The Babylon Bee

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The Babylon Bee is a satire site that tries and fails to be the American Christian conservative equivalent to The Onion. The site is even designed similarly, but generally lacks both the wit and the subtlety. This is largely because they rely on reiterating or throwing in conservative talking points and strawmanning their opposition rather than delivering actual punchlines making fun of their opposition, or worthwhile commentary on society. Much of their humor is their discovering sarcasm while punching down people or being obviously self-deprecatory. It's never a good sign when their videos end with them laughing at their own jokes. The Babylon Bee often targets far-right religious figures such as Joel Osteen[1][note 1][2][3] and Pat Robertson,[4] but that doesn't make them any more witty.

Perhaps at one point in history, going as far back as their founding in March 1, 2016, they didn't have just mostly juvenile mean-spirited content[note 2] and had headlines that had maybe a bit more of a point,[7] and they even raised alarm at Donald Trump's popularity among evangelicals years ago,[8] but a lot of their recent content is so bad, The Babylon Bee qualifies in an updated Cracked's "5 Awful (But Revealing) Examples Of Conservative Comedy".[9] However, they're still capable of fooling conservatives every now and then, including at least one fake-news hating schmuck,[10] and so their content tends to show up in R/AteTheOnion.

Despite The Babylon Bee apparently protesting about the loss of conservative voices and playing persecution,[note 3] viewing and posting comments requires a premium subscription.[11] The Onion, however, does not even have comments sections, to be fair.

Why their content sucks[edit]

The things we see as most absurd, the bad ideas most deserving of ridicule tend to be ideas on the left.
—Seth Dillon, the chief executive of a newspaper whose target audience believes in creationism, Qanon, trickle-down, abstinence-only sex education, climate change denial, anti-vaccination, COVID-19 denialism, birtherism, and more, and takes the likes of Ted Cruz, Fox News, Ben Garrison, Breitbart, and Newsmax seriously.[8]

The Babylon Bee often just opts in standard right-wing commentary or all-too-common right-wing portrayals of their opponents by having them be oversensitive, censor-happy, and easily outraged crybabies, and then adds a layer of absurdity to pass off as satire.

They believe that people reacting with alarm to Trump's and the Republican Party's willingness to threaten them with racist , sexist, and transphobic laws,[note 4] as well as Trump's willingness to engage in blatant Constitution violations such as the emoluments clause, gleeful displays of overt corruption, and openness to foreign election meddling; as well as rolling back clean air regulations, protections for endangered species, and mitigation of climate change; all these are just absolutely hilarious liberal material to work off. A 2020 analysis by The New York Times said:

When Mr. Trump first took office, the Bee’s staff worried that it would be harder to make conservative comedy under a Republican administration. But they soon found that Mr. Trump’s outsized personality, combined with the rage he inspired on the left, presented plenty of material. Mr. Mann said he might like to see Mr. Trump re-elected, if only for his comedic value.[8]

Strawmanning their opponents and persecution complex[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Straw man
"Dems 'If America Isn't Racist, How Do You Explain These White Hoods We're Wearing?'"[12]
"Congress Passes Law To Recognize Juneteenth, The Day Republicans Freed All The Democrats' Slaves"[13]
"House Democrats Draft Legislation That Would Make It A Hate Crime To Eat At Chick-Fil-A"[14]
"Liberal Activist Explains Notion Of Tolerance To Man She Just Called A ‘Worthless [Expletive]’"[15]
"Sesame Street Introduces 'Todd', A White Male Muppet Who Is Blamed For Everything"[16]
"Ocasio-Cortez Gets Head Stuck In Bucket, Journalists Rush To Explain Why It Was Actually A Genius Move"[17]
"AOC's Rant Against Capitalism Undercut By Her Having Pringles Canisters Stuck On Each Hand"[18]

A recurring theme among The Babylon Bee is a persecution complex: their opponents are frequently sensitive, easily-set-off, and hypocritical folk who successfully alter "cancel" or "ban" those who display even the vaguest of gestures. This was apparent even years ago when The Babylon Bee was supposedly better.[8] The Babylon Bee often suggests "the Democrats are the REAL racists", which we must say: if you want to write satire, you must get your history correct. Do your goddamn research. And be original. One of the examples is from 2016, so the The Babylon Bee has been doing this for quite a while now.

