President Trump tweeted a story on Friday from an unusual source: The Babylon Bee, a right-wing satirical site often described as a conservative version of The Onion
« Twitter is shutting down entire network to slow down spread of negative news, » read article title The story was a joke, but it was not clear if Mr. Trump knew that when he shared the link, with the comment « Wow, this has never been done in history »
Twitter is shutting down entire network to slow down the spread of negative news https: // tco / JPmjOrKPcr via @TheBabylonBee Wow, this has never been done in history This includes his very bad interview last night Why Twitter does it do this Bring more attention to Sleepy Joe & Big T
New York Times reporter Emma Goldberg recently featured The Babylon Bee and explained how the site’s satire is often mistaken for reality
I chatted with Ms. Goldberg about her article, The Babylon Bee, the habit of skirting the line between disinformation and satire, and how she capitalizes on confusing her audience
So Emma, you wrote about The Babylon Bee, a satirical news site that has fascinated me for a long time. This is essentially the right-wing version of The Onion, right?
Exactly And what fascinated me about reporting this is that I’ve been following The Onion for a long time – but The Babylon Bee is currently receiving more traffic than they do, at least according to their internal numbers
It’s so interesting! (By the way, I’m looking at some engagement data from Facebook now, and it tells me that Babylon Bee had around 45 million interactions with its Facebook page last year, compared to 35 million for The Onion) Why do you think that The Bee is doing so well?
Well they sure don’t fire any punches Their mantra seems to be everything is fair game: left, right, Trump And in general, right sweep Trump is considered a red line, but The Bee doesn’t seem to care
They also drew on a large audience of people who are not hardline Trumpers, but who are much more pissed off by the outrage Trump is generating on the left
Okay, sort of an anti-anti-Trump mob And are the people running the site pro-Trump? What do they plan to do, within the larger conservative movement?
They are ambivalent about their views on Trump, but they also proudly identify themselves as Christian conservatives But I noticed their early coverage of Trump, in 2016, was much more vitriolic than it is today They called him a psychopath or a megalomaniac Now they are more perplexed by him and the gruesome ways he is portrayed on the left
But I think their willingness to hit him, however gentle, reaches an important element of successful humor What media scholar Brian Rosenwald told me is that humor should always come before politics
So this is a blog about distortion and misinformation, and one thing I’ve noticed recently is that many of Babylon Bee’s most successful posts in terms of online engagement are those that are … less obviously satirical
Like, one of the other day was called « NBA players wear special lace necklaces to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg »
They are certainly playing this for virality – their best content is right on the reality-satire line
I wonder to what extent being such a satirical site – which makes them exempt from Facebook’s fact-checking program – has allowed them to tamper with false information under the guise of comedy Do you think is it a deliberate strategy?
Well, that’s a great question because it’s been a big source of controversy for them They’ve had a few articles that have been checked by Snopes and rated « false » What the writers and editors of The Bee claim prompted Facebook to threaten them to be demonetized (Facebook denies this) Bee founder Adam Ford claimed Snopes had « blatantly » checked them, with standards that would not be enforced, for example, at The Onion
The bee feels like they are being unfairly targeted But Snopes insisted that their articles can sometimes be easily mistaken for real news – which might fall on them, not their readers
Politics aside, this is kind of a testament to the impossible nature of being a satirical site in the mega-platform age because on the one hand, you have to write things that are so blatantly made up. that they cannot reasonably be mistaken for real news, but also close enough to the truth to be fun
One thing I’ve been wondering is what the whole ‘own the libs’ media industry complex (to which I would classify The Bee as belonging, even if it doesn’t) will do if Trump loses in November. Do you feel like The Bee cares about who wins the election, in terms of comedic potential?
The funny thing is that because they’re not Trump followers, they can see a benefit for their comedy anyway. In some ways, comedy is a lot easier when you’re not not the ruling party But on the other hand, Trump is such an absurd character that he can lend himself to some really crazy cartoons.The editor of The Bee told me that Trump is great at comedy, so he would be happy to see him win – a little later he added that maybe they had had enough of Trump’s humor and were ready for a change They also see plenty of humor opportunities in Biden’s camp, especially playing on the « Sleepy Joe » motif
So, what I take away from this conversation is: The Babylon Bee is not a covert disinformation operation disguised as a right-wing satirical site, and in fact tries to make comedy, but may inadvertently spread bad information when people take their stories too seriously?
For the most part But they also seem to find it quite funny when their content is mistaken for real news – and they don’t go too far to stop that
World news – CA – How Babylon Bee, a right-wing satirical site, capitalizes on the confusion
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