Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A True Skeptic is Skeptical of Snopes

Snopes.com, launched in 1995 by Barbara and David Mikkelsen, has become the premier “urban legend” debunking site on the Internet.  Run out of their home in California they have developed a lot of mainstream credibility and are routinely quoted everywhere from the mainstream media to the halls of Congress.   They do a good job at setting the record straight on numerous rumors that spread like wildfire on the Internet with what seems like a good ole dash of common sense.  However, I thought from early on when visiting the site that there something was not quite right about any of this.  Of course we need a healthy dose of skepticism in the Internet age which the Mikkelsens excel at.  It’s just when it comes to certain persons and events that the skepticism seems to falter.

I am also constantly amazed how people use them as a “trusted” source, because if you look into what they say, or in many cases don’t say, there are holes exposed in their arguments.

Besides favoring last century web site design, one thing I find peculiar about the Snopes web site is its web page text is coded so as not to allow any copy, cut and paste of anything written there.  Few sites do this.  You have to download the source (View menu on any browser) and dig through the code to find a quote to easily post in an article.  I can understand this for copyright reasons, but one can still get the text one needs anyway with a little extra work, so why bother?  It’s particularly onerous for anybody that wants to quote Snopes for any written work.

Love Us Some Obama!
Snopes has now become a very large repository of debunking just about anything said about Barack Obama that is negative or controversial.  With Obama the list is a long one from his early childhood, career, birth records, educational records, statements he’s made in his two biographies and current statements and actions. This is a man that keeps a large gaggle of lawyers employed, costing millions of dollars to keep important records on his early life withheld from the public.  If that doesn’t make people suspicious about him I don’t know what will.   It’s ironic that Scopes is so skeptical about everything until it comes to their Obama and then the skepticism flies out the window.  An example of that is Obama’s 50 Lies where they precede to debunk most of the 50.  Their reasons are sourced, which is sound procedure, but it should be noted that none of the original accusations are sourced so one cannot inspect the root of the original allegation.

Never the less, not all are debunked.  They did honestly point out that Obama stated in 2004 he wouldn’t run in 2008.  However, all Scopes does is point the reader to a YouTube link.  They don’t actually admit any deception on Obama’s part, though it clearly was, unless he simply had a change of heart.  It’s as if they hate to admit that Obama will bare a false witness.  Of course, the easily provable lies of Obama are not covered.

One of the growing problems with Snopes constant defending of President Obama involves using his autobiography, The Dreams of My Father as a debunking source.  There are quite a number of books coming out now showing it’s a complete fraud.  The recent news that a New York girlfriend was a “composite” character of several people is an example of a deception.  Who does this in their own life story?  Only a phony would.  It’s a deliberate falsehood but you won’t see that whopper in the Obama’s 50 Lies article.

Here is another example of how Snopes deals with the list of lies:

20.) Without Me, There Would Be No Ethics Bill - LIAR, you didn't write it, introduce it, change it, or create it.

It's unclear what ethics bill this statement references.  Obama did help pass a major ethics reform bill as an Illinois State Senator, and 110th U.S. Congress passed the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act, which "closely mirrored and drew key provisions from a bill (S. 230) that Senators Obama and Feingold introduced in January 2007."  We could find no reference to document Obama's supposedly having said that neither of those bills would exist if not for him.

This is the example of a classic Straw Man arguing style.  Notice the statement, “It's unclear what ethics bill this statement references.”  The Mikkelsons are the researchers of this information.  Why don’t they know the origin?  Who is the author of this?  Since the original assertion is not sourced it would be easy to put words in Obama’s mouth that he never said as a way to shoot down a gadfly.  I think that is what they did here as my search does not reveal anything about Obama’s alleged statement.  It’s a Straw Man to knock over.  

