Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 18, 2017

Is Satire "Fakenews"? - How Fact-Checkers Peddle Snake-Oil

Since the issues of alleged "fake news" and "Russian influence" have cropped up, several media institutions highlight their public fact-checkers. Social media companies hire them to filter "fake news" from their content.

Traditional fact-checkers within a newsroom considered the veracity of the pieces their own reporters wrote up. They corrected factual mistakes before those were printed or aired. The new crop of fact-checker is testing the veracity of claims made by other media outlets and public entities.

The Tampa Bay Times's PolitiFact is one of the oldest and biggest of these organizations. It was founded in 2007 and has offices in several states. Like all such entities it has a certain political flavor. Thus the supposedly neutral fact-checking site PolitiFact gets fact check by a site named PolitiFact Bias.

Last week Amy Sherman wrote an important piece for PolitiFact. Facebook users had pointed her to this month old report about a military court case:

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant facing charges of desertion, walked out of a military courtroom during a pre-trial hearing Monday and has not been seen since approximately 10:35 AM, prompting a statewide manhunt for the missing soldier.

Sources inside the courtroom say that Bergdahl took only a half-full Camelbak and a long hunting knife with him as he calmly made his way to the exit during his own lawyer’s remarks to the judge regarding a possible plea deal.
Pentagon leadership is offering an unusual reward for information on Bergdahl’s whereabouts: $25,000 or seven Guantanamo detainees, depending on the credibility of the information.

The fact-checker applied the best of her abilities to debunk the assertions of the above piece:

"Bowe Bergdahl wanders off during court-martial," said the October headline in Duffel Blog.
Facebook users flagged the post as being potentially fabricated, as part of the social network’s efforts to combat fake news. This story is fake.
We rate this headline Pants on Fire.
Multiple news outlets including the AP reported that Bergdahl entered a plea of guilty during the Oct. 16 hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He didn’t wander off during his hearing.

"I understand that leaving was against the law," Bergdahl testified.

(Liar Liar) "Pants on Fire" is the worst rating on PolitiFact's truthiness scale.

But something is wrong with "fact-checking" when such rating is applied to satirical content. For those brain-dead folks who do not recognize satire in the hilarious screwiness of its content the Duffel Blog's About page provides it in very clear words:

Everything on this website is satirical and the content of this site is a parody of a news organization.

Each and every story the well known Duffel Blog ever published is "fake news". It is the essence of its existence. Satire is "fake news" and the anti-thesis that we need to synthesize with the thesis of "real news" to then develop new insight. It increases our knowledge and understanding. It is also fun.

One may laugh about a fact-checker rating satire as "fake news" but such ratings have serious consequences. PolitiFact is working with Facebook to flag "fake news" on its (a)social network.

When PolitiFact ratings influence the way Facebook displays or handles information, then satirical news will be ranked out of view of most Facebook users. Indeed user may be blocked or kicked off the network for spreading "fake news" when they post links to Duffel Blog pieces. Facebook and others automate such processes. When PolitiFacts labels something as "fake news" the consequences can be serious and may hit immediately.

How does satire fit into such the very confined concept of "fake news"? And what about "conspiracy theories"? Are they"fake news"? Here is a list of 58 historic cases of alleged "false flag" attacks. In most of these cases the "conspiracy theorists" turned out to be right. Governments committed the attacks under a false flag, blamed them on their enemies and used them to influence the public. People who were doubtful when these government assertions were made were labeled "conspiracy theorists". But what was really "fake news" - the governments' claims or the opinions of those who did not believe them? How would PolitiFact have judged them?

What is "fake news" when a UN report asserts that the Syrian government used Sarin in Khan Sheikhun but can not explain why - according the same report - 47 of the casualties were hospitalized before the alleged incident happened?

To label something "fake news" is a subjective judgement. Fact-checkers claim they can discern whether something is true or not. Schrödinger's cat can explain why that might be a problem.

Fact-checking does not provide truth. It claims objective judgement but can not provide such. At most it compares sources and assigns a higher credibility to some of them over others. The choice of the preferred source is subjective. Moreover fact-checking limits speech and thought. Fact-checking provides censorship.

