The Covenant Eyes Podcast

Guarding Your Soul & Your Browser History | The Babylon Bee | Seth Dillon

February 21, 2024 Covenant Eyes / Seth Dillon - Babylon Bee Season 3 Episode 11
The Covenant Eyes Podcast
Guarding Your Soul & Your Browser History | The Babylon Bee | Seth Dillon
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to The Covenant Eyes Podcast with your hosts Karen Potter and Rob Stoddard!

In this episode, they sit down with special guest Seth Dillon, CEO of The Babylon Bee, to talk about the fascinating world of Christian satire and the challenges of upholding free speech in today's culture.

Join the conversation as they explore how The Babylon Bee emerged as a conservative Christian response to mainstream satire, dissecting the delicate balance between humor and sensitivity in addressing cultural and political issues. Discover the power of humor in engaging with challenging topics while maintaining respect and empathy.

Seth shares insightful anecdotes about The Babylon Bee's journey, including their encounters with social media censorship and fact-checking controversies. Gain valuable insights into the threats facing free speech, particularly within privately owned digital platforms, and the importance of standing firm against censorship.

With engaging discussions on the impact of satire on public discourse and the role of humor in promoting understanding, this episode offers a thought-provoking exploration of navigating today's cultural landscape with wit, wisdom, and unwavering principles.

00:00 - Introduction and Background
01:03 - The Birth of the Babylon Bee
02:29 - The Purpose of Christian Satire
03:25 - Engaging in Cultural Conversations
06:50 - The Threat to Free Speech
10:08 - Using Comedy and Satire to Bridge Divides
13:47 - The Struggle with Censorship
18:07 - The Relationship with Elon Musk
20:24 - Where to Find the Babylon Bee


#ChristianSatire #FreeSpeech #WokeCulture #Humor #BabylonBee #SethDillon #ElonMusk #CulturalEngagement #SocialMediaCensorship #Conservatism #PoliticalSatire #Comedy #DigitalPlatforms #PodcastEpisode #TheCovenantEyesPodcast