There's of course, someone responsible for these jokes. Kylee Man, editor-in-chief of The Babylon Bee has a series of tweets[19] where he fails to grasp both the concept of comedy and the general media landscape as well as having such scope limited to the United States only. In response to the accusation that his site punches down, he rebukes that the site aims at powerful institutions including universities, the news media, politicians, televangelists, corporations, and the president of the United States and shockingly neglecting that his very own site is constantly smearing transgender and nonbinary people. For instance, he's under mistaken impression that "There are no restrictions to what it can make fun of." and that "When someone tries to tell you what's off limits for comedy, it means they're starting to get scared."

For starters, The Babylon Bee is crap at comedy, not because it offends, but it offends for the sake of offense, as well as being under mistaken impression. Mann believes "the left" controls "virtually every major cultural institution", which that is not even remotely true even within scope of the United States, and even if you define "the left" as generally center-right center-left neoliberals. Radios, cable TV, newspapers, YouTube channels, books: these all have significant, if not leading right-wing outlets, especially talk radio. His site, on the other hand, regularly attacks the trans and non-binary people, who have effectively zero representation in government in spite of very occasionally ratioing assholes on Twitter and successfully rallying few of said assholes to get the boot, who are violating conduct and terms of service anyway. The aim at universities is rather odd, as they don't have much political power, and their culture is usually self-contained especially compared to media conglomerates.

Apparently, according to Kyle Mann in an interview with The Atlantic,[20] the brain-dead AOC humor articles were intended to be an absurd version of memes shared by AOC haters, but the message is lost and Mann reports "upset" responses from people going, "Hey, your article isn't funny". Mann characterizes these articles as "making fun of stupid Boomer jokes about AOC" and as part of "a weird Andy Kaufman bit" though even in the interview, he is a bit incoherent trying to explain what he exactly means by this.

Mann: The great thing about this headline is we’re making fun of stupid Boomer jokes about AOC, because, at the time, you know, there were just constant memes about AOC being dumb or whatever. And so we said, “Well, what if we just kind of went all in with this weird Andy Kaufman bit where we’re making fun of ourselves, but we don’t tell anybody we’re making fun of ourselves?”

It really is this kind of weird litmus test where, you know, if you see it and you know what we’re doing, which most of our audience does, they laugh at it. If you don’t know what we’re doing, people on the right who don’t like AOC, they'll be like, “Yeah, I don’t like her either. But, you know, this joke isn’t very good.” And then, uh, [Laughs.] people on the left just … I don’t know. I think people on the left think that we’re always 100 percent serious and we’re always saying what we’re saying. Um, they don’t understand that comedy can take this ridiculous position just to kind of mock it a little bit.

If we were to take this at face value and not dismiss this as an excuse for poor, obtuse satire, this calls the question: which parts of The Babylon Bee is mocking their audience and which parts agree with their audience? Are those constant repetitive transphobic jokes are also "weird Andy Kaufman bits", making fun of transphobes' tendencies to be repetitive? Or did they finally realize that their content is terrible and made up an excuse?

Transphobia: the one joke[edit]

One dozen headlines, one joke.

The Babylon Bee seems to understand neither gender identity nor creating new material on this subject. The real sin though is that The Babylon Bee repeats the one tired joke to the point where if there was any humor to begin with it was milked dry long before.[21] Other conservatives use the same joke to mock trans people, which is exaggerating the amount and flexibility of gender identities, so it's not exactly original content. In spite of Mann's claims that The Babylon Bee punches up, they target a demographic that has laws denying them basic rights, encouraging invasive behavior on teenagers (which The Onion has successfully capitalized on),[22] and even legalizing their existences out.

"Bigoted Boy Scouts Welcome Girls But Still Exclude All 49,247 Other Genders"[23]
"Columbia University To Hold Separate Graduations For All 7,895 Genders"[24]
"Congressional Prayer Lasts Two Days As Democrat Includes All 5,787 Genders"[25]
"New Ultrasound Technology Can Detect Up To 50 Genders"[26]
"Dungeons And Dragons Introduces New 100-Sided Die For Determining Your Character's Gender"[27]

Their opponents are depicted as offended by a intentionally absurd situation, though conservative comedians already do this all the damn time, and it's never funny especially not 7,895 times.[note 5] The Dungeons and Dragons article, for example, describes a situation where "screeching leftists on Twitter" forced the Dungeon & Dragons producers' hands and that rules were amended to not "offend" non-binary folk and that misgendering kills your character.