The fact-checking by PolitiFact and other such outlets is a manipulation tool in the hands of those who finance and promote such sites. Truth is rarely absolute. What is regarded as truth can change over time. A year on today's real news may turn out to have been fake all along. The "fake news" conspiracy theory of today may be proven correct by tomorrow. Satire, parody and sarcasm are "fake news" by their definitions. They may still carry real news within them.

No society should give any authority or regards to sites like PolitiFact. They are snake-oil salesmen. They peddle absolute truth when, thankfully, none exists.

Posted by b on November 18, 2017 at 18:46 UTC | Permalink


True that. Truth is only that which is demonstrable as such to ALL. Beyond this we have belief.

Posted by: Tannenhouser | Nov 18 2017 19:20 utc | 1

From the list of false flag attacks, Nr. 29 is clearly bullshit, and the source (the actual link underlying "admit") doesn't even support it, being wild speculation from the Telegraph.

Posted by: nyolci | Nov 18 2017 19:48 utc | 2

Good post.Most people in the world are just dummies.They can't distinguish between satire,irony and jokes. You can see it on twitter every day.This people can really be very dangerous.Censorship is on the rise everywhere.The social media networks must put up resistance otherwise I don't need them.

Posted by: Theo | Nov 18 2017 20:06 utc | 3

“Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Heres Tom with the Weather.”

― Bill Hicks

Posted by: psychosis | Nov 18 2017 20:24 utc | 4

Long ago a movie was made about such fact checkers at a major media corporation called Desk Set featuring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn whose jobs were threatened by the new electronic brains of the day. Quite a funny, witty movie. Playing loose with the news has always been fair game for comedians. Indeed, some have said they stayed informed by watching The Tonight Show instead of their local news. George Carlin would have a field day making hay with RussiaGate et al.

Posted by: karlof1 | Nov 18 2017 20:44 utc | 5

Manipulating the public is as big of a industry as there needs to be to maintain the "status quo".

Thanks for the posting b. I have used the term agnotology in my comments here to describe similar sorts of propagandizing that goes on all the time.

Except for those of us that know has to trust, believe or otherwise have faith in information from others for many things. The ability to perceive spin/BS/lies varies by situation and subject matter and evolves over time.

I think Confucius said, educate the children. I believe that the more one tries to understand the world they live in the less they are apt to be led astray by the snake oil sales folk.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Nov 18 2017 20:44 utc | 6

People having an uninformed opinion about something they don't understand and proclaiming their opinion as being equally valid as facts is what is ruining the world. No one wants to do any research, they just want to be right.

Take for example, two people standing on either side of a number on the ground arguing about which number it is. One person sees a 6, the other see a 9. Who is right?
One of them is wrong - because someone put either a 6 or a 9 there, and they need to back up and orient themselves, see if there are any other numbers nearby. Maybe there is a driveway or building to face. But no, people today assume that they are the center of the universe and thus that their beliefs could not possibly be wrong.

And when they have put so much effort and emotion into being right that even one fact does not align with their world view this causes dissonance and pain and is rejected as "fake news" and such. They do not alter their universe to accommodate the change of information input and entrench themselves even further. This only leads to conflict.

The human brain hasn't changed in tens of thousands of years. We are still wired to act as if there is a mountain lion around each corner that will eviscerate us at a moments notice. Take that hard wired fight or flight response and put it into the modern first world bubble wrapped existence and you get exactly what is happening now - meaningless things are elevated to life threatening events at the drop of a hat with responses to match.

And sorry, but it is only going to get worse, so guard your rationality and buckle up!

Posted by: facts | Nov 18 2017 20:53 utc | 7

I am certain we are seeing the incremental shut-down of free expression on the internet as the Global Fascist World Order attempts to complete their "Total Information Awareness" leading to "Full Spectrum Dominance."

The Powers That Shouldn't Be have used the internet to develop profiles of each of us. So, the charade of being a platform for independent thought and networking has served its purpose.

