Seth Dillon bought Christian satire site The Babylon Bee in 2017 after first being a fan. He liked the way the satire website seemed to be an equal opportunity offender, even if it saw things from a right-of-center viewpoint.
However, he immediately ran into cancel culture when so-called fact-checking sites like Snopes red-flagged the Bee for disseminating false information.
"We've gotten into a couple of situations where if we joke too much about targets [the Left doesn't] like, then they start saying things like, 'Oh, are these people really a satire site? Or are they a misinformation outlet that's just trying to deceive people on purpose?'" Dillon says.
For example, Snopes fact-checked a humorous, obviously fictional story about how CNN had purchased industrial-size washing machines to spin the news before airing it.
"It was an absurd joke, but we almost got kicked off Facebook for it because we were 'spreading fake news' at a time when Facebook was really cracking down on fake news," Dillon says.
That led to a back-and-forth battle with Snopes in which that self-appointed arbiter of truth repeatedly fact-checked the Bee's stories.
"The fact-checks were always filled with this language implying that we were actually deceiving people on purpose," Dillon says.
Then USA Today got in on the game. Shortly after late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, the Bee ran a fictional, satirical piece about how the 9th Circuit Court had overturned her death.
"It was such a silly concept—how do you overturn someone's death?" Dillon says. "But USA Today fact-checked that one. That was funded by Facebook. They cited 15 sources to refute that joke."
Like Dillon, I am incredulous that we have arrived at a place in history where jokes are no longer judged by whether they are funny—they are treated as serious news and given ominous-sounding "truth ratings."
Dillon, who has had a speaking engagement canceled because a Twitter mob formed to oppose his visit to a campus, says leftists rate as "false" the jokes it doesn't like "so they can treat the person who made the joke as if they're a dangerous source of disinformation. That's what's happening with us," he said in a podcast interview. It ultimately points to the effectiveness of satire in piercing through issues and illuminating truth.
"I love a quote by G.K. Chesterton," Dillon says. "He said that humor can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle. That's a beautiful way of putting it. Humor is disarming. People let their guard down when they are laughing about things, and so it's one of the first things that they go after, saying that they need to stop when it's being effectively used as a tool against them."
Babylon Bee's satire sends jabs in both directions, he says. "There's a lot of self-deprecating humor, and we are willing to laugh at ourselves," he said. "That's the whole point of satire, beyond ridiculing bad ideas and confronting hypocrisy—to get ourselves to not take ourselves so seriously, which is a very big problem in today's world."
On that score, he believes the Left's comedy "is dying right now, in large part because there are so many things that they've put beyond the bounds where you're not allowed to joke about them," he says. "They are restricting speech so much, it's starting to affect even their own comedy."
On the bright side, Dillon and the Bee have fought back successfully by drawing media attention to these incidents of attempted censorship and discrediting.
"We've been called a far-right misinformation site by The New York Times. They said that we traffic misinformation," he says. "Brian Stelter at CNN said that we're a fake satire site, whatever that means. So we bring media attention to this stuff, and mock it, and we'll write satirical pieces about them. The attention it generates usually results in them backing off or correcting what they said."
In fact, Snopes changed its entire "fact-checking" system as a result of its interaction with the Bee. The site no longer rates satirical pieces as "false;" it rates them as "satire."
"We have fought back very successfully just by making a lot of noise about it, making people aware of how ridiculous it is that they are trying to mischaracterize us like this," Dillon said.
But how can Christians win the war against cancellation? Dillon has a ready answer.
"If we're going to make a dent in the momentum of cancel culture that's been sweeping us away in this big wave lately, it's going to result, from my perspective, from people really getting a backbone," he says. "The solution is in enough people seeing boldness and bravery and enough examples where they get emboldened to stand up and fight back against it, and just be vocal about what they believe and why they believe it."
In his view, people need to embrace the risk that by speaking up, they may lose jobs or friends or opportunities.
"The problem is, they can't fire all of us," Dillon says. "Eventually, when people are standing up in large numbers, [cancel culture] loses its power. They're not going to be able to get people out the door on a one-to-one basis anymore. They are going to have a whole army to contend with."
For much more from Seth Dillon of The Babylon Bee on Christian satire, the radical Left and cancel culture, listen to this entire episode of the Strang Report podcast here, and be sure to subscribe to the Strang Report on Apple podcasts or your favorite podcast platform. I interviewed Dillon for my upcoming book, God and Cancel Culture, which releases Sept. 7 but is available for preorder at this link.
Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Great Resources to help you excel in 2019! #1 John Eckhardt's "Prayers That..." 6-Book Bundle. Prayer helps you overcome anything life throws at you. Get a FREE Bonus with this bundle. #2 Learn to walk in the fullness of your purpose and destiny by living each day with Holy Spirit. Buy a set of Life in the Spirit, get a second set FREE.