Millennial "jokes"[edit]

"Millennials Finally Take Coronavirus Seriously As Avocado Toast Supplies Run Out"[28]
"Unsatisfied By Thrill Of Eating Tide Pods, Millennials To Storm Military Base"[29]
"'Darned Millennials!' Screams Boomer While Driving Car Off Cliff"[30]
"Proud Parents Of 28-Year-Old Millennial Post Annual Back-To-Basement Picture".[31]
"Police Calm Millennial Protesters By Handing Out Participation Trophies"[32]
"Boomer Criticizes Millennials For Constantly Craving Recognition, Attention, Food, Shelter"[33]
"Tough Housing Market Forces More Millennials To Live In Van Down By The River"[34]

The Babylon Bee has made obvious digs about millennials that everyone already has heard of thousands of times already. They have some occasional articles, such as in the last examples, where they take a more sympathetic stance on millennials and criticize older church-goers for repelling millennials. The article in particular (with, albeit, little subtlety) depicts an out-of-touch baby boomer, who bought a house when it was cheaper in the '60s, telling millennials to "scrape together $800,000 or so and get themselves a nice little bungalow", and another article also depicts out-of-touch baby boomers making similar useless suggestions for saving a million dollars for a fixer-upper.

Other unfunniness[edit]

"'It's Okay To Cry,' Says Pathetic Excuse For A Man"[35]

The content, actually sympathetic to the man in spite of the headlines, somewhat engages in absurd self-parody by depicting a stoic man as absurd as a crying one. But the delivery has the subtlety of a sledgehammer for no reason. The headline, regardless, is not the best choice to satirize such things, as the target audience has an inclination to the real concept of toxic masculinity that harms men.

"Shocking New Study Suggests Disagreeing With Gay, Trans People Not Same As Hating Them." [36]

While their content on homosexuality is nowhere near as common as their approach to gender, they still engage in some homophobia. The example article, from 2017, is among the worst offenders. This article just reiterates, sarcastically, word-for-word, a conservative talking point that veils bigotry behind a nice sounding phrase of just "disagreeing with a gay or trans lifestyle" and then, as usual for The Babylon Bee, creates a scenario of outraged groups censoring them and appearing unreasonable. This also proves that The Babylon Bee are fucking idiots that don't understand how their enemies think.

"'We Must Stop Eating Beef To Fight Climate Change,' Says Scientist Who Looks Suspiciously Like Chick-Fil-A Cow In A Lab Coat"[37]

This one is one of the less harmful examples, but it depicts an obvious conflict of interest and way too directly references Chick-fil-A's use of cows for advertising. And ending the article in typical tasteless Babylon Bee fashion, a scientist gets sent to a gulag.

"Biden Proposes Some Kind Of Mark Or Patch To Identify Those Who Aren't Vaccinated"[38]

This one falls a bit under the first blueprint of The Babylon Bee trying to depict opponents as oppressive, but has an underlying statement: the requirement of proof of vaccination is akin to the yellow star of David Jewish people wore during Nazi Germany. This is a harmful position conservative anti-vaxxers have advanced (not to mention, have been doing this for years),[39] something the anti-vaxxers have faced actual widespread condemnation for.[40] Additionally, they resort to "Biden is senile" jabs and depict Kamala Harris cackling evilly.

Suspended on Twitter[edit]

The Babylon Bee has had a history of running afoul of filters before, though the first times were filtering goofs that mistook satire for deliberate disinformation. In March 2022, however, The Babylon Bee had been suspended from Twitter by sharing an especially repulsive article that skips satirical pretense and goes straight to open personal attacks on Rachel LevineWikipedia by intentionally naming her "man of the year".[41] This is in tandem with their other revolting "Women Of The Year" article, except they listed men with various "female" clothing and "female" attitudes (which can be easily substituted for any sort of cisgender man, cross-dressing or not; such is the nature of lazy jokes by The Babylon Bee).[42] For context, The Babylon Bee was responding to USA Today's article deeming Rachel Levine as part of their "Women of the Year" series.[43] Seth Dillion, the CEO of The Babylon Bee, cried censorship because Twitter (somehow) caught them mask-off transphobic.[44] On their Facebook, they followed-up with a post that they think openly attacking a public trans woman through "satire" is not hate speech, even though it most definitely does count as hateful conduct per Twitter's term of service and per people that aren't bigoted.

