Myth Blaster: Snopes’ Credibility Attacked (Again)


Here is a new chain email based upon an old email fiction:

David and Barbara Mikkelson in the San Fernando Valley of California started the website about 13 years ago – and they have no formal background or experience in investigative research. After a few years it gained popularity believing it to be unbiased and neutral, but over the past couple of years people started asking questions who was behind it and did they have a selfish motivation? The reason for the questions – or skepticisms – is a result of snopes.com claiming to have the bottom line facts to certain questions or issues, when in fact, they have been proven wrong. Also, there were criticisms the Mikkelsons were not really investigating and getting to the ‘true’ bottom of various issues.








When I saw that Snopes had falsely claimed that Obama’s Birth Certificate had been properly validated, I realized something was wrong with either their research and/or their credibility. It seems something is seriously wrong with both.

Then a few months ago, when my State Farm agent Bud Gregg in Mandeville hoisted a political sign referencing Barack Obama and made a big splash across the internet, supposedly the Mikkelson’s claim to have researched this issue before posting their findings on snopes.com. In their statement they claimed the corporate office of State Farm pressured Gregg into taking down the sign, when in fact nothing of the sort ever took place.

I personally contacted David Mikkelson (and he replied back to me) thinking he would want to get to the bottom of this, and I gave him Bud Gregg’s contact phone numbers. Bud was going to give him phone numbers to the big exec’s at State Farm in Illinois who would have been willing to speak with him about it. He never called Bud. In fact, I learned from Bud Gregg no one fromsnopes.com ever contacted anyone with State Farm. Yet snopes.com issued a statement as the ‘final factual word’ on the issue as if they did all their homework and got to the bottom of things. Not!

Then it has been learned the Mikkelson’s are very Democrat and extremely liberal.. As we all now know from this presidential election, liberals have a purpose agenda to discredit anything that appears to be conservative. There has been much criticism lately over the internet with people pointing out the Mikkelson’s liberalism revealing itself in their website findings. Gee, what a shock!

So, I say this now to everyone who goes to http://www.snopes.com to get what they think to be the bottom line facts: Proceed with caution. Take what it says at face value and nothing more. Use it only to lead you to their references where you can link to and read the sources for yourself. Plus, you can always google a subject and do the research yourself.. It now seems apparent that’s all the Mikkelson’s do. After all, I can personally vouch from my own experience for their ‘not’ fully looking into things.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snopes.com

Myth Blaster Verdict:

Unsubstantiated. First, the name Scopes has a link sprinkled throughout the email allegation, but all of them only go to the main page, not any specific referenced subject material.
Second, the Wikipedia link states nothing about the claim in the email.
The email concludes because David and Barbara Mikkelson has

No formal background or experience in investigative research.

So?
What kind of background or formal experience does Truth or Fiction or Break the Chain, Hoax Slayer or the Urban Legend have? For that matter: Other than a formal university education and author of two books, various government publications, et cetera; does that qualify me under those premises (like investigative journalism) to post Myth Blaster articles on this blog?  It just takes interest in looking for facts using standard research techniques like taught in universities and colleges a required course to attain a degree and cross-referencing with other folks like Snopes. Finding the source and directly corresponding by email, telephone, fax in order to seek the foundation of the chain email floating around helps. Common sense certainly applies, and that is not taught in formal education.
These allegations have been circulating around since 2003 and the only discrepancies that I found was in a posting concerning candidate for president Barack Hussein Obama, and it was then I discovered a discrepancy; which I quote in part here:

Barack Obama has an unusual and interesting background, which the above-quoted piece draws on to paint him as a dangerous, camouflaged radical Muslim… and no evidence supports a claim that Obama is a Muslim.

Snopes failed to check the background concerning Obama’s ties with unscrupulous individuals, the Chicago political machine, ACORN and other such groups. Snopes used Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope, as part of their proof that he was not a Muslim despite noting that he had attended a Muslim school. The whole issue concerned whether or not Mr. Obama was concealing the fact that he was a Muslim. Mr. Obama may be lenient with Muslim organizations, and so on; but there is no proof that he is a closet Muslim radical. However, investigative reports of his associations have been ignored by Snopes, just as the media have. This does not mean that what they print is untrue, it is just incomplete or inconclusive.
The article linked above was updated July 7th 2009 – and still stated nothing of his association with radical Muslims that was proven by investigative reporting. The birth certificate issue was unresolved even as Mr. Obama swore in – he never came forward to address the issue publicly and after January of 2009 the records both in Kenya and Hawaii were inaccessible under the presidential security procedure that all presidents have.
Snopes also overlooked the fact that when protocol calls for it, Barack Hussein Obama, our President and Commander-in-Chief has never placed his hand over his heart (while others around him did) or a salute. Some of the claims that Mr. Obama swore in as President of the United States using a Qu’ran (Koran) and not the traditional Holy Bible – and Snopes rightly claimed this was false.
As far as the Wikipedia link (which certainly should never be used as a sole source, especially without no verification – and even then it is noted plainly at the beginning of the entry):

