Duffel Blog has fooled yet another member of Congress.
Most recently, the military-centric satirical website was inadvertently cited during a Wednesday hearing about extremism in the military, in which several Republican lawmakers argued that the Defense Department could end up infringing on troops’ First Amendment rights by trying to get rid of white supremacists from the ranks.
On Wednesday, Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) was making the point that the number of veterans and reservists arrested after the Jan. 6 insurrection was relatively small, when he decided to pose a question to Lecia Brooks, chief of staff of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Ms. Brooks, just a yes or no question for you: Has your organization named the American Legion as a hate group?” Fallon asked.
Brooks was initially confused. She first looked at documents in front of her and then turned over her left shoulder to consult with someone else before answering that she did not believe that was correct.
“OK, I’ve found it and it did,” Fallon continued. “And how about – were you aware that the organization named the VFW, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, as a hate group?”
Still puzzled, Brooks replied: “Not at our current census, no.”
“You had in the past,” Fallon said.
Roughly half an hour later, a revelation came when Brooks said emphatically that the Southern Poverty Law Center had never named the Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion as hate groups.
“That assertion appeared as satire in a military satire blog known as ‘Duffel Blog,’” she said.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee broke into the conversation to underscore the importance of separating truth from satire.
“That’s why we have these hearings, is to try to get to the facts,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.). “Then we can debate what to do with them, but we can’t be throwing out a bunch of misinformation.”
Duffel Blog is a longtime satirical website created and run by Paul Szoldra, who is also editor in chief of Task & Purpose. Szoldra was not involved in writing or editing this story.
This is far from the first time that a lawmaker has mistaken Duffel Blog for a mainstream media news site. In 2012, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was fooled by a Duffel Blog post about detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, receiving G.I. Bill benefits.
Then in 2014, James Moran, who was a Democratic congressman from Virginia at the time, said his office was flooded with calls about a Duffel Blog article that joked he had introduced a bill requiring Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to register with the Department of Homeland Security and barring them from watching violent war movies on cable and living within 1,000 feet of gun ranges, bars, and liquor stores.
However, we also live in an age when the line between truth and parody are often intertwined. In March 2020, a Duffel Blog story accurately predicted that commanders would hold mandatory all hands formations to discuss how to stop the spread novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Task & Purpose later reported that was actually happening.
Objectively speaking, Duffel Blog broke that story.
Feature image: A screenshot showing Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) during a Newsmax segment.