- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 20, 2020

For the third time this year, the Christian satirical website The Babylon Bee has run afoul of social media giants, with Facebook demonetizing the site Tuesday.

Facebook ruled that a joke lifted from the 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” about witches and ducks “incites violence.”

The satirical post, which had been shared more than 141,000 times, had Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to weigh Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett against a duck to “see if she’s a witch.”

The gag mirrored one the British troupe used in its famous comedy, with both playing off the medieval superstition that the guilt of a suspected witch could be determined by “ducking” into water to see whether she would float.

Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon announced the demonetization Tuesday on Twitter and said Facebook had apparently rejected an appeal. The Babylon Bee’s Twitter feed has more than 753,000 followers.

“So after a manual review, Facebook says they stand by their decision to pull down this article and demonetize our page. I’m not kidding,” Mr. Dillon tweeted.

“They say this article ‘incites violence.’ It’s literally a regurgitated joke from a Monty Python movie!” he wrote with palpable disbelief.

The Babylon Bee, which bills itself at times as “fake news you can trust,” posted the spoof on Oct. 14 while Ms. Barrett was facing questions from Democratic senators opposed to her nomination, which the senate is expected to vote on Monday.

Beneath a clearly photoshopped image of Ms. Hirono and a duck, the post said she had “pulled a live duck out of a massive burlap sack next to her and announced: ‘In addition to being a senator, I am also quite wise in the ways of science. Everyone knows witches burn because they are made of wood, I think I read that somewhere. Wood floats, and so do ducks - so logically, if Amy Coney Barrett weighs as much as this duck I found in the reflection pool outside, she is a witch and must be burned.”

Her Democratic colleagues nodded in “solemn approval” to this attack, according to the post, while “Republicans yelled and pounded on their desks a bunch before pouncing and booking interviews with Tucker Carlson.”

An incredulous Mr. Dillon asked “in what universe does a fictional quote as part of an obvious joke constitute a genuine incitement to violence? How does context not come into play here?”

He noted on Twitter that “a Black Lives Matter leader said that if change doesn’t happen, they’ll ‘burn down this system.’ That’s allowed on Facebook. You can quote it. You can link to it. But a Monty Python joke about burning a witch at the stake? That’s incitement to violence.”

Using a clown-face emoji, he called Facebook review a “clown show.”

Facebook’s aggressive move against the often conservative site comes as social media giants are under scrutiny for censoring conservatives.

Twitter and Facebook also clamped down on articles in the New York Post on alleged corruption involving Hunter Biden, his father and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and foreign companies that gave the son millions of dollars while his father was vice president.

The recent moves by Twitter and Facebook to vaporize any links or comments on the stories, including locking the Twitter account of the New York Post, have solidified conservative complaints that Silicon Valley increasingly controls the dissemination of news and is pressing its thumbs on the scale to favor Democrats and liberals.

Facebook did not respond Tuesday evening to a request from The Washington Times for comment on the Babylon Bee.

Mr. Dillon tried to make light of the blow on his personal Twitter account, joking Facebook’s decision was “no big deal,” because The Babylon Bee only relied on Facebook for some 70 percent of its revenue.

But he said his site would not back down.

“They’re asking us to edit the article and not speak publicly about internal content reviews. Oops, did I just tweet this? … We will not be editing the article to get our page’s monetization reinstated. We will, however, be talking to the media about this,” he wrote over two tweets.

Tuesday was not the first time The Babylon Bee found itself threatened by social media “standards.”

During the 2018 midterm elections Facebook flagged several posts as false.

In August, Twitter apologized for temporarily closing the site’s Twitter feed, blaming a flawed algorithm for identifying it as “spam” or “fake news.”

USA Today and the liberal fact-checking site Snopes.com have run fact checks on Babylon Bee jokes in the past, such as the one “reporting” CNN had purchased an industrial-sized washing machine with which it could “spin” the news.

Snopes.com also fretted in 2019 that “too many people” think the humor site is real.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide