Skip to main content

Sadly, this is not in the spirit of Christmas. I originally was going to write a charming tale about a Christmas-saving rodent of some kind, because people seem to like that sort of thing and because during Christmas-time, even disease-carrying vermin somehow seem like reasonable potential heroes for teaching values like generosity and cherishing family bonds or the like. It didn't pan out; the rodent in question turned out to be an ordinary rodent, and did not do a damn thing for Christmas one way or the other, as far as I could tell in my own observations, and so back to politics (or in this case, media-watching) we go.

The Washington Post's Fact Checker, in a not entirely impartial defense of fact checkers:

Fact checkers are under assault!

Before we present our list of the biggest Pinocchios of the year, we would like to address the torrent of criticism addressed at fact checkers (primarily PolitiFact, and The Fact Checker) in recent weeks. The Weekly Standard last week had a cover story denouncing fact checkers as a liberal plot to control the political discourse. This week, PolitiFact’s decision to award its “Lie of the Year” trophy to Democratic claims that the GOP “killed” Medicare has earned it and its fact checking brethren additional scorn from the left.

Sorry, but I'm going to have to rate this one "Pants on Fire." Nobody is physically assaulting fact checkers. Also, criticism is not assault.

Also, when people criticize fact checkers for not actually checking the facts, then maybe they're not even really criticizing fact checkers, because are fact checkers really fact checkers if they aren't chucking wood—I mean, checking facts? All right, fine, scratch that last one.

Fact checking is a noble endeavor. Those of us that always had had sharp words for the national media have always pleaded, in fact, for reporters to not just repeat the words a politician deigns to impart to us all, but to do the rather more important job of determining whether or not those words are even remotely true. That turned out to be too hard, because it involves looking in books, calling people up and so forth and let's face it: Newspapers are barely hanging in there as it is. Instead, then, we have the new institution of "fact checking" reporters, neatly dividing the reporting part of journalism from the bothering to check whether it's actually true part of journalism. Don't laugh: It is almost certainly the best we're going to get. And it's still a hell of a lot better than not doing the fact checking at all.

Presuming, of course, that the fact checkers are not part of the same mindset that sent the rest of political journalism down the crapper in the first place. Dawdling through fields of false equivalences, say, or waffling between being astonishingly nitpicking in one moment, only to issue broad, dubious pronouncements in the next. The problem with fact checking is that it can be done well or poorly, just as with anything else, and doing it poorly can do more damage than not doing it at all.

Criticizing bad fact checking, then, is not the same as putting the entire (sigh) profession under assault. Deflating dubious editorializing itself masquerading as fact checking ought to be seen as a damn fine service to the cause. And yes, hostility may come with the territory—after all, nobody sets themselves up for criticism quite so easily as does a self-titled final arbiter of the truth.

The Fact Checker defense of much-put-upon fact checkers, unfortunately, strikes some sour notes. In a multi-paragraphed assertion of independence and objectivity, quite a few strawmen are propped up to serve as opposing army. The results sound, unsurprisingly, like a poor rehashing of every other defense of every other bit of bad political reporting. If the fact checkers are not captured by the same mindsets of false equivalence, faux balance, and stubborn dullness that infects so many of their political peers, they need to do a better job of proving it.

In fact, there is this strange myth out there that fact checkers aspire to be “referees” and strain to achieve a balance between the two parties. Not so. At The Fact Checker, we take a holistic approach to every fact we check.

That's lovely: A widespread critique of the political media is proclaimed a "myth" based on a sample size of One Guy. The notion of false balance is hardly an accusation hurled only at fact checkers; it is, by many critics of the modern media, considered an epidemic. The proof is in every story that follows up an obviously fraudulent he said with only a milquetoast she said, or the unending stream of "both parties do it" even in situations where, quite clearly, only one party is doing it (see: debt ceiling debacle; the current record of filibusters and other delays in the Senate; the record number of delayed executive appointments; the very next sentence after the above-quoted one).

After more than 30 years of writing about Washington institutions, we truly find there is little difference between Democrats and Republicans in terms of twisting the facts and being misleading when it suits their political purposes.

Really. You don't find there is much difference between the parties, in terms of twisting the facts and being misleading.