It would be a little less pathetic if they tried arguing the weird Andy Kaufman bit (which they resorted to when people found the AOC articles merely puerile) where uuhmmm acktschuahlee they're just mocking transphobes or something.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. But, of course they couldn't resist the urge invoking language of the easily offended "liberals" by having Osteen accuse critics of being an "anti-Bible bigot".
  2. Their first transphobic "I identify as x" article came in only around a month after they were established.[5] Their very first article also used their ongoing recurring theme of the upset intolerant caricature of a Democrat.[6] They were pretty slipshod right from the very beginning.
  3. When you try to hit subscribe, you're met with a typical whiny persecution complex message: "If you value The Babylon Bee and want to see us prevail against The New York Times and anyone else who might seek to discredit or deplatform us, please consider becoming a subscriber."
  4. See policies under Donald Trump. Racist measures the Republican Party presided over include, but are not limited to new voter suppression measures that target black communities as well as immigrant human rights violations. Sexist measures include laws stifling abortion access. Trump is also known for racking up multiple sexual harassment allegations. Transphobic policies include bathroom bills as well as threats to remove insurance coverage for essential medical treatment for trans people).
  5. They managed to denigrate asexual people by lumping them under "Atranspolyqueergreyacepokemon", which has a very real "how do you do fellow kids" vibe.

References[edit]

