the guise of protecting the public from harmful misinformation" and purportedly "looking for excuses to censor us by literally scanning the content of our emails." Sargent gave the service no chance to respond to Dillon's accusations or her attempt to demonize it.

Sargent did disclose that "The Babylon Bee is a member of the Free Speech Alliance" -- the conglomeration of right-wing groups the MRC assembled to fight "censorship" of conservatives (which really isn't happening).The fact that the Babylon Bee is part of such a partisan group betrays its partisan nature -- and belies any attempt by the MRC and the Bee to frame what it does as benign satire.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:56 PM EDT

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