And the past few years has polarized/divided us to almost comical degrees, rendering us apparently incapable of uniting to prevent the culmination of their decades, or centuries long plans.

Black has become white.

Those who fancied themselves "The Liberty Movement" and for years have warned of the dangers of the "Jack-Booted Thugs" of the Police State are now cheering the police cracking skulls of "libtards" or BLM "racists." In fact, they are angry that those Jack-Booted Thugs are not killing more "Leftists" and imprisoning the rest.

The actual Left - which has been the target of government FBI/CIA infiltration and disruption, and often brutal or even murderous suppression for more than a century - is now parroting every absurd, evidence-free Deep State claim as Gospel. Since shortly before the 2016 (s)election, I've seen alleged "progressives" call for a military coup to prevent the Orange Fuhrer from taking office. Since the (s)election, "liberals" have rehabilitated right-wing war criminals like George W. Bush, pined for a President Romney and demanded that we install President "Periods For" Pence - the Dominionist Chritso-Fascist.

Can we, the people shed the tribal identities that divide us and prevent the "end of history?"

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 18 2017 21:19 utc | 8

Got 8 minutes to see what "the smart people" are thinking about?

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 18 2017 21:42 utc | 9

There are other types of 'falseness' you don't see and never consider.

1) There are many polls and polling orgs that aren't really 'reporting opinions' as much as they are trying to be'opinion makers' mislead the public about what people actually think making people think their opinions are either in majority or minority.

2)Also 'political consulting firms' are another infiltration avenue for 'fakes' --a natural one.
They tell candidates what stand on any given issue will draw them the most voters and groups. On the Jewish and Israel issue instance there are an inordinate number of Jewish consultants/firms who may be hawks or doves on Israel. But either way if theses consultants tell politicians that 90% of Americans support Israel the politicians aren't going to institute their own investigation to see if that is true or not.
So in many cases no matter what their private beliefs are they aren't going to act on them if they think they would be going against "popular sentiments" or it would cost them votes within a certain group.

It is getting more and more difficult to find any entity that influences the public or politicians that isn't biased or doesn't have a agenda.
The most dangerous ones are the ones we don't see.
Take nothing at face value, check everything, including who is behind what you read and who runs whatever org, press or media that carries that news or statement,

Posted by: renfro | Nov 18 2017 21:46 utc | 10

Yeah, it's amazing how many people are dismissive of "conspiracy theories" as outlandish/impossible, yet we have a wealth of examples. (Not sure about that link though, some seem dodgy or stretched/not sourced too well.)

Some of my favorite example are the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, and COINTELPRO. Anyone contemporary investigating/trying to speak up seen as a loon akin to Alex Jones. Yet, yes, some conspiracies aren't theories.

Heck, just ten years ago someone saying "I suspect NSA/etc. is recording WAY more stuff, and illegally, than most suspect" might be labelled a CTer.....then even with Clapper's lies and exposure and so they were right via coincidence or knowledge...the people who called that early person a CT loon would then dismiss them with "yeah, no duh" "we knew that already". Which brings up the next problem--VERY likely conclusions vs. actual evidence. The two are very dissimilar. One means a heck of a lot more, legally and morally (in a righteous world), than the other. So...what's "new" in such a case is PROOF/EVIDENCE. Not years of supposition. What for example might be nice now was any actual proof/evidence re: the Putin Derangement Syndrome...

It's also reminds me of how some biologists dismiss cryptozoologists. Which is easy to do, since after say, a cryptozoologist searches for a species in SE asia or something based on local reports and finds it, then the creature belongs to "zoology" now, not "cryptozoology".