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Everybody. Welcome back to the Covenant Eyes Podcast. I'm so glad to have you joining us. I'm Karen Potter. I've got Rob Stoddard kicking it in the passenger seat over there. How's it going? I'm doing good. Good. Glad to be here. We've got two exciting yesterday. I love his work. So looking forward to it. Yeah, it's going to be great. You want to introduce who we've got joining us today? I do. I do. Our guest today since 2018, has been the CEO and owner of the Babylon Bee. And if you're not familiar with that, it's a satire site and just a wonderful thing we want to talk about today. So, Seth, one, welcome and thanks for joining us today. And thanks for having me. Great. Seth, you want to start out, just tell us a little bit about yourself and in your work there at the Babylon Bee. Yeah, well, I just turned 41 some old now I am. Well, I feel it my back anyway. I'm the CEO of the Babylon Bee, the world's most trusted, factually accurate news source. At least that's. That's what we call ourselves. Or fake news you can trust as our tagline. We're. We're like The Onion, but we come at the issues from a different political and and obviously religious perspective. You know, they're they're more of a secular progressive take on on the issues with their satire. And we're more of a conservative Christian take on the issues. And so and the site was pretty much launched as an answer to them. You know the the the secular left has dominated media and entertainment and comedy for so long. And there was just this massive opening there, I think, that Adam saw when he started the site. Adam Ford is the founder of the Babylon Bee and he and he felt like there was just a big void there that if someone if someone filled it and did it right and produced really good quality content that wasn't cheesy and silly and goofy then, then it would probably perform well. And he was right. I mean, within within months the site was going viral and was getting millions of hits and it was starting to turn into a business almost right out the gate. And it was just a little blog initially. So I took it over in 2018 and have been running it ever since. And so we've been we've been doing Christian satire. You know, we're we're coming at the issues from that worldview perspective. And that means that we're we're trying to make people laugh, but we're also trying to make them think and rethink some of these things that have become so predominant in our culture, these bad ideas that need to be ridiculed and rejected. And so we're confronting a lot of that in addition to just trying to entertain and and make people laugh. And we've also been caught up in this whole free speech fight with people trying to censor us. You know, the big tech companies don't love jokes that challenge the popular narrative. And so we get fact checked a lot and flagged for hate speech and incitement to violence and all of those ridiculous things that that tend to happen in one direction and not the other so much. So we're dealing with a lot of that. But it's been a fun ride. You know, we've continued to grow and we picked up some big fans along the way. Elon Musk among them. So, you know, the Bee is the Bee is thriving and we're having fun. That's awesome. You know, I think it's important for Christians to engage in the the cultural conversation Asians and be engaged in in the political spaces as well. Do you how do you kind of navigate that carefully? As you know, you bring satire to the table, but I mean, how do you find the balance and not take it too far? Because we also have Christian values and morals. So there's always that line. Yeah, I do. I agree with you, for one, that we do need to engage the culture. We can't just stand by. You know, there's a real war going on, a war on on reality and reason and truth. And it's affecting everybody women, women and children more than anybody else. It really it really requires the Christian stand up and be bold truth tellers who aren't afraid to go out there and confront these things. I think it's imperative that we do that. As far as, you know, taking it too far. You mean like telling a joke that's like insensitive or mean or something like that? Is that what you're talking about? Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's a it's a good question. It's a question I get often because, you know, mockery has negative connotations and people think, you know, if you're mocking people, you're just trying to make them feel bad. It's almost a form of bullying in a lot of people's eyes. And and we don't see it that way at all. And I don't think if you go to the Babylon Bee's website and you look at a lot of the content that we're producing, you know, this is it's it's really predominantly light hearted stuff. It's meant to generate some laughs and take some jabs at people. Sure. But it's not it's not meant to bully them into submission and and make them feel really bad about themselves. And I think the really key focus with with our satire is that we're ridiculing bad ideas. We're not really it's not the people, it's the ideas that are the target. And so it's you know, you have to you have to kind of separate the two, especially as a Christian who values everyone. You know, we love even the people that we disagree with. And one of the ways of loving people is speaking the truth to them. And one of the most effective ways of speaking the truth to them is to use a little bit of humor. It was G.K. Chesterton who said humor can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle. And I really like that quote it. I think it speaks to the effectiveness of humor. And and that's really what we're trying to do is just is slip past people's defenses with with the truth in a way that's perhaps more effective in some cases than, you know, reasoning with them or arguing with them until you're blue in the face. Yeah, that is that is so true. And a few years ago, you did a satire on Covenant Eyes, which we we still chuckle about. You suggested that Covenant Eyes added a detachment arm to their software and it plucked out an eye every time he looked at pornography. And you know that was that's just a perfect might. Make you a bit more careful. Hey yeah but that's a great example of really what you're talking about. It took a serious issue but made light of it, brought some humor to it. But at the same time, you know, you brought some biblical truth to that discussion, you know, talking about Christ's view of, you know, our sin in some of these areas. So. So yeah, it does it does so much stuff. I took. Deadly seriously. And he. Used he. Used, you know, hyperbolic language and exaggeration to really get his point across. You know, he he elevated it went beyond just, you know, the mere act of it. It's the thought. It's your thought life that matters to in fact, it matters every bit as much. So yeah, he was hard on us. And but I think I think humor can address that very effectively by kind of drawing that out. Yeah, absolutely. So you're a big proponent of free speech, obviously. You know, in the culture today we touched on a little bit what what do you see as the biggest threat to our free speech and certainly the