Here are a few words that ought to give one pause before saying such a thing: President Obama's birth certificate, as opined upon by actual Republican contenders for their presidential nomination. The widespread premise, promulgated by talking heads on Fox News and by Republican partisans, that the president is either only dubiously Christian or is secretly of the Muslim faith. The hypothesizing that the president's secret Muslim faith is causing him to be "weak" on terrorism. The assertion of conspiracies, again mainstreamed, based on Christmas cards, Christmas ornaments, an excessive number of Christmas trees, a suspicious lack of Christmas trees, etc., that the president of the United States is openly hostile to those of the Christian faith.

The madrassa mutterings, during the 2008 campaign.

Go on. Go on, and find me a Democratic example equivalent to Republican voices claiming the Democratic president is not legitimate due to invented suspicions about his birth, or heritage, or beliefs, promulgated at the same political levels. Find me the dark opining about President Bush's secret anti-Christian beliefs, as espoused on national television by national political figures. Find me those things, things of equivalent fraudulence, things as bald-faced, as offensive, as conspiracy-theory-riddled, as full of personal bile and willful disregard for the truth, things that have resulted in a double-diget subset of the American public actually believing the spiteful garbage years after their introduction.

Show me what you consider to be the countering equivalents to those mutterings by one party, and I will entertain the notion that your 30 years of experiences has found "little difference" between the parties "in terms of twisting the facts and being misleading." I might believe you, then, and not chalk it up to the premise that a vast swath of the media tortures themselves in an attempt to proclaim balance between the parties. Go, and do it. Conspiracy theories and flagrant lies of that caliber, promoted by the same number of partisans and politicians, at the same level of national discourse. I am awash in politics every day of my damned life, I have a profound distaste for both parties and nearly all politicians in general, and yet I have yet to find the bullshit-filled Democratic sack that can balance those scales.

The main difference between the two parties seems to be that the right assumes the media is out to get them (i.e., see The Weekly Standard) and the left seems to take it as a personal affront when you call them out (see the reaction to PolitiFact.)

This has not a damn thing to do with whether a criticism of PolitiFact was warranted or not. Conservatism has long since held that identical charge against every aspect of the media, not just fact checkers, so there is nothing new there; the left's critique of PolitiFact had nothing to do with personal affront and was instead based on perceived dubious logic on the part of PolitiFact, explained at great length by the critiquers. To dismiss it as personal affront seems weak at best, though again: Kudos for juxtaposing a decades-long campaign to discredit the media on the right with supposed bouts of silly emotionalism on the left. The all-important cosmic balance is maintained.

The critiques of PolitiFact—not just against a single story, but as pattern—are rather less hissy-fit oriented than the Fact Checker is willing to entertain. The whole argument over whether ending something as we know it does or does not represent ending something has seemed from the outset to be a bit on the esoteric side, at least when it comes to holding it up as one of the prime examples of discourse-shredding malfeasance. PolitiFact has had an ongoing habit of being compulsively hyper-precise for some stories, while goofily throwing up their hands at others.

Their practice of randomly choosing cardboard signs held up by street protesters or "stuff they saw on Facebook" to be placed up against flagrant falsehoods by top political leaders seems also to be, at best, spurious, but it points to the biggest difficulty faced by political fact checkers: the apparent unwillingness to differentiate between organized misinformation campaigns, which are brutally dangerous things, versus mere botched statistics or even, in some cases, dubious bits of political hyperbole. It is reasonable to call out each of these, but apparently it has been made mandatory that each be treated with equal importance.

The PolitiFact "Lie of the Year" finalists was a decent demonstration of the form, as are the Fact Checker's own choices: Assertions from random political figures are lumped in with all-encompassing, organized lies like "the stimulus created zero jobs" which were manufactured as political campaigns within themselves. That is fine as far as it goes, but the lies regarding, say, climate change are so ridiculous as to fall squarely in the realm of conspiracy theory; it seems difficult to compare inane one-off statements from random politicians to that campaign. But that is probably neither here nor there, other than as example of perfectly legitimate criticism of "fact checking" as currently practiced. Mark it down, though: I would much rather lies promoted by a political organization to be faxed off to all of their members, or lies based on focus-grouped tests of what lies might best work, or lies that are just plain more commonplace than others be somehow singled out as particularly egregious, because that is what differentiates organized propaganda from mere hyperbole or plain error.

