Babylon Bee: We beat the New York Times -- and that's no joke

To quote Wilford Brimley in 1981’s Absence of Malice: “Wonderful thing, subpoenas.” The Babylon Bee-New York Times defamation battle has come to a satisfying — if predictable — conclusion to three months of prevarication. Two weeks ago, the satirical humor website’s attorneys demanded a full retraction from the NYT, which had spent months defending its description of the TBB as a “right-wing misinformation site.”

The NYT finally complied, TBB editor in chief Seth Dillon announced today:

Oddly enough, the original article and link do not come up in a search of the NYT. If readers search the archives for any mention of the Babylon Bee since March 1, this article link no longer appears. Instead, it only produces a link to their “Corrections” page for Saturday, which then includes a link to the original article:

An article on March 20 about Facebook’s difficulty distinguishing satire from misinformation referred imprecisely to the Babylon Bee, a right-leaning satirical website, and a controversy regarding the handling of its content by Facebook and the fact-checking site Snopes. While both Facebook and Snopes previously have classified some Babylon Bee articles as misinformation, rather than satire, they have dropped those claims, and the Babylon Bee denies that it has trafficked in misinformation.

What’s the reason the original article no longer comes up in a search? The NYT purged all mention of the Babylon Bee in it, not even to mention its place among satirical sites. Perhaps the attorneys just didn’t want to risk fueling more claims of defamatory damage against TBB and ordered the paper to err on the side of caution. As a result, however, the article discussing the difficulties of dealing with satire in content moderation is missing one of the most well-known satirical sites on the Internet.

In other words, it’s pretty much what I predicted two weeks ago:

So will the Bee sting the Gray Lady over this journalistic malpractice? I’d guess that the NYT’s attorneys will advise their client to do a clean-up on its reporting, and that the clean-up will be accompanied by a non-apology statement of some vague sort. It doesn’t cost much to solve this problem, while there’s not much point in defending the reporting that the Paper of Record did on the Babylon Bee.

Well … kinda, anyway:

It’s not just the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do … which is why I’m betting this ends up in court.

D’oh! And I was doing so well up to that point, too. Who knew the NYT would do the right and smart thing, especially after two solid months of doing everything else but? Live and learn, I say.

Dillon declared victory on Twitter earlier today, and exhorted people not to take defamation from media outlets “lying down.” Even the most powerful among them can be beaten at that game:

As Wilford Brimley said, “Wonderful thing, demand letters from attorneys with a chip on their shoulder.” Or, at least that’s what he might have said in this case. I can’t believe it’s been 40 years since one of the greatest examples of cinematic deus ex machina, but here’s the beginning of the scene again if you can’t quite recall it. (The full scene is not on YouTube, alas.)

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David Strom 4:01 PM on October 05, 2022