Christian viewpoint out there right now? Well, it used to be different. You know, there was a time when the main the primary threat to people's freedom came from the state. It came from the government. It was there were no the public square was in fact, the public square. If you if you were going to be censored, there was going to be somebody in the state that was doing it because there were no privately owned digital forums that you were communicating in. You know, the world has changed a lot with the with the rise of Internet to Internet technology and and now these these sort of what, you know, you could call them town squares, these digital town squares that have popped up that are owned by private entities. And they have you know, they really they put themselves out there and presented themselves as platforms for free expression without barriers. That's how they describe themselves in their mission statements and on their websites. And that's how they grew to prominence and became these forums where you had literally millions of users, daily active users who were coming on there and engaging with each other and speaking their minds. and that I think the real danger there is that when you have private actors that are the private entities that own these platforms and are managing the forums in which the vast majority of public discourse takes place, that's a real problem because if they, if they decide which they have, we've we've experienced it firsthand and we've seen it many, many, many times. If they decide to to tip the scales in favor of their views, their ideology, the narratives that they prefer, they can do, that they can censor whoever they want. And it doesn't it doesn't reach the level of being a First Amendment violation because it's not the government doing it. It's a private actor that's doing it. And so the law needs to catch up to this unique situation that we find ourselves in. You know, it's not it is not true, as many people say, that private companies can just do whatever they want because that's one of the defenses of these companies. Well, they're a private company. They can do what they want. And that's just not true. There's there's plenty of precedent for limitations on private companies, freedom that take into account their what they're trying to weigh is the interest of the public against the rights of these companies. And and a common carrier doctrine was was set up to address this issue you have a telecommunications companies and transportation companies that are massive that the public needs. They're serving a public function and the public needs access to these services from private companies without being discriminated against. And so there are some limits on what these companies can do. You know, Verizon can't turn off your cell phone service because they don't like that you're a Trump supporter for example, or something like that. You know, so but currently, these tech companies could if they wanted to. And so bringing accountability to them is important right now. That's the biggest threat, in my view, to free speech is a combination of woke ideology and and these platforms being in the hands of private actors who aren't bound by any First Amendment or any, you know, limitations or regulations that would limit what they're able to do. I know it's kind of a detailed answer, and there's more we could get into on that if you want to go into it. But I think that's the main threat. Yeah, Well, first to the thing that you were saying about your experience with those topics, you know, talking about these things can result in some censorship. Sure. And what's crazy is, though, there are more likely a lot of these platforms have been very hesitant to take down unlawful content. you know, there's there's examples of, of people trying to get content taken down of minors that are involved in pornography that's been posted to these platforms and the platforms won't take it down. They, you know, they don't have enough people in place to monitor these things. They're not responsive to the takedown requests, but they'll take down a joke they don't like really quickly. And it's just amazing to me how how lopsided that is and how in a skewed in inverted the priorities are when it's there's so much invested in protecting their precious narratives, but not so much invested in protecting precious children from exploitation that to me is very sad. And I think I do think that Elon Musk prioritized that right out the gate when he took over Twitter. He was trying to make it a priority that we deal with these things. It was much more important to him to get exploitative, you know, child material off the platform than it was to clean up, you know, jokes that he didn't like that were made at his expense. And so that was kind of a reversal of of how, you know, the people who were running the Trust and Safety Department were were operating things before he took over. So I'm glad he cleaned house and changed direction. There. He humor. It's tough. You know, humor can be I think humor is very human, unifying. You just you've but you have to be willing to let it do its work. And the challenge that we're facing facing right now with comedy, I think you see it all over the place is, you know, people want their safe spaces. They don't want to be offended. They think they have a right to not be offended. That trumps your right to speak freely. And so when you know, comedians get up there and start telling jokes that they don't like, you know, they act like it's violence, they act like they've been injured physically, and then the comedian needs to be punched in the face. And it's almost self-defense if you do that. It's you know, everybody was we were happier and healthier when we were all laughing at each other. And when we recognize that there was some truth to some of the jokes that we were telling about each other, we took ourselves less seriously than we do today. And we were willing to examine ourselves and say, look, you know, I'm not perfect. I do deserve to be laughed at sometimes, and so do you. And let's laugh at each other and be and find commonality in that. You know, if there's one common denominator that we have in humanity, it's that we're flawed and we sometimes deserve to be laughed at. And if we can agree on that and then be willing to laugh at each other, I don't know where we're going to find common ground. So, yes, humor has that power, but it has to be allowed to do its work. That's for sure. That it's amazing. And I know you guys have run into some of this censorship and been taken down on some platforms. So you're kind of always running the the edge of having to fight these these bigger tech companies and platforms. You know, can you talk a little bit about some of the struggle you've had there and how do you see that going forward? Yeah, and it's funny, almost immediately when I got involved with being in 2018, it started, you know, we we posted this joke about how CNN had purchased an industrial sized washing machine to spin the news and before publishing it. And it was a silly joke about CNN's bias, you know, and of course, they didn't really buy a washing machine to spin the news. And you can't do that. It