Author Topic: Critique of Snopes on Hillary  (Read 3169 times)

Fenring

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Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« on: August 17, 2016, 12:39:25 PM »
https://ethicsalarms.com/2016/07/31/bye-bye-snopes-youre-dead-to-me-now/

I found this article interesting, as it purports to show bias towards Hillary in a Snopes verdict about the accuracy of claims made about her regarding the infamous rape case she defended earlier in her career. The article has two sections, the first of which is about Snopes rigging its answer to favor Hillary despite its claims being incorrect, and the second cites a couple of other instances of Snopes either doctoring its findings or else incorrectly reporting on what was actually claimed (in other words, knocking down a strawman). I didn't find the second section as interesting, but I did check the original Snopes article on the Hillary case against what this article says about it, and I can at least say that the Snopes article does have the content being criticized by ethicsalarms.com

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Conclusion: Snopes was dishonestly spinning for Hillary, even though what she had done in this case was simply competent lawyering, and entirely honorable.

As I explained here, there was nothing wrong, unethical or hypocritical about Clinton’s work in this case. Her laughter in the interview is a little unsettling, but Hillary’s laughter is often unsettling. She did her job as a defense lawyer, ethically, and well. The accusation that what she did was unethical is ignorant, but Snopes’ deceitful and misleading denial of what she did is just partisan spin.

Wayward Son

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2016, 03:35:44 PM »
I've said that fact checking sites are good, not for the conclusions that they make, but rather for the facts and reasoning they provide.  So calling a site "dishonest" is somewhat missing the point.  It is the information they provide which is meaningful.  Their opinion of that information is just what it is: an opinion.

For instance, I found Ethics Alarm somewhat dishonest in its critique.  They said:

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That is certainly laughing about the case. Then Snopes tries equivocation, saying that Clinton didn’t laugh about the outcome of the case. I see: she laughed (three times!) while talking about the case, but wasn’t laughing about the case’s outcome, just…the case.

Ridiculous.

From the quote above that snippet, it is clear she was laughing about ridiculous aspects of the case.  For the polygraph not working as advertised; for having to convince Maupin that she had the right to see the evidence before it was presented; for an expert witness who's attitude was that he was preventing a "miscarriage of justice."  From my perspective, none of those were actually about a man raping a little girl, which is what "laughing about a case" would mean to me in this situation.  It is ridiculous that they found it ridiculous.

However, they did provide their facts and reasoning.  So I can understand how they came to their conclusion.  I disagree with it, but at least I understand it.

So their action of making "Snopes...Dead to Me" is silly.  They will be missing out on some good information that might help explain why others disagree with them, or even why they are completely wrong.  And places like Snopes and Politifact are good because their information is pretty much* reliable, and they show their reasoning.

Unlike some Presidential candidates I could mention... :)

NobleHunter

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2016, 03:52:22 PM »
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I've said that fact checking sites are good, not for the conclusions that they make, but rather for the facts and reasoning they provide.  So calling a site "dishonest" is somewhat missing the point.  It is the information they provide which is meaningful.  Their opinion of that information is just what it is: an opinion.
That's largely snopes' philosophy on the matter. They've always made a point to include or reference their sources.

Fenring

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2016, 03:59:26 PM »
From the quote above that snippet, it is clear she was laughing about ridiculous aspects of the case.  For the polygraph not working as advertised; for having to convince Maupin that she had the right to see the evidence before it was presented; for an expert witness who's attitude was that he was preventing a "miscarriage of justice."  From my perspective, none of those were actually about a man raping a little girl, which is what "laughing about a case" would mean to me in this situation.  It is ridiculous that they found it ridiculous.

In my opinion the argument about the laughing isn't quite as strong as the next main point, which was about denying that Hillary took the position that the allegation was "made up." However even so, the most damning part of the 'laughing' section seems to me the laughing about the polygraph, which I suspect is the one instance of laughing which upsets people. What's important to disentangle is commentary about how cases are tried in general (like a lawyer joke) versus commentary on this trial in particular. We might assume that Hillary was laughing about cases in general when she laughed at how useless the polygraph was in the case of her client. But the truth is that it's inescapable that laughing about cases in general in the context of this one case will make people upset no matter what she meant. It just seems to me a boneheaded thing to say (if laughing is saying something) in an interview, much like her "we came, we saw, he died" was an inexcusably stupid thing to say (putting aside what she privately thought).

The laughing in this instance was another way of saying she knew justice in the general was not done and that the polygraph helped with that. It's one thing to stick by professional integrity and say that was her job, which is completely true, but it's another to make light of it in hindsight. It may be a necessity of your job to traumatize a rape victim in court and to help the assailant out of his 'deserved' sentence. Indeed, succeeding in this means a job well done. But it's another thing to look back on such an event with giggles rather than ruefully. People have to do bad things to do their jobs, that's true. Soldiers have to kill people, which may mean they did their duty honorably, but doesn't mean we should expect them to giggle about the poor fools they mowed down in the process. There's duty, and then there's callousness. The one does not require the other.