Snopes aims to debunk or confirm widely spread urban legends. The site has been referenced by news media and other sites, including CNN,[9] FOX news[10] MSNBC [11] and Australia’s ABC on its ‘Media Watch‘ program. Snopes’s popular standing is such that some chain e-mail hoaxes claim to have been “checked out on ‘Snopes.com'” in an attempt to discourage readers from seeking verification. [12] … The Mikkelsons have stressed the reference portion of the name Urban Legends Reference Pages, indicating that their intention is not merely to dismiss or confirm misconceptions and rumors but to provide evidence for such debunkings and confirmations as well. [14] Although they claim to research their topics heavily and provide references when possible, not all of their sources (especially personal interviews, phone calls, or e-mails) are fully verifiable. Where appropriate, pages are generally marked “undetermined” or “unverifiable” if the Mikkelsons feel there is not enough evidence to either support or disprove a given claim. [15] …   FactCheck reviewed a sample of Snopes’ responses to political rumors regarding George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, and found them to be free from bias in all cases. FactCheck noted that Barbara Mikkelson was a Canadian citizen (and thus unable to vote in American elections) and David Mikkelson was an independent who was once a registered Republican. “You’d be hard-pressed to find two more apolitical people,” David Mikkelson told them. [23]

An interesting entry at Wikipedia:

In an attempt to demonstrate the perils of over-reliance on authority, the Mikkelsons assembled a series of fabricated urban folklore tales that they term The Repository of Lost Legends[17] … the legend was featured as true in an urban legends board game and television show. [19] The television show, Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed, was shown to have been using information from Snopes when one of Snopes’ invented “lost legends” appeared on the program as true. [7]

Snopes decided to state False to the circumstances surrounding Mr. Obama’s place of birth, which still continues in debate. Judging from the facts from both points of views, Snopes should have categorized it as unsubstantiated. But they didn’t and until absolute proof is given the question remains in the air – instigated by the silence of Mr. Obama and not ensuring that evidence to the contrary be brought forth.
Urban Legends at About.com wrote on Oct 20th 2008 concerning a similar email circulating in the chain email circuit:

It apparently never occurred to this anonymous emailer to cite even one alleged instance of Snopes.com promulgating “half-truths” or “lies” under the guise of providing reliable information. So much for the email’s credibility. That such a scurrilous attack should be mounted against the oldest and most popular fact-checking site on the Internet in the waning days of an election year marked from beginning to end by relentless online smear-mongering is doubly ironic.

David and Barbara Mikkelson have never publicly announced anything political, and, as Urban Legends wrote:

the Mikkelsons’ political views are between them and the ballot box.

The only discrepancy I found I stated in the aforementioned paragraphs, and even then it was just the personal note that they didn’t go far enough into their research of the subject material. Yet, the cite what they wrote, and Urban Legends also cited from another email hoax debunking site:

TruthorFiction.com has condemned this anonymous attack against Snopes.com and lauded the website as an “excellent” and “authoritative” resource.

Back in 2003, the Free Republic (pseudo Diddle E. Squat) wrote an article about Snopes leaving out many facts. –

Snopes left out many facts included in the CNSNews piece that may have given the article more credibility.

Last, the email mentions a Bud Gregg of Mandeville (state?) and then mentions findings by Snopes. The link, once again, goes to the main page of the site and no specific place. Simply Googling/searching the Snopes’ site should reveal if indeed the Mikkelson’s have an entry. Using the words State Farm, an April 10th 2009 entry is found entitled Chicken Hawk and mentions a Bud Gregg. The claim is:

Photographs show businesses that posted “A taxpayer voting for Barack Obama is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders” signs. 

Snopes stated true. The sign was photographed outside of Mandeville, Louisiana, office of Bud Gregg, insurance agent. The State Farm home office requested the sign be removed. Snopes shows more incidents of the sign elsewhere in the nation.
In an update, Snopes stated that FactCheck.org verified that the email was false.
Since the email claim that David Mikkelson did not follow up and that Bud Gregg had not been told by the State Farm home office in Illinois to remove the sign. The email person playing investigative reporter, who also stated that David Mikkelson or Barbara Mikkelson has no credentials, provided nothing to substantiate their claim. In addition – no one knows who wrote the email because it had no person identified in the email. On the other hand, no name or place of reference was provided by Snopes when making the following statement:

A State Farm representative said that Bud Gregg’s office sign bore these messages until 3 July 2008 and that the company had requested the sign be removed as soon as they became aware of it because the sign was inconsistent with State Farm’s policy of not endorsing candidates or taking sides in political campaigns.

In reality this finding would be based on common sense. Home offices of major corporations would not want to ruin their PR by endorsing a candidate, or in this case, publicly ridiculing him/her with their corporate name attached. However, Fact Check verified it, as stated and linked previously.
Thus, this Myth Blaster finding is that the perpetrator of this accusatory email is not based upon enough facts to determine whether true or false and also incorporates several subjects and instances that require individual scrutiny.
I guess the best form of advice, even for what I write – don’t take everything as fact unless it is found to be, check out sources of the sources, et cetera. Most of these chain emails can be picked apart with little research, but some, like this one that covers so much of a time period, is a bit more complex. Generally, on behalf of David and Barbara Mikkelson, they properly designate unsubstantiated evidence as undetermined in conclusion and write what information they have.
That’s objective and except where noted in the previous paragraphs, Snopes can be deemed fairly reputable in much of what they have written. 
Thanks to Joan Bartelson for bringing this email to my attention. 
Any readers who have an email that is questionable, paste it into the body of an email to me, Keith Allen Lehman at lpj_editor@earthlink.net. Email with attachments are never opened for obvious security sake.

Advertisements