– “Were Brett Kavanaugh’s children escorted from a Senate hearing room
because they were harassed by hecklers?”
was a topic last week tackled by the allegedly impartial fact-checking
sleuths at Snopes.com, Facebook’s official partner in separating real
news from fake.
determined the allegation was “mostly false.”
sometimes manipulation of the question you ask determines the answer.
you ask an illegitimate question, chances are high you get a bogus
Americans, no matter which side of the political spectrum they may
reside, are familiar with what happened during the Senate Judiciary
Committee’s hearings last week on the confirmation of Supreme Court
nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Before committee Chairman Chuck Grassley,
R-Iowa, could even complete his first sentence on day one of the
hearings, he was repeatedly interrupted by Democratic members demanding
the proceedings be aborted. That was immediately followed by the first
of some 70 acts of civil disobedience and interruptions by members of
the audience, at least some of whom were observed taking cash payments
to participate in the effort by Democrats to halt the hearings and
prevent Kavanaugh from being confirmed.
an hour or two into the televised hearing, the Kavanaughs’ two
daughters, Margaret and Liza, were escorted from the meeting room by
their mother, Ashley, and a small security detail. Those facts are
who suggested the hecklers had targeted the children? No one. In fact,
the Snopes “investigation” cites only an otherwise anonymous “internet
Meme” as having raised the allegation.
to the thoroughly unprofessional, politically biased, widely discredited
and scandal-plagued world of Snopes.com – now one of the premier
gatekeepers in the wacky and warped world of “truth detection” by what I
have labeled the internet’s emerging “Speech Code Cartel,” which
includes Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Amazon.
they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry
about answers,” explained Thomas Pynchon in “Gravity’s Rainbow.”
is as true and self-evident a statement as has ever been made.
is just one of the many techniques Snopes and its co-founder David
Mikkelson employ to redefine truth and reality to their liking – all the
while hiding behind the phony veneer of impartiality, tireless research
and the kind of expertise you can apparently obtain with an unrelated
B.S. degree in computer science.
has the advantage of a contract with Facebook and the affirmation of
other biased “fact-checkers” that followed Mikkelson’s lead into this
field of self-proclaimed, ubiquitous, infallible guardians of all
knowledge and truth – including PolitiFact and FactCheck.org. Getting
the Facebook contract has greatly empowered Snopes well beyond its
begin with a little history of Snopes.
site was founded in 1995 by Mikkelson and his then-wife, Barbara. The
couple met in the early 1990s on a folklore-themed online message board
and married before establishing Snopes. Earlier they had posed as
leaders of the “San Fernando Valley Folklore Society,” which did not
exist apart from letterhead that permitted the couple to make
official-sounding inquiries about subjects that interested them. One
profile described the group as “an entity dreamed up to help make the
inquiries seem more legit.” David Mikkelson explained to the Los Angeles
Times in 1997: “When I sent letters out to companies, I found I got a
much better response with an official-looking organization’s
probably didn’t represent a crime to do so, but it reveals that the very
foundation of Snopes was built on a lie. Just imagine if Snopes made
such a discovery in its research of another organization – if indeed it
performed such research.
the beginning, the entire Snopes fact-checking team was comprised of
this husband-wife duo, with both writing their posts based entirely on
secondhand internet sources, with Barbara also responsible for
accounting and David the tech guru.
2015, the Mikkelsons’ marriage had ended in divorce – and it wasn’t
pretty. The legal disputes involved continue to haunt the fate of the
company even today.
the court filings, Barbara, 59, has accused her former husband, 58, of
“raiding the corporate business Bardav bank account for his personal use
and attorney fees” without consulting her. She claimed he embezzled
$98,000 from the company over the course of four years, “which he
expended upon himself and the prostitutes he hired.” She alleged that
her ex-husband removed thousands from their business accounts between
April and June of 2016 to pay for trips for him and his “girlfriend.”