So when Snopes outright stated it was false that Hillary laughed about the case, I agree with Ethics Alert that this is a misleading and probably inaccurate assessment. It really does smack of bias towards Hillary, even though it's 100% clear Hillary need not be actually ashamed of having done her duty in the trial. Human beings are funny; they can have strange reactions to things. Maybe someone could witness an execution and find it humourous for some reason. But when discussing it I would advise refraining from disclosing any sort of 'funny' aspect to it. You should just keep that kind of thing to yourself. Same goes with giggling about the useless test used to help harm an innocent girl, and society in the process, even though it was her job to do exactly that.

cherrypoptart

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2016, 09:30:44 PM »
Is it really ethical for a lawyer to defend and get off a person they know is guilty of child rape?

It's not allowed to quit the case based on ethical grounds?

TheDeamon

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2016, 06:38:26 AM »
Even a guilty person is due to have legal representation in court.

Fenring

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2016, 10:52:23 AM »
Is it really ethical for a lawyer to defend and get off a person they know is guilty of child rape?

It's not allowed to quit the case based on ethical grounds?

The thing I'm not sure of in terms of doing one's due diligence is whether 'pulling out all the stops' when you know your client is guilty is ethical. For instance, in the trial in question Hillary introduced to the court a completely made-up fact that the victim was prone to creating wild fantasies and inventing victimization stories, which discredited her testimony. But there was no truth to that claim, and in fact in today's world if a lawyer pushes that line in a high-profile rape case they would become a pariah in America. This is very much akin to the judge recently who demanded of a rape victim whether she "squeezed her legs together" hard enough, implying she wanted it and didn't resist sufficiently. He got in big trouble for that, and although there's a difference between a judge and a lawyer alleging that a rape victim is basically delusional based on a false medical history when you know for a fact she isn't seems to me to breach some kind of legal ethic, even if technically it's correct to pursue any and all lines of defence. I would certainly like to think that an ethical lawyer would refuse to take the case rather than pursue a line of defence of this type. It's one thing to agree that every person deserves a defence, but it's another to go no holds barred in such a defence when really there's no case.

Then again I'm not a lawyer, so I can't really address these things firmly.

NobleHunter

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2016, 11:19:00 AM »
The thing I'm not sure of in terms of doing one's due diligence is whether 'pulling out all the stops' when you know your client is guilty is ethical. For instance, in the trial in question Hillary introduced to the court a completely made-up fact that the victim was prone to creating wild fantasies and inventing victimization stories, which discredited her testimony.
Where do you get that concerns about the reliability of the victim was completely made up? Here's what snopes reported:
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Documents from the 1975 case include an affidavit (p. 34) sworn by Clinton, from which the "in court, Hillary told the judge that I made up the rape story" portion of the claims was derived. That affidavit doesn't show, as claimed, that Hillary Clinton asserted the defendant "made up the rape story because [she] enjoyed fantasizing about men"; rather, it shows that other people, including an expert in child psychology, had said that the complainant was "emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and to engage in fantasizing about persons, claiming they had attacked her body," and that "children in early adolescence tend to exaggerate or romanticize sexual experiences." Clinton therefore asked the court to have the complainant undergo a psychiatric exam (at the defense's expense) to determine the validity of that information:
I'm not a lawyer either but I think if she knew about those concerns then she had a professional obligation to raise them.

Also worth noting it ended in a plea bargain so the guy did go to prison and that she tried to decline the appointment but was not permitted to.

Wayward Son

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2016, 11:40:20 AM »
After re-reading the Ethics Alarm article, I noticed something else.

The article states that: "Hillary claimed that her client was not guilty of rape while the victim was saying [/I]he raped her[/I]."

But (based on my Law-and-Order understanding of the law), isn't it the accused who enters the plea, not the lawyer?  Can the lawyer override the client's plea if he or she believes it to be untrue?  ???  I certainly hope not!

So why did they imply that she was somehow responsible for the plea, even when they state that she was legally obliged to defend him to the best of her abilities?

The article itself is not keeping to the standards it wants Snopes to adhere to.

Fenring

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2016, 01:13:34 PM »
she tried to decline the appointment but was not permitted to.

This part I didn't know about originally. Thanks for mentioning it.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2016, 01:23:15 PM by Fenring »

Fenring

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2016, 01:22:58 PM »
But (based on my Law-and-Order understanding of the law), isn't it the accused who enters the plea, not the lawyer?  Can the lawyer override the client's plea if he or she believes it to be untrue?  ???  I certainly hope not!

