Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Snopes and George Soros: the connection

Shall I make it simple? There is no connection.

Not simple enough? Okay, how about this: There is no connection between George Soros and

Still too complicated? Okay, then try this on for size: If you believe that is financed by George Soros or anybody else, then YOU ARE AN IDIOT.

Sometimes I am amazed at how easily and thoughtlessly people pass on falsehoods whose only purpose is to sully the reputation of an honorable or successful person (or group of people). We used to call it gossip, now we call it email lore. (And sometimes we call it political discourse.)

I received one of those endlessly forwarded emails tonight, asserting breathlessly and longwindedly (can you be"breathless" and "longwinded" at the same time? and is "longwindedly" a real adverb?) that the website is financed by shady left-wing sources, that most of those sources have tried to hide their identities, and that one of the sources is controversial kazillionaire George Soros.

I sure get tired of this crap.

Emails like this are written in such a way as to get you outraged enough to feel a moral obligation to "forward this message to everyone you know." They often appeal, in the final paragraph, to your sense of dignity, patriotism, or just-plain-guilt. If they succeed, then, prompted by both outrage and the guilt, you will forward it to everybody in your Address Book.

Don't you wish you'd stopped to do some fact-checking first?

In the case of, I know the Snopeses. David and Barbara Mikkelson are personal friends of mine. We were chasing urban folklore together back before Web browsers existed, back when we had to crawl through the untamed wilds of the Internet with nothing but a machete and a keyboard (and I carried an axe), relying on text-based tools like archie and USEnet newsreaders. We were stuffing and mounting urban legends before any of you found your first free AOL CD in your mailbox.

I watched as David and Barbara put things in place so that they could have a go at making money from urban folklore, by carefully detaching themselves from alt.folklore.urban and starting, maybe not the first, but definitely the most successful, commercial urban-folklore website,

David and Barbara could not be successful if they didn't remain detached and independent—unencumbered by financial or political relationships with ANYBODY. I mean, duh.

But don't take my word for it. Read what they themselves have to say about it:
If that's not good enough for you, then read what two other professional folklorists have to say about it:

You can call the Mikkelsons liars if you want. You can call me, Rich Buhler (TruthOrFiction) and Dave Emery (About) deluded if you want. But at least we went to the trouble of searching out the truth. We're not stupid enough to believe something just because it landed in our Inboxes.

Besides, like I said, I know the Snopeses. Personally. Do you?

UPDATE, June 14: Here's another analysis of the question, written in April 2009 by Viveca Novak at For those of you not familiar with, it's a highly regarded website, billing itself as "a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center." You can accuse them of political bias if you want (Hey! Did you know that the Annenberg Foundation gives financial support to National Public Radio? Does that make them liberals?), but their work has always been credible, well-researched and impartial, as far as I can tell.


Anonymous said...

Well, obviously George Soros paid YOU money so you'd push this lib'ral, left-wing agenda on us real Americans!!!11


Zyzmog said...

Some anonymous body knows my sense of humor really well. I laughed out loud (for real) when I saw this comment in my Inbox.

nissesmom said...

Bravo! I'm getting pretty tired of having to redefend and redefend the Mikkelsons' - I keep sending out and truthorfiction and factcheck. Guess I don't hit enough folks 'cause I still get this trash about Snopes. Sigh... Loved your 'rant' and the reasons for it and the fact that y'all are friends. Nothing like personally knowing someone to be able to write truthfully about him. Thanks!

Cyndi Perkins

Anonymous said...

Hey, George Soros is Uber Rich! What kind of urban legends do you suggest I report on to get a big payday from George? I'll be a shill for anyone who will make me rich. You got yours. I want mine! Let's redistribute the wealth. BTW, how much did you pay for your mansion?