LOS ANGELES, CA – Snopes.com owners Barbara and David Mikkelson were detained by police today after an unrelated investigation of a Snopes.com editor lead police onto a paper trail of corruption, bribery, and fraud at the very heart of the fact-checking organization.
Evidence obtained by police has revealed that Snopes.com, which markets itself as “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation,” has a history of accepting money and favors from left-leaning and pro-Islamic political groups and individuals for helping them to advance their cause by rigging public discourse with selective fact-finding and deliberate manipulation of public opinion.
Late Monday morning, Brian Williston, a Snopes.com editor, who also doubles as the accountant, found himself at a flea market on the outskirts of Los Angeles. As he was browsing the different tables and tents looking for antiques, an old mechanical piano began playing Dixie’s Land, a song that was adopted as a de facto anthem of the Confederacy during the American Civil War and is now considered offensive by some due to its link to the iconography and ideology of the Old South.
The tune sparked an outrage in Williston, who began yelling and cursing those who “would like to bring back slavery and racial separation,” and ordering the vendors to “turn off that racist music.” When no one nearby claimed to know how to turn off the one-hundred-year-old machine, Williston became violent. He started grabbing various antique objects from the vendors’ tables and throwing them at the antique piano in an attempt to silence the music.
A bystander, later identified as William Barksdale, working as a courier for the L.A. Messenger Service, attempted to calm Williston down, saying that “someone is just trying to see if that the piano still works” and “it’s only a song, don’t shoot the pianist,” but that only prompted the infuriated editor to redirect his rage to the messenger. Williston, who is white, began to choke Barksdale, who is black, while screaming “Shut up! Shut up!” as the mechanical piano continued to play Dixie’s Land in the background.
After some of the shoppers intervened and pried Williston’s hands off the courier’s throat, the Snopes.com editor fled the scene of the incident. LAPD quickly identified Williston by the personal check he left with one of the vendors, which contained his full name and address. While inside his home, Williston ignored commands to open the door, causing police to use forced entry in order to detain him.
The arresting officer caught Williston slipping some papers under a Persian rug, which prompted the police to remove the rug and examine the documents underneath it. One of them turned out to be a handwritten ledger, containing names of well-known individuals and organizations who have been paying Snopes.com to debunk stories that cast them in a bad light, while validating damaging half-truths and rumors about their political opponents.
Having established their website as a reputable resource for validating and debunking stories in American popular culture since 1995, the Mikkelson couple soon found themselves in a position to influence public discourse by punishing or rewarding certain cultural and political biases. Before long they were accepting money to promote some rumors and downplay or completely ignore some others, which over the years have brought them millions of dollars, according to the source.
Especially scandalous may be the website’s possible collaboration with left-leaning national media organizations, which started with payments to Snopes.com to overlook or validate their inaccurate and biased reporting, and eventually evolved into a full-scale coordinated effort with left-leaning groups and public relation firms to construct a media narrative that gave legitimacy to certain opinions, political causes and public figures, while discrediting other opinions, causes, and public figures.
The list of groups and individuals paying to use the website’s clout ranged from local politicians to transnational entities to foreign governments, including Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Palestinian Authority. None of the specifics or individual names are being revealed while the investigation is still ongoing, but a police source has indicated that “the shockwaves will rock the world of the media and the political establishment.”
Several watchdog groups have already condemned Snopes.com as a corrupt organization with zero credibility and urged their readers to disregard any political debunking from this tainted source. But some media experts predict that, given the high-profile names involved, as well as the power and magnitude of the political opinion-generating machine of which Snopes.com was only a small wheel, the story may never be allowed to reach a full-blown scandal and will soon be discarded as an urban legend, joining a long line of other similar stories debunked by Snopes.com.
Footage of the player piano that ignited the incident released by the LAPD:
EDITORS NOTE: This political satire column originally appeared in the Peoples Cube. The author is the Kommissar of Viral Infections with additional reporting by Red Square.