I could've stated that better I guess. I'm also kind of drunk. Basically cryptids that turn out to exist suddenly become non-cryptids; Conspiracies theories that turn out to be true are never called that after...Geologists who mocked Wegener and turned him to ruin suddenly purport to have believed in plate tectonics all along. Etc. And like, was Newtonian physics a "conspiracy theory"?? It is basically 99.9% accurate as applied to macro events and the various forces etc, but AFAIK relativity supplanted it, and Newtonian, even as nice a predictive model it is, is basically not accurate and not valid. Not a physicist or zoologist though. Nor a loon, at least that's my working theory. And how about that Thor Heyerdahl. Theorists sometimes discover truths. Some are also truths of 2 and/or more people conspiring to do stuff. Heck, there's a whole big law about it, RICO. But somehow a person saying DWS/DNC conspired is dismissed. "Conspired" the word is dismissed as only a word said by loons (except for anti-Putin/Trump claims. Neither of which I like. I like facts and objectivity.)

Thanks for this site btw, and the good commentators. Srry drunk a bit.

Posted by: Soft Asylum | Nov 19 2017 1:24 utc | 11

yep, and "falseness" which includes silence. Choosing not to report something is often as much or better propaganda as choosing to indeed deal with that particular issue and try to spin it. Like--how would liberals/MSM of 2008-2016 report on Barack Obama deporting the most people ever by a Prez, more than all others in the past century, and mooting asylum for many, sending them back to be murdered and raped?

Well, MSM simply didn't write such an article.

Same for the rather horrendously obvious war crime of Obama's "signature strikes". Just absolutely a HUGE story, pure war crime. But...MSM instead reports something else.

It's pretty tough though, even as a critic/doubter of MSM news' quality, to find truth. Even sure, on this site. Maybe b is actually Assad. In order to determine likelihood of claims one has to delve and independently assess. And well...sorry still drunk but as a bit of a solipsist/iconoclast, I'm not sure any country other than the US actually exists. Or if the globe is spherical. Or if Ellen Page is real and not CGI. No truth can be 100.0000% known.

Sorry for pedantry.

The best time, ever, to find hypocrites, is change of a Presidency. Complaints about practices suddenly would vanish; or new complaints suddenly so, so outrageous. Executive orders warmongering, lack of Congress War Declare, Etc. And folks such as Greenwald take so much crap from leftists too for just being consistent. Or maybe he sucks too. The Intercept is full currently of Hurtaza the White Helmets promoter. And other inanity. But also some good things. Oh, my word. Happy thanksgiving and teutenbaum uh I mean o tannenbaum and dradel dradel dradel everyone. Jews, Scots, Germans, Catholics, Atheists, Cambodians, Males, Womens, tall people, artists, slacktards in basements...happy holidays or whatever.

Obama, Powell, Bush, Rice, Clinton, Ashcroft....etc. happy walk on the gallows instead, would be my preference.

Posted by: Soft Asylum | Nov 19 2017 1:57 utc | 12

Much of what is considered main stream media is stuffed shirt with zero capability to get a joke let alone any form of subtle humor. They are a herd of clueless nerds.

Posted by: gdpbull | Nov 19 2017 2:14 utc | 13

Daniel @9:
That short film is depressing.

Posted by: Ian | Nov 19 2017 2:59 utc | 14

Ian @ 14: Ditto, depressing...Maybe humanity needs to disappear.

Posted by: ben | Nov 19 2017 5:50 utc | 15

psychohistorian | Nov 18, 2017 3:44:50 PM | 6

I would say; teach children how to think critically; let them educate themselves...

Posted by: V. Arnold | Nov 19 2017 6:17 utc | 16

Daniel | Nov 18, 2017 4:42:48 PM | 9

Interesting video; thought provoking and presenting a very plausable future, given our present proclivities.

Posted by: V. Arnold | Nov 19 2017 6:34 utc | 17

Soft asylum 12
As I've said once before on this site I will never forget the guilt on OBAMA'S face when we chatted about the Vietnam war back in 1982 ( I think that was the year) .
I picked him up hitch-hiking with Rahm Emmanuel on the way to Brisbane on the N S W side of the border . I have never forgotten how they reacted to my comments about that tragic set of conflicts . As young men - they certainly had heart and conscience . Alas !