Obama’s 1981 Trip To Pakistan
In another disputed matter in Barack Obama’s life is his 1981 trip to Pakistan in 1981 with a college chum.  He apparently traveled first to see his mother and half-sister in Indonesia before traveling on for a three week stay in Pakistan.  The controversy Snopes addresses here stems from an anonymous email that made the rounds stating that Pakistan was on a “no travel” list issued by the U.S. State Department.  This has been widely discounted which Snopes accurately points out.

But they end it by saying the following:

“In short, if Barack Obama did visit Pakistan in the summer of 1981, he – like all other Americans – could have openly done so bearing a U.S. passport.”

Interesting that they used “if” in this instance.  ABC News verifies that Obama traveled to Pakistan in 1981. I don’t know why there is an implication that this didn’t happen.  It obviously did.  The wording here shows a twitchy position held by Snopes as if they are not comfortable with Obama’s excursion to Pakistan.  That trip does raise a host of other questions, such as, what was the future Senator and President doing over there for three weeks?  Another mystery in this mysterious man’s closeted life.

And the second part–“...could have openly done so bearing a U.S. passport,” is just speculation and ignores what other passport he might have had and used.

Primarily, they fail to answer an important question–did Barack Obama travel in 1981 with an Indonesian passport under the name of Barry Soetoro?  And not his American passport?  And it’s unknown with so many records not released or sealed by the lawyers for the President.

It’s important because if Obama did travel to Pakistan under his Indonesian passport as Barry Soetoro he committed a felony.  For while it is not against the law for an American citizen to own a passport to a foreign nation he or she cannot travel with it outside of the United States.  That’s against the law.  An interview with John Carman, a former Secret Service and Custom’s Agent confirms this significant detail.  (See link below to download the MP3 of this interview conducted by James Fetzer.)  However, if Obama is not and American citizen he would not be breaking the law.  So maybe that is another reason for Barack Obama to keep these particulars concealed from the public.

The Birth Certificate
This is probably the mother of all controversies that have surrounded Barack Obama from the start.  The whole matter is a mess and I don’t seek to add clarity as I don’t know how anybody can.  It boils down to a long, drawn out, Constitutional debate of what defines a natural-born citizen as opposed to a native-born citizen according to the eligibly requirements of the 14th Amendment.  Dr. Jerome Corsi has a detailed exposé of this in his book, Where is The Birth Certificate?, chapters 4 and 13.  That’s a good place to start.  Who knows what the truth is when Obama’s own grandmother says he was born in Kenya?  When his agent’s promo brochures say he was born in Kenya.  When his wife Michelle is on YouTube giving a speech saying he was born in Kenya...

Snopes.com follows the typical path of Obama defenders which is to shoot down the critics, label them “Birthers” and then once again, source anonymous Internet quotes for a quick brush-off.  It all makes them look good and in turn makes the critics appear as a bunch of gullible, superstitious peasants who will believe anything.  There is no sense of a fair-minded approach to any of this.

In a notable example, Snopes mentions the work of digital imaging specialist and graphic artist Mara Zebest.  Her investigation is published in a 12-page report in which she concluded that the last released birth certificate is a fraud. Snopes allows for no link back to this work and insists it’s “...simply recycled old arguments that had long since been thoroughly debunked in detail.”

Instead of a fair examination of Zebest’s findings Snopes instead links to a 9-page rebuttal by a Frank Arduini.  And who pray tell is he?  A noted online OBOTS, a term used for online Obama defenders.  Arduini stays busy defending all things adverse of Barack Obama, especially debunking fraud in the birth certificate issue and can be traced to numerous forums around the Internet posting under such monikers as HistorianDude and Epectitus (Greeley Gazette for a bio on this guy).

Arduini, who describes himself as a IT Business Partner Director with CareFusion and apparently doubles as a supposed expert on digital imaging precedes to dismiss Zebest’s work in a 9-page drubbing. He launches with the barb that Zebest is “not an forensic digital image analyst.” Is Arduini?  No, and lists no credentials for a digital image analyst but that doesn’t prevent him from raking this poor woman over the coals.  However, Arduini’s credibility comes under attack from the various reader comments taking him to task for supposed flaws in his rebuttal.   The various comeuppances to this digital imaging know-it-all make for a lively read.  A good example of why one should not throw stones if one lives in a glass house.  Particularly a hypocrite throwing the stones (see below).

