Ah, mister Snopes dot com. Obviously a team effort, no man has time to think up that much counterpropaganda. I wonder what came first; a credulous boy called Snopes, who then sold his skill off, or was he created by the people using him. What do we call the people who run Snopes? Establishment? That sounds so clichéd and unsophisticated. These are, after all, serious people who employ serious science to defend the consensus and ridicule the aberrant. By that I mean Snopes deals in Truth, Montessori Truth, and that has to be defended against all attempts at suggesting any alternative truth.
Snopes is quoted as authority nearly as often as Wikipedia. Snopes also seems to be a moderator on Wikipedia, but that is not our issue today; today, we just want to talk about mister Snopes’ tactics with which he confounds the arguments of the nerdy. By nerdy I respectfully refer to people who think they can win an argument by stating facts. There are many of us, but we are losing the argument against Truth. One of the reasons is that the average Joe is not trained in formal logic. If you use formal logic to structure your argument, you are almost guaranteed to win, but logic and truth is not the same thing.
One of the first tactics a detractor will employ on you, it to listen with a derisory smirk. This is to bait you into firing all your guns, using ammo you have structured into a factual argument, but now your thought structure is destroyed, because you gushed it out all at once, in one slightly incoherent argument. It is inevitable that you left out a pertinent fact or conflated two things as a conversational shortcut. You might even insert a bit of speculation or rumour and not make it clear that you are not presenting it as fact. You are rushed, trying to convince someone calling you ignorant, and above all, you are concentrating on the topic you feel is at hand. Your opponent, however, has to do very little work, because his technique is polished and consistent. He will probably quote Snopes at you.
A while ago, Google delisted a number of websites, meaning they could not be found by the Google Search Engine, a vast robot that tries to remember every word on the internet by reducing whole pages to short series of keywords. When you search a term, the Google robot scratches through its memory to find all the places it saw that word used, and then it displays a list of all the websites and even pages or documents containing at least some of the words you typed in. All the robot did, was to read its own words, look for Natural News as part of that address, then pretends not to see it, and not show you either. It is not some wonderful new technology, it is not some vast conspiracy, it is just a little subroutine the Google robot acted upon as it was instructed to. Anyway, this made a lot of news, and since Greenpets is also into the business of disseminating thoughts on matters Natural and we do comment on the News, it was only Natural that I check out the News on Google’s terrible dictatorship. I was somewhat surprised by what I found.
Firstly, the site in question was still available to all other search engines, or you could go there via your explorer bar. They were not censored or anything, Google just did not link to them, as is their right, surely. Secondly, I am afraid the whole exercise was a commercial exercise. I am too disinterested to follow shareholding in Snopes versus Natural News, but they are definitely not enemies. I think the whole ‘scandal’ was just free advertising. Natural News seems to be an open blog, with many ‘guest editors’ and suchlike contributors. Their editorial policy seems to be sensationalism, and the site actually consists of many individual article pages, all with the same format: You have a site banner, some ads, a picture that can artistically be forced to fit the subject of the article, a few words, some ads, some words, some ads, some words, lots of ads, some words, ads, profile of contributor, ads, disclaimer, ads, links, ads. Fairly standard as monetised sites go, the term for this format is ‘clickbait’ and this is where Natural News and Snopes come together. Snopes even maintains an entire separate category just for Natural News, ‘debunking’ almost every single article. Yes, the articles are amateurish and are only interested in having you click on the ads, but what the hey, man, there are other fools out there, and most of the stuff is really innocent gossip.