  1. The Babylon Bee. (June 10, 2021). "Joel Osteen: 'Attacks Against Me Are Attacks Against The Bible'". Accessed June 16, 2021.
  2. The Babylon Bee. (May 18, 2020). "Joel Osteen Warns It Is Far Too Soon To Reopen The Bible". Accessed June 16, 2021.
  3. The Babylon Bee. (April 16, 2020). "Joel Osteen Ordered To Wear Soundproof Mask To Stop Spread Of False Gospel". Accessed June 16, 2020.
  4. The Babylon Bee. (October 5, 2017). "Op-Ed: Christianity Is Not About Religion—It's About A Personal Relationship With Donald Trump". Accessed June 16, 2021.
  5. The Babylon Bee. (March 4, 2016). "Brave Man Chooses To Self-Identify As Man" Accessed March 21, 2022.
  6. The Babylon Bee. (March 1, 2016). "Christian News Satire Site Launches". Accessed March 21, 2022.
  7. Babylon Bee main page. (March 17, 2016). [1]. Wayback Machine. Accessed May 1, 2020.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Goldberg, E. (October 11, 2020). "What ‘The Babylon Bee’ Thinks Is So Funny About Liberals". The New York Times. Accessed May 1, 2021.
  9. Seanbaby, 5 Awful (But Revealing) Examples Of Conservative Comedy. Cracked, 15 August 2018.
  10. Miller, R. (October 16, 2020). "Trump tweets satirical news story: What is Babylon Bee and is it 'fake news'?." USA Today. Accessed May 1, 2021.
  11. Subscribe to the Babylon Bee. The Babylon Bee.
  12. The Babylon Bee. (April 19, 2021). "Dems: 'If America Isn't Racist, How Do You Explain These White Hoods We're Wearing?'". Accessed May 1, 2021.
  13. The Babylon Bee. (June 16, 2021). "Congress Passes Law To Recognize Juneteenth, The Day Republicans Freed All The Democrats' Slaves". Accessed June 16, 2021.
  14. House Democrats Draft Legislation That Would Make It A Hate Crime To Eat At Chick-Fil-A (June 12, 2018) The Babylon Bee (archived from 13 Jun 2018 14:48:44 UTC).
  15. The Babylon Bee. (August 19, 2016). "Liberal Activist Explains Notion Of Tolerance To Man She Just Called A ‘Worthless [Expletive’]" Wayback Machine. Archived August 21, 2016.
  16. The Babylon Bee. (March 29, 2021). "Sesame Street Introduces 'Todd', A White Male Muppet Who Is Blamed For Everything". Accessed May 6, 2021.
  17. The Babylon Bee. (June 20, 2019) "Ocasio-Cortez Gets Head Stuck In Bucket, Journalists Rush To Explain Why It Was Actually A Genius Move". Accessed August 18, 2021.
  18. The Babylon Bee. (October 20, 2021) "AOC's Rant Against Capitalism Undercut By Her Having Pringles Canisters Stuck On Each Hand". Accessed November 26, 2021.
  19. @The_Kyle_Mann (September 25, 2021). [2]. Twitter. Accessed September 27 2021.
  20. Green, E. (October 14, 2021). "The Experiment Podcast: Liberals Don’t Get The Babylon Bee. Neither Do Conservatives." The Atlantic. Accessed December 1, 2021.
  21. @9_volt_ (May 12, 2019). "you guys have like one joke you tell over and over again". Twitter. Accessed May 1, 2021.
  22. The Onion. (April 4, 2021) "New Arkansas Bill Would Require Teen Residents To Keep Genitals On Full Display At All Times". Accessed May 1, 2021.
  23. Bigoted Boy Scouts Welcome Girls But Still Exclude All 49,247 Other Genders (May 2, 2018) The Babylon Bee (archived from August 11, 2018).
  24. The Babylon Bee. (March 18, 2021). "Columbia University To Hold Separate Graduations For All 7,895 Genders"
  25. The Babylon Bee. (January 4, 2021). "Congressional Prayer Lasts Two Days As Democrat Includes All 5,787 Genders". Accessed May 1, 2021.
  26. The Babylon Bee (November 25, 2019). "New Ultrasound Technology Can Detect Up To 50 Genders"
  27. The Babylon Bee. (April 22, 2021). "Dungeons And Dragons Introduces New 100-Sided Die For Determining Your Character's Gender."
  28. The Babylon Bee. (March 17, 2020). "Millennials Finally Take Coronavirus Seriously As Avocado Toast Supplies Run Out". Accessed May 3, 2021.
  29. The Babylon Bee. (July 15 2019). "Unsatisfied By Thrill Of Eating Tide Pods, Millennials To Storm Military Base". Accessed May 3, 2021.
  30. The Babylon Bee. (August 9, 2018). 'Darned Millennials!' Screams Boomer While Driving Car Off Cliff. Accessed May 3, 2021.
  31. The Babylon Bee. (August 16, 2019). "Proud Parents Of 28-Year-Old Millennial Post Annual Back-To-Basement Picture". Accessed May 3, 2021.
  32. The Babylon Bee. (November 10, 2016). "Police Calm Millennial Protesters By Handing Out Participation Trophies". Accessed May 3, 2021.
  33. The Babylon Bee. (December 17, 2018). "Boomer Criticizes Millennials For Constantly Craving Recognition, Attention, Food, Shelter". Accessed May 3, 2021.
  34. The Babylon Bee. "Tough Housing Market Forces More Millennials To Live In Van Down By The River". Accessed May 3, 2021.
  35. The Babylon Bee. (April 23, 2020). "'It's Okay To Cry,' Says Pathetic Excuse For A Man".
  36. The Babylon Bee. (July 10, 2017). "Shocking New Study Suggests Disagreeing With Gay, Trans People Not Same As Hating Them". Accessed May 1, 2021.
  37. The Babylon Bee. (April 27, 2021) "'We Must Stop Eating Beef To Fight Climate Change,' Says Scientist Who Looks Suspiciously Like Chick-Fil-A Cow In A Lab Coat". Accessed May 1, 2021.
  38. The Babylon Bee. (March 31, 2021). "Biden Proposes Some Kind Of Mark Or Patch To Identify Those Who Aren't Vaccinated". Accessed June 16, 2021.
  39. Bond, S. (June 1, 2021). "Anti-vaxxers are claiming centuries of Jewish suffering to look like martyrs". The Washington Post. Accessed June 16, 2021.
  40. BBC News. (May 30, 2021). "Nashville hat shop faces backlash for selling anti-vaccine Nazi Jewish star". Accessed June 16, 2021.
  41. The Babylon Bee (March 15, 2022). "The Babylon Bee's Man Of The Year Is Rachel Levine"
  42. The Babylon Bee (March 16, 2022). "Here Are The Winners Of The Babylon Bee's Women Of The Year", Accessed March 21, 2022.
  43. Hackney, S. (March 13, 2022). "'Be true to yourself': A message from the nation's highest-ranking openly transgender official". USA Today. Accessed March 21, 2022.
  44. Rumpf, S. (March 20, 2022) "'We're Not Deleting Anything': Babylon Bee Defiant After Twitter Locks Their Account for Tweet Calling Rachel Levine 'Man of the Year'". Mediaite. Accessed March 21, 2022.