So why did they imply that she was somehow responsible for the plea, even when they state that she was legally obliged to defend him to the best of her abilities?

They did not imply that. They made an error with one word, which doesn't particularly affect the meaning of the sentence, which I'll quote here:

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Similarly ridiculous is Snopes’ claim that Hillary “did not assert that the complainant ‘made up the rape story.'”  She pleaded that her client was not guilty, meaning that she argued in court that he didn’t rape the victim. Hillary claimed that her client was not guilty of rape while the victim was saying he raped her.

The bolded word is, indeed, an error in writing, as it should have read something like, "she entered the plea of not guilty, and then proceeded to argue that he didn't rape the victim." So you got them there, but this is in the context of Snopes' claim under What's False that "she did not assert that the complainant “made up the rape story[.]”" Whether Clinton entered the plea or pleaded that the rape didn't happen is immaterial to this point. She argued that the victim was making it up, which is all the article was saying. The fact that she basically had to argue this is, in a sense, besides the point. Remember, the "claim" Snopes was analyzing was only this: "Hillary Clinton successfully defended an accused child rapist and later laughed about the case." This statement, in and of itself, is clearly true, even thought Snopes called it "mostly false", which I why I tend to side with the logic of Ethics Alarms. Snopes did bring up good points regarding not "freeing" the defendent, and the technically true (but in-context false) point that Clinton didn't verbatim claim her client was guilty, but while clearing up the various aspects of the case is always good, these are to an extent sidetracks from the point Snopes claimed to be addressing, and about which it seems to have strayed in order to justify calling it "mostly false." I find it really hard to read their opinion as anything other than editorial bias. That's ok, as long as they own up to presenting facts and then taking sides. That means they're not objective, which isn't the same as saying not of value.

NobleHunter

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2016, 01:45:51 PM »
Except her defense was not successful, he still went to prison. "Laughing about the case" implies she thought there was something funny in a man raping an underage girl. She was actually laughing about polygraphs, which is a much more accept subject of derision. Between the two, I think it's fair to categorize it as mostly false.

snopes.com has always paid attention to the implications of the urban legends and stories they analyze. Half the value of the site is that they don't stick strictly to the facts being claimed but also to the what the supposed facts are trying to imply. When the substance of the claim is that Clinton is a heartless bitch who cackles at the prospect of letting a rapist of  young girls go free, mostly false is actually a fairly moderate judgment.

ETA: Here's the snopes article in question, btw: http://www.snopes.com/hillary-clinton-freed-child-rapist-laughed-about-it/.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2016, 01:48:04 PM by NobleHunter »

Fenring

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2016, 03:40:46 PM »
Except her defense was not successful, he still went to prison.

The plea bargain for a short sentence is pretty much a win in what should have been a losing case. To say nothing of the incident with the 'destroyed' evidence (the underwear).

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"Laughing about the case" implies she thought there was something funny in a man raping an underage girl. She was actually laughing about polygraphs, which is a much more accept subject of derision. Between the two, I think it's fair to categorize it as mostly false.

You are right, and it's good to set the record straight about whether Hillary mocked an injustice versus laughed about a flaw in the system. But again, I don't think it's 'incorrect' to suggest that a flaw in the system which advantaged a violent criminal is something to laugh about. As I mentioned above, I fully agree there can be humor to be seen in even the darkest issues, but it's another thing to laugh out loud on camera about them when really they should inspire outrage or at least rue. "I'm sorry the system allowed for what we accomplished but at least I'm proud of the job I did" would be completely understandable. "Lol we got away with murder" really isn't. I agree it's not cut-and-dried in the context of her comments and laughing, but I don't think it's accurate to call it "false" that she laughed about the case. It is certainly false that she laughed at the idea of justice, or at the victim, or at getting away with something in the villainous sense. That is a good bubble to burst. But because that worst-case interpretation is false doesn't mean the more conservative concern is also false that her attitude about what was basically a systemic injustice was out of line, because frankly I think it was. If it was just this one incident that would be one thing, but it falls in with a pattern of out-of-line chuckles on what should be very grave subjects.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2016, 03:43:18 PM by Fenring »

NobleHunter

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2016, 11:34:30 PM »
Finally read the link in the OP.

Well, that was... bizarre. 

Pete at Home

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Re: Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2016, 11:57:40 PM »
Except her defense was not successful, he still went to prison. "Laughing about the case" implies she thought there was something funny in a man raping an underage girl.

Only if you don't know the English language very well.  In this immediate context, "laughing" implies gloating.  From watching her debates with Sanders, it's undeniable that HR does tend to smirk when she's pulled off a deception, such as asserting that Sanders intended to destroy Obamacare.  She does not have her husband's poker face.  That doesn't prove the facts alleged in this Snopes case, though.