Snopes loves Natural News, and I even suspect they might be in cahoots. It is like Natural News specifically writes things for Snopes to ridicule and proof false news. As an example I guess I should quickly open both sites and give you cross-referenced exactitudes as proof. We already agreed that a nerd like myself will never win such an argument, so instead I will be my lazy self and just tell you what I saw when I went to look:
Natural news is in the business of hyperbole and sensationalism. Their main objective is not to educate or even entertain, their main objective is to sell advertising space, and with millions of visitors every month, they sell some serious advertising. Grant them that, it is just business, they tell you not to trust their advice, and they seemingly only touch on truly controversial issues when ordered to do so, because that will get the Snopes/Rationalwiki/conspiracy debunking apparatus rolling. It seems to work as follows:
Natural news will take a small piece of ‘news’ from the world of health and wellness, any side of that knot of opportunists, does not matter who. As a matter of fact, the dodgier the source, the more likely that NATNEWS will run with it. So, they will take one tiny snippet of news, like
Scientists at OMG University cures cancer with Turmeric
Some person -by the tone of the literature a number of well-educated lady art majors- will then write an article on the scientists and their ground-breaking discovery. They may even include a few phrases hinting that the cure is being suppressed, or denied funding, or some reason to bring the cause closer to heart. Natural News writers seem to be unaware of the true origin of research. Students are basically free labour for professors, and professors are kept in butter by donations and grants, and grants are not given to research wild ideas, grants are given to proof something true or false, and the researcher with the biggest grant is most likely to ‘win’ at providing the paid-for proof. Cigarettes were not harmful while big Tobacco paid the bills, but when it became time, the grants to prove tobacco poisonous rolled in like a dust storm, obscuring all other research, facts, opinions or rights.
So, to tell me “scientists have proven turmeric cures cancer” usually translates into “ a pimpled student looking for something to hang a thesis onto and impress the professors so they will give him a degree, has been studying compounds in turmeric rumoured to be of use against tumours.” If the child then writes a paper on the antimicrobial and growth inhibition properties of substances found in turmeric, it suddenly becomes research by scientists at such-and-such authorative ivory tower, and we found the cure for cancer. No, we found that turmeric contains certain substances, and those substance react in a certain way, but it is just a student stirring stuff in a petri dish. A drop of whiskey onto the cells would also have shown growth inhibiting properties.
Can you see that Snopes does not even have to get out of bed for this? Unfortunately, the poor sod does rise to this bait, as his mandate dictates, and off we go, ripping yet another fake news rumour to pieces. I think Natural News rumours are poorly constructed, just so they can be easily refuted. I am convinced the two are in cahoots. Okay, I will tell you what made me write this article. I was looking to see what Natural News offers that is so bad, and immediately Google fills the result page with people critical of NN. I believe the arty girly with a page “debunking the conspiracy” or something might actually be a NN contributor, the styles are identical. Anyway, Snopes is right at the top, and even though I have dismissed them as fifth column years ago, I opened to see. One has to know your enemy, and apparently our enemy is Natural News, and they sinned by saying that the FDA regards breakfast corn puffs better food than avocados. In essence, the statement is correct. On the highly controversial and provably corrupted “Pyramid of Nutrition” that the Americans published as a guide to good nutrition, they do indeed have frosted flakes as more important than fruit. Mister Snopes, though, explains why this is a ‘Mostly False’ claim: The FDA does not mention Rice Crispies or Avocados by name. Yes, they do say that sugared cereals are superior to fruit, but they never actually named avocados. Those darn conspiricists over at Natural News.
The FDA, on the other hand, when confronted with this issue, had this to say: “we believe now is an opportune time to re-evaluate regulations concerning nutrient content claims, generally, including the term ‘healthy.’” Oy vey. Do you know who and what the FDA actually is?
Of course, the Natural News article was just an arty-farty comment on a video they saw. But now we know they are liars, stupid liars who cannot even read the FDA recommendations right. Or are they writing articles for Snopes to snipe at, so we can all learn the worthlessness of criticising the Establishment?
Oh, as it happens, turmeric really is a wonderful herb that supports the body during times of reduced immune response. But that does not come from a university, it comes from my own kitchen, and the only reason mister Snopes ain’t after my ass is because he does not know I exist, but if a controversy needs some clarification, Greenpets maintains a small but growing database of alternative facts to help you take a step back and look at life less seriously and more self-reliantly sceptic, because scaremongering works best when it comes from someone you trust, and Snopes is all about appearing trustworthy. The arguments are sometimes circular, often self-referring and the term “confirmation bias” apparently does not apply the Snopes. But they use very good logic, and paired with distorted, censored or conveniently forgotten data, logic is unbeatable.
If ever you want to test a news site, here is the test. See what they have to say about 911. If they so much as implicate Arab terrorists, they are either too lazy to research, or they are Peddling The Line. If you still believe there were terrorist, well, then this whole article was just a waste of your time, I guess, go back to Snopes now. But we love you, here at Greenpets.