She said he spent nearly $10,000 on a 24-day “personal vacation” in
India in 2016 and expensed a plane ticket for his girlfriend to Buenos
been depleting the corporate account by spending monies from it on his
personal expenses,” she said in the filing.
and Barbara Mikkelson
his part, David claimed the India visit was a legitimate business trip,
that he only expensed a fraction of the costs – 22.5 percent. He
explained that he was considering setting up a fact-checking website in
India and wanted to get a sense of the culture. He also said he went to
Buenos Aires to attend an international fact-checking conference.
David wanted his salary raised from $240,000 to $360,000 – arguing that
this would still put him below the “industry standards” and that he
should be paid up to $720,000 a year. Writing to Barbara in an email, he
said his salary “should be about 2x to 3x what it is now, I’ll settle
for $360K with the understanding that it’s to be retroactive to the
start of the year.”
responded that his request was “not even in the galaxy of reasonable.”
bitter was the dispute, that they even fell out over the arbiter they
had appointed to settle disputes, meaning that Facebook’s arbiter cannot
even agree on its own arbiter,” explained
a 2016 exposé in the London Daily Mail.
divorce settlement stipulated that David receive a salary of $240,000 a
year in 2015, while both of the former couple were due to receive
$20,000 a month as a draw against profits, as well as a share of any net
profit the company made after those payments.
party waives his or her claim upon Bardav’s revenues received by Husband
into his PayPal account and spent by him, accountant’s fees for
restating tax returns to reflect previously unreported income. …” the
IRAS and stockholdings of well over $1.5 million were allocated to
Barbara, while she renounced claim on their marital home in Calabasas,
California, in return for a payment of $660,000.
kept their joint baseball card collection, a savings account with a
$1.59 million balance and other savings worth more than $300,000.
later increased the $20,000 monthly payments to $30,000.
the split, David hired Elyssa Young, now 49, as an administrative
assistant at Snopes, whom he married in 2016. She is also a long-time
escort and porn star who worked for decades under the name “Erin
described herself on her Twitter page as “a mature and experienced
courtesan, idealist, activist & dreamer.” On her escort website, she
called herself “an elite and discreet companion” who “understands that
while pleasure and passion may be explored in the bedroom, it is hardly
the only place.”
only accept a very limited number of new lovers because I’m only seeking
long-term engagements,” she wrote.
new Mrs. Mikkelson
charged a “non-negotiable” fee of $1,200 for four hours of
“companionship and entertainment” and $5,000 for 24 hours, according to
her very public website.
ran for the U.S. Congress in Hawaii as a Libertarian candidate in 2004,
during which she handed out “Re-Defeat Bush” cards and condoms stamped
with the slogan “Don’t get screwed again.”
face it, I am an unlikely candidate,” she posted on her campaign
website. “I fully admit that I am a courtesan.”
received 3 percent of the vote in her bid for Congress.
is hardly the only Snopes employee who is publicly frank about her sex
of the lead fact-checkers, Kim LaCapria, has also been a sex-and-fetish
blogger who went by the pseudonym “Vice Vixen.” She described her blog
as a lifestyle website “with a specific focus on naughtiness, sin,
carnal pursuits, and general hedonism and bonne vivante-ery.” She
regularly provided intimate advice and reviewed sex toys, including a
vibrating wand that “drives boys mad.” Today the site describes her as
“a New York-based content manager.” Describing her day-off activities on
another blog, she wrote that she “played scrabble, smoked pot, and
posted to Snopes.” She added, “That’s what I did on my day on, too.”
meanwhile, continues at Snopes as “administrative assistant.”
has received some scrutiny for not employing any “standardized
procedure” for fact-checking. Mikkelson explains that the process
“involves multiple stages of editorial oversight, so no output is the
result of a single person’s discretion.” There is also no “blanket set
of standards” for contributors.
in August 2015, a company called Proper Media started brokering
advertising on Snopes in exchange for a commission. Through March 2017,
it collected the revenues and disbursed them to the Bardov bank account.
