What's the snopes for snopes?
November 20, 2016 7:43 AM   Subscribe

I got into a facebook discussion with someone who posted dubious "news" about Monsanto recently. I linked to the refutation by snopes and she poo-pooed snopes as a) unreliable and b) influenced by bribes so she could continue to believe conspiracy theories. What can I say to someone who refuses to trust anything but bloggers, specifically when I use snopes on a regular basis? Or should I actually be taking snopes stories with a grain of salt as well?
posted by tracicle to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Snopes usually links to their sources. You can skip snopes and go direct to the source for information.
posted by bitdamaged at 7:51 AM on November 20, 2016 [10 favorites]

What can I say to someone who refuses to trust anything but bloggers

"Okay, have a nice day. Bye."
posted by jon1270 at 7:54 AM on November 20, 2016 [99 favorites]

Snopes generally links to their sources, so you can always point her directly to those articles without letting her know you found them via Snopes. But if she's the sort who thinks that NYTimes is a lying liberal (or corporatist) propaganda rag, I'm not sure there's anything you can do to pierce her bubble.

Or should I actually be taking snopes stories with a grain of salt as well?

Yes, and this is a point that Snopes itself makes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:55 AM on November 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Put the burden of proof on her: can she find anything in that specific Snopes article that isn't well-supported by reliable sources? Even if she generally doesn't trust Snopes, she could admit that this one article is convincing.
posted by John Cohen at 7:55 AM on November 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Snopes is in general solid. Wikipedia has a decently referenced discussion of their accuracy and reliability.

Recall that 'It Is Useless To Attempt To Reason A Man Out Of A Thing He Was Never Reasoned Into'.

If someone thinks Snopes is rigged/unreliable, and you want to keep talking to them, I'd suggest to approach them from an emotional perspective, ask them about their feelings, fears, concerns.

You probably won't change their opinion/distrust in any case, but at least with the latter route they might not dismiss you as sheeple who don't get it...
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:57 AM on November 20, 2016 [11 favorites]

This is not a person who wants facts. If primary sources - the stuff Snopes links or investigates themselves - won't work, they won't work. Ask your friend who's paying the bloggers, or just unfriend and move on with your life.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:57 AM on November 20, 2016 [12 favorites]

This is the new thing among far right conservatives, to claim that Snopes has "liberal bias." in a Facebook librarian group I'm part of this comes up as something librarians are starting to run into often with their friends and family. I don't know that you're ever going to convince these people when people like Trump are building a narrative that even bastions of reporting like the NYTimes and Washington Post aren't to be trusted. You can try showing them the actual primary sources, but I doubt even that will get through.
posted by MsMolly at 8:08 AM on November 20, 2016 [21 favorites]

Try to engage: "I thought they went through these steps to show the story wasn't right, and I found that convincing. What do you think I missed?" Show that _you_ are open minded. Ask for the steps to get to her conclusion. Say what it is ("this is just someone who thinks that if Monsanto says it it's not true") that doesn't follow for you.
posted by hawthorne at 8:35 AM on November 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

The burden is on the person who is making the assertion. When coming to the discussion table, either her blogger's sources are well founded or not. If not, you can either point out that you will suspend judgment unless there is a good reason to believe an assertion, or you can respond because you have a different opinion based on other evidence. Snopes is helpful to the point that it can serve to provide positive evidence for or against.

The moral of the story, really, is whether there is evidence for believing x or not-x, not who has a better blog as a voice of authority. The latter is only helpful to the point that it is trustworthy in backing up its assertions (although showing that one has a track record of making evidence-based assertions is definitely helpful). If someone does not want to look at evidence either for or against something, and goes solely based on the voice of authority, there isn't a whole lot you can do except try. Although to be fair, many people do move out of that stage of life at some point based on discussions with people who treat them with patience and respect.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:35 AM on November 20, 2016

The only real remedy for misinformation is more information. Please don't just dismiss her or refuse to talk about it. Do engage, use the arguements given here, and know that a lot of other people are doing the same.

One could argue that the current state of affairs is a result of people throwing up their hands and just letting someone else take control of the narrative. There are people looking for information, and treating them as lost causes because they found it somewhere else first is not how to help truth win.

Look at it another way: what are the potential negative consequences if you do engage politely? Sometimes people become hardened in their positions, it's true, but are they hardened forever or just for the duration of the discussion? And are you not sensitive and knowledgeable enough to engage in a way that leads to more openness rather than less?
posted by amtho at 8:47 AM on November 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Of course you can engage with people on this kind of thing. But it requires both skill and effort. You need almost therapeutic detachment, communication skills and patience to engage on this without straining the friendship.

Why do you care what she thinks? Unless you're engaged in a related cause and her world view on this is relevant to your joint cause, work out what you want to achieve before you engage. And consider if it matters, for the friendship, if you don't succeed.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:04 AM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Put the burden of proof on her: can she find anything in that specific Snopes article that isn't well-supported by reliable sources

I'd cut to the chase and ask for her sources about them taking bribes.
posted by rhizome at 10:45 AM on November 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

jon1270 has the right idea.

If you really want to continue engaging, you need to get them to a point where they are forced admit their views are not grounded in reality. One aspect of science is its falsifiability: that is, you can at least imagine conditions under which a claim you had believed to be true would turn out to be false. If someone is wedded to a conspiracy theory, then everything reinforces the conspiracy. If Trusted Blogger X starts admitting to doubts, or allows for nuance, then they have become a Stooge of the Conspiracy. And so on. So challenge them to consider under what conditions they might admit to doubts about Monsanto or whatever, and work from there. If they cannot even imagine any conditions, then you can say "Your belief is not grounded in reality. I can't discuss this with you."
posted by adamrice at 12:48 PM on November 20, 2016 [8 favorites]

Factcheck.org debunked this very accusation back in 2009. That being said, people are going to believe what they're going to believe and nothing you can say will change their minds. The most obviously ridiculous conspiracy theories still have proponents. There are still flat-Earthers. People still buy The National Enquirer. What can you do?
posted by irisclara at 4:51 PM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Hey all, thanks a bunch for the useful answers. I set myself a mission to start debunking misinformation that showed up on my Facebook feed, partly with the intention to improve critical literacy in myself and others, but also to reduce the number of empty fake news stories showing up on my feed. I'd prefer to engage where I can (and when I feel prepared to argue and dispute in a friendly way), so these are great tips.
posted by tracicle at 3:54 AM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Interesting background: For Fact-Checking Website Snopes, a Bigger Role Brings More Attacks. NYTimes article mostly about the people behind Snopes and what the business is like. Has some detail on the anti-Snopes backlash, including this chilling quote
“Smearing people just because you don’t like what they’re saying often works to shut them up,” Ms. Binkowski, 39, said. “But at Snopes you learn to grow a thick skin. I will always push back. At least until someone shows up at my workplace and kills me.”
posted by Nelson at 7:59 AM on December 26, 2016

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