The “fact-checkers” at Snopes recently rated a popular Turning Point USA meme “mostly false” in what appeared to be a misunderstanding of the concept of stock photography. The meme, entitled, “Your City on Socialism,” displays three images depicting the damage done to society as a result of socialism, while one image depicts politicians as the real winners in a socialist economy.
The “fact-checking” website Snopes recently attempted to debunk a popular Turning Point USA (TPUSA) meme over the organization’s usage of stock imagery. The left-wing site rated the meme “mostly false,” claiming that its “set of images” do not accurately “document the impact of socialism on the lives of citizens.”
Internet memes — which often use imagery or video to make a point that resonates with viewers — are known to incorporate stock photographs for optimized visualization.
“The third image does not document a grocery store that ran out of food due to a failed socialist economy,” says Snopes of one of the meme’s stock images, “It actually captures a Walmart outlet in Texas that ran out of food items and other supplies as it was thronged by customers stocking up ahead of the approach of Hurricane Rita.”
The Texas store depicted in the meme has at least two items clearly seen on the shelves, unlike Venezuelan stores — citizens have since resorted to eating dogs and zoo animals, as well as food scraps found in garbage trucks.
Likewise, Snopes goes on to “fact check” the images of the “mansion” and “city” in a similar, over-fastidious manner, while granting TPUSA partial credit for the second image in the meme, as it displays a hospital in Venezuela.
“The second image is the lone photograph in this meme that was actually taken in a socialist country,” acknowledges Snopes, which then goes on to allege that Venezuelans are not suffering solely due to socialism.
“While Venezuela is a socialist country, that aspect is far from the only factor that has led to the country’s severe economic turmoil,” insists Snopes, before stating that “plunging oil prices, government corruption, and political unrest have also contributed to the crisis” — a bizarre claim, given that socialism is implicated in those three components of the crisis.
Snopes then further digresses from its finicky “fact-checking” of stock imagery and moves deeper into the territory of partisan political debate by arguing that “a single photograph of a run-down hospital is not representative of socialized medicine as a whole,” suggesting that government-run healthcare can work well in other countries.
“This meme is perhaps a better example of how images can be taken out of context, re-captioned, and repackaged in order to spread a political agenda,” concludes Snopes of the Internet meme’s stock imagery, in an apparent attempt to spread its own political agenda under the guise of fact-checking.
It’s worth noting that the Facebook and Google approved fact-checking service does not treat all memes equally.
Last year, Snopes rated the “general idea” of a liberal meme “correct,” despite it having been debunked — and despite the context surrounding its imagery having a literal interpretation, rather than the usage of blatant stock photographs.
In what is somehow an even more strange usage of the time belonging to Snopes employees, the fact-checking site has also been caught repeatedly attempting to debunk articles by the satirical Christian website, Babylon Bee — an unusual endeavor, given that Babylon Bee openly advertises itself as a satire site.
Those more familiar with the recent events surrounding Snopes might suggest going easy on the website with regards to its peculiar undertakings, as the site is reportedly understaffed, and finding that “fact-checking” is getting increasingly difficult, particularly due to the ongoing legal battle between Snopes CEO David Mikkelson and his former business associates.
“We could have had a larger staff of more fact checkers and more editors — we could have put more resources into developing the technological tools that we use,” said the CEO, who has been accused in divorce proceedings of appropriating company funds to allegedly pay for expensive vacations and prostitutes.
Mikkelson also recently acknowledged that had it not been for the lawsuit, Snopes “could have been doing much more,” rather than simply “debunking the latest dumb photo.”