Then, on March 9, 2017, David Mikkelson terminated the agreement in
hopes of regaining full control of Snopes. When Proper Media stopped the
payments to the bank, Mikkelson appealed to readers through a GoFundMe
account – raising an astonishing $665,000 very quickly. But, since the
initial excitement, the GFM campaign has raised only $176,017. Despite
its partnership with Facebook, Snopes is still struggling. Appeals
continue to be made on the SaveSnopes.com website.
the legal battles continue – along with the question of whether Snopes
can be trusted to be fair, balanced and unbiased.
gets right back to which questions Snopes asks itself. Here’s another
very recent example: “Do Nike factory workers in Vietnam earn 20 cents
was the question Snopes asked itself regarding the deal the company made
with Colin Kaepernick earlier this month.
ruled a no decision. Why? Because it’s not the right question.
workers in Vietnam are 80 percent female, and some are illegally forced
to labor more than the statutory working week of 48 hours,” Snopes
it also found that it is not typical for Vietnamese employees to work 70
to 80 hours per week. Furthermore, while wages were around 20 cents per
hour in the mid-1990s, they have increased since then.
it a way for Snopes to cater to a potential or even existing advertiser?
Was it a way it could defuse the Kaepernick rebellion? Who knows, but it
added little to the raging national controversy.
not just through the questions Snopes asks itself that it deflects
issues of bias.
can also compare what Snopes finds in its sleuthing about the
personalities it scrutinizes.
blog Owlcation compared two similar “investigations” Snopes conducted
regarding two very different politicians – Dr. Ben Carson and Bill and
No. 1 was: “Did Ben Carson purchase a $31,000 dining set and charge It
claimed the allegation was true.
article then proceeds to pile on references from the New York Times and
the Guardian that offer further damning claims about Carson. But then
comes the information that completely refutes the claims made earlier in
the article,” Owlcation reports. “Carson did not order the furniture,
and he told CNN: ‘I did not request new furniture, but asked if it could
be remediated.’ The Snopes article even provides part of Carson’s
response which puts the lie to the article’s ‘true’ claim: ‘I was as
surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been
ordered,’ Carson said in the statement. ‘I have requested that the order
be canceled. We will find another solution for the furniture
replacement.’ So, why would an article that ends with information
answering the question, ‘Did Ben Carson purchase a $31,000 dining set
and charge it to HUD?,’ with a resounding ‘No,’ claim that the statement
‘HUD Secretary Ben Carson bought a $31,000 dining set and billed
taxpayers for it,’ is ‘true’? The end of the article refutes its
beginning, but anyone who just casually glances over it would likely
come away thinking that Carson was, in fact, trying to bilk the
taxpayers out of $31,000 for a dining set and likely would not have even
bothered to note that it was not for Carson’s personal home use but for
his office at HUD.”
was not the case in a similar story about whether the Clintons “were
forced to return an estimated $200,000 in furniture, china and art they
‘stole’ from the White House.” This claim is labeled, “Mostly False.”
the article twists itself through some loops of creative analysis to
finally land on the claim, ‘All told, the Clintons paid back or returned
approximately $136,000 worth of furniture, artwork, china and other
household items they had kept upon leaving office.’ That number looks a
lot closer to $200,000 than the label of ‘mostly false’ would indicate,”
says Owlcation. “The Clintons clearly took items from the White House
that did not belong to them, yet their sycophants quibble about the
actual value of the things, not the fact that they took them. If taking
things that do not belong to you is not ‘stealing,’ then we need a new
definition of the word.”
bias is in the eye of the beholder, but even David Mikkelson admits most
often it is conservatives and Republicans who detect bias in Snopes
that surprising after learning the history of this enterprise?
what does it tell you about the worldview of Snopes’ new partner –