Posted by: ashley albanese | Nov 19 2017 7:50 utc | 18

Number 5 in the list (Katyn) is still not regarded as cut-and-dried by many. They say that Putin and Gorbachev have their own agendas for putting the blame on Stalin. The evidence is still being challenged, eg by Prof Grover Furr and various pro-Stalin organisations. Espresso Stalinist has a detailed analysis of the incriminating documents handed by Yeltsin to Gorbachev.

Posted by: Shakesvshav | Nov 19 2017 10:07 utc | 19


Yeah, right, and the evidence that the Earth is not flat "is still being challenged" too...

You can count with such topics that some degenerate Stalin apologists would rear their ugly heads to spew the same criminal, outrageous, disproved nonsense..

Posted by: PeacefulProsperity | Nov 19 2017 10:51 utc | 20

Speaking of false flags: Snipers Fired At BOTH Police and Protesters In Ukraine

The matter of "Mysterious snipers" in various conflicts should be closely watched:

"Yeltsin's 'Red October II'"- TiM GW Bulletin 98/3-10

Other people at the "Stadium of Death" told me similar stories while warming up their freezing hands over wood fires on a cold November-night. Two young men approached me. One was about 20. The other perhaps 19...

"We were among those who lived in the tents near the White House to protest Yeltsin's closing of the Supreme Soviet. During the night of October 4, we quartered in a nearby sporting hall. At approximately at 6:30 in the morning, without a warning, snipers opened fire on the people manning the barricades and the dwellers of our 'tent city'.

The fire came from the roofs of the nearby (four) buildings. They were the roofs of a residential building No. 11, along Drujinnikovskaya street, near the hotel Mir. And from the high-rises in the Barricade Square and of the City Hall buildings, formerly occupied by SEV, the western-sponsored Council on Economic Cooperation between the former socialist countries. Gun fire also came from the direction of the American Embassy.

At 6:45 a.m. (Oct. 3), all defenders of the White House were alerted, and gathered in the Freedom Square in front of the building of the Supreme Soviet. At 7:30 a.m. a large caliber machine gun opened fire from the direction of Kalininskiy Prospect. Everybody on the perimeter of defense outside the tent city, who was without weapons and could not escape on time, was placed inside the building. A squall of sniper fire on the ground level forced further evacuation into the underground passages. The evacuees were moved to the third floor because all windows of the White House were raked with bullets from 'Yeltsinoids.' Those who were armed took up defenses from the sixth floor up."

At 7:15 a.m. BTRs (armored personnel carriers) pulled up at the City Hall building and opened fire from a heavy machine gun.

At 10:00 a.m., helicopters started firing at the White House, and at 11:30 a.m. tanks began shelling the building. Yeltsinoids announced to the world that firing began at the deadline set in their ultimatum. This is a lie - we were under fire long before that. At the time when the building was shelled, somewhere around 12 o'clock, Cossacks caught two spies wearing Spetznaz uniforms (Special Troops). They coordinated enemy fire by radio and, it must be specifically pointed out, spoke Yiddish between themselves. Cossacks executed them. Then a word of warning was passed around on the possibility of saboteurs being inside the building."

Posted by: PeacefulProsperity | Nov 19 2017 10:57 utc | 21

PeacefulProsperity 20

Not so , much of the evidence for KATYN is confused and confusing - no doubt there were a series of massacres over time in that region of Poland but who was responsible for them is open to question

Have you read Grover - Furr's book on this . It is worth reading . There are other commentators in Russia who bring forward questions concerning the veracity of elderly KGB / NKVD testimonies incriminating Stalin and the Soviet Union from thirty years ago .

Posted by: ashley albanese | Nov 19 2017 11:50 utc | 22

Google News has its fact-checker box of links (to the usual suspects like Snopes, Politifact, WaPo). One used to be able to reconfigure Google News to remove or increase news areas depending on interest. But I have not been able to remove it.

Posted by: Curtis | Nov 19 2017 15:35 utc | 23

During the initial accusations of "fake news," the satire sites and their authors were dragged out as straw men to attack others in the alt media.

Posted by: Curtis | Nov 19 2017 15:38 utc | 24

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube would soon become as irrelevant as myspace. They have always been part of the US soft power, but with some discretion in the past. Now the game is up.

