I’ve been a fan of Snopes.com for years. It’s a fabulous site, if you hadn’t encountered it already: for the glurge, for the delicate unpicking of the most godawful nonsense, for the research the couple who run it do.
If someone’s forwarded an e-mail to you that was obviously written to be passed on, it’s always worth checking in Snopes.
Or it was. Under their Home – > Politics – > Clintons section (one of Snopes.com’s charms is a thoroughly well-organized website) there are two webpages that shouldn’t be there. Both are standard Republican anti-Clinton circulating e-mails: Play by Play Analysis and Hillary Clinton’s Resume. Both were dated in February 2008 when I first noticed them, but the “Resume” page now has the date “31st March 2008”, as if someone’s added material to it since.
Both are listed with Snopes’ yellow “Undetermined” button, which usually indicates stories like the Presidents with Binoculars page – where Snopes rightly notes “whether real or manipulated, these photos don’t show anything beyond the trivial – most of us have accidentally raised a capped pair of binoculars to our eyes for a few moments, but most of us aren’t surrounded by photographers who can catch these moments”. That’s “undetermined” – the photographs may be real or photomanips, but either way, it doesn’t matter.
These anti-Clinton webpages just have “research is continuing” at the foot: they include nothing but the attack e-mails which would normally be the source material. (To see how Snopes normally does this, check out last year’s analysis of an attack e-mail outlining Marxist statements supposedly made by Clinton.)
Snopes has, in the past, without fear or favour, gone through a whole rack of urban myths and legends circulated about Presidents or Presidential candidates. I’ve never before seen them publish an incomplete webpage.
Well, I thought, when I first saw these, accidents happen. It’s a big website. Probably whoever was updating that page put up those two examples of inbox trash as placeholders until they had time to research them, but forgot to make them private – didn’t realise that the regular viewers of the website would be able to see them. Like a good Internet citizen, I made use of Snopes’ contact page to let them know they’d made a mistake.
I got a form letter back:
Thank you for writing to us!
Our site covers many of the items currently being plopped into inboxes everywhere, so if you were writing to ask us about something you just received, our search engine at http://www.snopes.com/search can probably help you locate the very article you’re looking for. Just choose a few key words from the item of interest and enter them into search box. (Searching on whole phrases will often fail to produce matches; selecting one or two key words is the best search strategy.)
And both the pages are still visible, and someone at Snopes is still adding material to the “Hillary Clinton’s Resume” page.
Snopes has turned itself into an anti-Clinton campaign site. This is most upsetting. Not because I’m especially a Clinton supporter – I feel that either Obama or Clinton would make a great President, and the main thing to avoid is another 8 years of McSame – but I used to admire Snopes for the research they did and the neutral attitude they took to urban legends, political and apolitical. They seem to have decided to ditch that. Which is sad in itself: Snopes was a great website.
Update: It’s even worse than I thought….