doesn't make sense. What does that even mean? You throw the news and the washing machine on a spin cycle like it's stupid, but it got fact checked by one of Facebook's third party fact checkers. Snopes at the time was working with Facebook. I don't I don't believe that they do any more, but Snopes was working with them and I got a fact checked and it was rated false. And then Facebook threatened us, told us that we would we would be deplatformed and Demonetized if we kept pushing fake news on our page. And we're like, Well, this isn't fake news. This is it's comedy. It's a joke. You know, it's not true or false. It's funny or not, but it's not true or false. So we end up fighting a battle against the fact checkers for a while. And there were some there were some positive outcomes from that. You know, we we, we successfully got Snopes to change the way that they handle satire. For example, they used to rate it false and now they rate it satire, which makes a lot more sense. You know, if there's a claim out there that they're investigating, it turns out that it came from a satire website. Well, then it's satire. It's not a false claim that someone made with the purpose of misleading people, but that's how they were presenting it and that's how they were writing about us. And so we had to threaten to sue them to get them to change how they did that. And we didn't do that because we're humorless and we and we can't just laugh at Snopes and we're, you know, we did it because it was actually a threat to our business if we continued to get fact checked and smeared as people who were spreading misinformation under the guise of doing satire, which is what they were accusing us of, if we allowed that to stand and stick and note and and reputable sources like Snopes and Wikipedia and New York Times were all saying this, then the next thing you know, we're not going to be allowed on any social media platforms because we're bad actors. We're missing formative fake news hubs, not an entertainment site. And so it would have destroyed our business. We wouldn't have been able to operate on social media, so we had to take it seriously. And it's been it has been weird. You know, I've even testified before Congress about these issues, talking about, you know, the need for some protections on these platforms changes the legal structure, the issues with the fact checkers, how fact checking is guarding the narrative and not the truth, even though it's supposedly there to guard the truth. And and so it's been weird to, at the same time be trying to inform people, I'm sorry entertain people were also at the same time time trying to, you know defend your right to do that in the first place. It's we weren't expecting to be in that fight at all. But I think we've been very successful in pushing back on a lot of it. We still have a voice. We refuse to delete a tweet on Twitter that made a joke about Admiral Rachel Levine. We refused to delete it when Twitter wanted us to, and that meant giving up our entire Twitter audience and profile and and we were willing to do that indefinitely. And we were stuck in Twitter jail for eight months until Ellen bought it, set us free. And on day one, he was like, Bring back the Babylon Bee So we've taken a stand a number of times and had some good results come out of it. So it really does it does make a difference when you're willing to say what's true, tell the jokes you're not supposed to tell and stand your ground and not back down. Whatever you do, don't censor yourself. Because if we had done that, if we had just deleted that joke, you know, they would have won. I think he is. Although Tesla Tesla just got hammered. Their stock fell a little bit, which always affects his net worth. Everybody thinks that it's like this mountain of money that he's sitting on and it's like if most of his worth is in his equity in these companies that he owns and it can fluctuate day to day, you know, he can lose tens of billions of dollars in hours with stock prices changing. And it's not cash leaving his bank account, but what's it like? What having that relationship? Well, it's great. I mean, he's been he's one of the I've described him as one of the foremost defenders of free speech in our time, maybe maybe the foremost defender of it. You know, his his acquisition of Twitter was a really, really big deal. It was a $44 billion deal. We've joked repeatedly that we're still trying to think of a joke worth $44 billion. It's and it's cost him a lot. It's cost him a lot in terms of his reputation. It's put him in the middle of the left and the right and all of their fighting and and, you know, now now the left views him as a far right extremist. And advertisers don't want to be on the platform because he speaks his mind too much and he cares too much about these issues and all because he wanted free speech. You know, he's become this public enemy number one. So he's sacrificed a lot. And I don't think people realize that, you know, a lot of people will just talk about how he's well, he's the richest man in the world, you know, whatever. But but it has come at a pretty high cost and stress and reputation damage and money, everything, you name it, it's come at a cost. So but in terms of the, you know, getting to know him and being friends with him, I mean, he's he's a funny guy. He's like he's I don't know what it's like working for him. I don't know that I'd want to be his employee. I think he's pretty hard on people that work for him. He demands a lot of them. And that's, you know, that's fine. It's it's it's required in some cases to build a successful company in the industries that he's doing it in, where it's groundbreaking work that needs to be done. But when he's just friends with you, he's pretty easygoing and he's he's funny, he's silly. He likes to send jokes back and forth. He's he's a child at heart and and he just he loves people. And he and he and he loves laughing. And so he's been a big supporter of the bee. And we appreciate that if we ever need money, you know, at least I have someone that I can go to and say, hey, you know, can you toss a couple of billion this way? We're a little we're a little strapped for cash. That really good friends to have for sure. Hey, if people want find out more about the Babylon Bee or get connected with your with your work, where do they find that out? Well, our website is . We are still on social media. Not all of it's really worth much to us. We don't drive any traffic through Facebook anymore, but we're on Facebook. We're on X, formerly Twitter. That's where we have our largest audience. We're on YouTube. We put video content out on YouTube. Now, last couple of years we've been doing a lot of comedy sketches, video sketches and podcast stuff. So our YouTube channel has been growing a lot so you can find us there. We write books, we're all over you know, Amazon, you can find our guide books there. We do The Guide to Gender, The Guide to Democracy, The Guide to Wokeness. So if you love, if you love satire, you like to laugh. If you want to take the issues of the day a little bit less seriously, come check us out. Thank you. Enjoyed it. Thank you. God bless everybody. Take care. We'll see you next time.