Posted by: Steve | Nov 19 2017 21:05 utc | 25

There is a serious movement now by the PTB in the US to get back in front of "independent news sources" which have so successfully embarrassed the MSM. It first got really organized in the Bush/Cheney era, when it was determined not to repeat the Vietnam mistakes of letting independent journalists see and report on anything they wanted. "Embedded" reporters were housed in comfortable quarters and invited to their "first hand" briefing once or twice a day--and if they were good and wrote only what they were provided, they might be allowed to go on a photo-op with a special baby-sitting unit to go "see the action" at a carefully managed location. It was astonishing how quickly Western journalists cozied up to the idea of getting the coveted "war reporter" title (and pay) without the risk of anything more than getting an STD from a fellow reporter. No Cronkites there, and anyone getting the bright idea to snoop around on their own was instantly deported from the country in humiliation.

It worked so well, in the last decade or so the same game plan was extended to ALL reporting. Have you noticed that virtually all news of any significance now is straight from "unnamed senior officials" or the like? And since all information comes only from unnamed sources, the old rule that an anonymous source had to be independently verified by other, open sources went out the window. If you report the script handed you verbatim, you get more and more "favored treatment," but if you dare challenge the story, or ask for proof, a reporter finds themselves suddenly out of the loop, unable to come up with a story on a bet. And most have forgotten how to do truly independent investigation, and even if they try it they find no editor or paper will touch their story, because THEY don't want to be frozen out (ask Escobar and the few other real reporters out there). And thus the mighty Fourth Estate fell, not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Clearly truly independent sources of information (like this site) are a dire threat, though, because they have not been tied into that nice, neat bow with corporate media. Any "fact checker" that is approved by the PTB will be limited to comparing fact X with what the approved MSM sources say, and if it does not agree then it must be false. This is their only hope of turning the sheeple away from any non-conformist sources of "facts."

I count myself lucky to have grown up in a large, very well educated and open minded family who had a warped sense of humor and would incessantly tease each other, from the youngest ages, about nearly anything. In retrospect, it taught me that even if I was being told something by a trusted family member, I still better reserve just a little doubt and pay attention to the world around me for myself. And that is the only hope for all of us--not to try to have some "trusted entity" tell us what is true and false, but to be taught to never stop inquiring on our own, grant trust begrudgingly, and to take responsibility for our own education, and forming our own opinions, and always being ready to change our opinion should new or better information become available. Well, and of course always listen to b.... ;-)

Posted by: J Swift | Nov 20 2017 1:33 utc | 26

Re: Posted by: Daniel | Nov 18, 2017 4:42:48 PM | 9

That's pretty cool.

One has to consider the benefits of "RoboCops" "AI Cops" and "Drone Cops".

Do you realise that when we turn over law enforcement to robots we won't have any more Cop Killings?


No more Cop Killings - because Cops will be robots and impervious to the things that harm humans.

Imagine a whole police force made up of robots, how much safer would everyone be given everyone would know not to cross a "RoboCop".

It truly will be a great time to be alive with peace among all men.

Afterall, if you haven't done anything wrong, what have you got to hide or fear?

Posted by: Julian | Nov 20 2017 12:58 utc | 27

Julian. State AI has identified your post as satire consistent with the "patterns and capabilities" of the "Russian influence campaign." Your intent is clearly to “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process,” and therefore AI has determined that you are a, not just a "useful idiot" or "foreign agent," but are actually a "cyber terrorist."

As the State has determined that "cyber terrorism" is an act of war, deserving of a military response, 72 sites within the Russian Empire/Federation have been targeted and will be vaporized by the time your Slaughterbot tracks you down.

Thank you for feeding the Total Information Awareness System the necessary data through your post for our AI to categorize you and select the appropriate response. We will complete our assessments of every contact in your cellular phone, computers and of course, the "cloud" and assign appropriate conclusions for them as well.

Have a nice, oh, about 10 minutes. :-)

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 20 2017 20:35 utc | 28

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