He goes on to label Mara Zebest a Birther and states, “She wrote her analysis not because she is an Adobe expert, but because she is a Birther.”  Horrors!  In Arduini’s view, this biases her ability to properly analyze the digital version of Obama’s birth certificate (three have been released so far).  This opinion is spurious at best and Arduini provides no facts to back up this silly Birther claim.

And this Obama shill accuses other people of being biased?  What audacity! This guy is a well established Obama partisan.  Does Snopes make any mention of this conflict of interest?  No, they don’t.

(Keep in mind the last birth certificate that was released was a 9-layer Photoshop PDF file.  It was a sloppy job with some layers using different using different DPI settings.  Somebody forgot to use the ‘merge layers’ option when they saved it out.  It was not a scanned document.  It was in effect, a fraud.  Not something Snopes will tell you.)

Whatever is going on here, Barack Obama has spent millions of dollars keeping his birth records, and many other records as well, sealed up from public disclosure.  This, from the man that promised complete transparency.  As Dr. Corsi found, all Barack Obama has to do is go to the hospital in Hawaii and order the release of the records.  He’s never done it.

Take It As It Is
The Mikkelsens are smart people.  But the taint of partisanship smothers their alleged independent work at Snopes.  I don’t think they are as autonomous as they portray themselves.  I can see why they are accused of being in league with the Democratic Party or financed by George Soros (both charges untrue–so far).  They are skilled players at the game of politics under the guise of seeking truth. There are numerous incidences, just a few mentioned here, that disclose that favoritism.  Any criticism or negative found with Barack Obama, his life or his character is shot down which borders on the fanatical.  They use every trick in the book to achieve this from straw man arguments, nonexistent allegations for easy dismissal, allegations made in anonymous emails from anonymous senders also easily dismissed, ignored evidence of counter-claims and at times, inaccurate or suspect interpretations of the law.  Their dismal of Mara Zebest’s report without even linking it so others can read for themselves what she has uncovered, and then use an Obama shill to repudiate it really exhibits how partisan they are. They don’t take seriously any assertion by any critic when it comes to President Obama.  If they did, they would look into and quote the work of researchers such as Dr. Jerome Corsi who has accomplished yeoman work in researching topics surrounding this President.

In short, I don’t think the Mikkelsens are seekers of the truth.  They are more defenders of the status quo.

As Jeffery Phelps said at Examiner.com:

“Snopes, not unlike any other quasi-‘mainstream’ source, takes advantage of the fact that people in general want to believe the government is good and is aiming to do the right and just thing.”

Amen, brother.  It honors all to be skeptical of everything.

Addendum  1.13.15
Someone asked me on Twitter why I don’t allow for comments since Snopes has a forum.  I don’t get the question and find it irrelevant.  I don’t see a contradiction if that is what the person was hunting for.  I am just writing articles here.  I think I’ve pointed out enough issues with Snopes and how they operate.  Feel free to do your own research.

But I will say this.  I don’t allow comment sections because I don’t have the time to monitor it or maintain ongoing debates with people.  People get nasty.  I was on a writer’s blog once and the comments section got so unruly that the author had to shut it down.  Too bad as it was one of the most entertaining parts of her blog!  I learned a lot from that experience of what she went thru and it won't be repeated here or on my other blog.

Mom-And-Pop Site Busts The Web's Biggest Myths.

Obama’s trip to Pakistan - ABC News - 4/8/08.

Snopes.com on Obama’s passport.

John Carman interview  - 1/30/12

Snopes.com on the Birth Certificate Issue.

Greeley Gazette article on Frank Arduini’s background.

Mara Zebest Birth Cert Report.

Frank Arduini, “The Barack Obama Long Form Birth Certificate - A Response to Mara Zebest”


Jeffrey Phelps, Obama officially ineligible?