No, I do not believe that the recent PolitiFact debacle demonstrates that fact checkers are under assault. I think that is the sort of hyperbole that the fact checkers regularly and gleefully ding politicians for on a regular basis. Getting crabby emails from readers does not count as an attack on the profession; the mere presence of critics on both left and right does not somehow magically cancel out the validity of any particular critique. PolitiFact itself offered an exceptionally pouty and narcissistic take on the affair; that editorial probably did as much damage to their desired reputation for even-handed objectivity than anything else they have done of late.

The more reasonable interpretation is that fact checking as "new profession" (and seriously, nothing is more humiliating than the notion that our media is so incompetent at verifying facts that an entirely new sub-profession needs to be assigned to the task) has a bit of growing up to do. It is, as I said before, a task that by its nature is a magnet for criticism, but that does not mean that all actual instances of fact checking are, by their mere presence, factual. Sometimes a person claiming fact-checking status will have their own partisan interests at heart; sometimes they will merely choose numbers arrived at in a different fashion; sometimes they will over-interpret a statement; sometimes they will be flatly wrong. This is not surprising.

It is also not surprising that the reputation of a fact-checking organization will rise or suffer based on the tightness, or dubiousness, of their logic. It is not an indictment of the profession. It may, however, be an indictment of individual practitioners.

Now go. Go and find the countering, just-as-egregious sort of claims that balances out things like the Democratic president is perhaps not even an American citizen, a claim that partisan pundits, multiple members of Congress, and even high-profile contenders to the Republican presidential throne all tuttered about, or demanded investigations over, or proposed legislation over, or insinuated that they had dramatic, suspicious information about. I want to see what is out there that can possibly justify the statement that there is currently little difference between Democrats and Republicans in terms of twisting the facts, and why it should not be discounted as exactly the sort of egregious, silly humping at the altar of balance that makes all of the media so profoundly insufferable and has inflicted upon us so many years of rigorously enforced reportorial incompetence. I want to fact check that.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  So... (21+ / 0-)

    who "fact checks" the fact checkers?

    "The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously." -- Hubert H. Humphrey

    by Candide08 on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:09:43 AM PST

  •  the recently deceased Mr. Havel covered this well (31+ / 0-)

    My own feeling, for whatever it is worth, is that we as a society have decided on some lies.  America is the best!  Other people in other places are not quite people when they die (or live) -- they are objects of pity or fear or contempt or compassion, but never people like us.  We are good because we are American, and -- to spite people lacking medical care, food, housing, or a way out of poverty -- this is the best place in the world, ever.  

    When you begin with things that are not true, then actually telling the truth is a revolutionary act.  And fact checkers are not revolutionaries, for the most part.  They are aspiring or established parts of the ideological system.  Of course they will use he said/she said.  Of course they will seek, ultimately, to let us know that it is all about the same in politics-land, and carry the narrative that it is all a bunch o'crooks anyway, and whatcha gonna do?  That is, at this point, part of our ideology.  

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:10:59 AM PST

  •  Foxitifact (11+ / 0-)

    Not only is the number of their tortured, contorted ratings alarmingly high - 15-20% or more? - but they never give the Left the benefit of the doubt.  Never.  Dubious claims always skew to the Right.

    It just about makes one begin to think that they are an organization with an agenda.

    Teddy had the Square Deal. FDR had the New Deal. Obama's got the BFD.

    by thenekkidtruth on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:14:06 AM PST

  •  Facts? You can't take real facts! (7+ / 0-)

    Facts are annoying things and heaven help us if journalism ever worried about facts again.

    So the fact check sites made some errors and got their facts wrong.  In human endeavor, a 95% correct rate is pretty astounding even for careful people.  A GM VP once wrote a book about accepting the 5% error rate as a cost of doing business and I found this very helpful in managing people.  Don't try to push the correctness rate higher or you are wasting your time and money.   So what if 1 in 20 facts checked are dubious?  Keep your tin hats on and call them on their errors.

    In baseball, if you are right 3 times out of ten, you probably have a good shot at the Hall of Fame and if you are right 4 times out of 10, you are Ted Williams.

    "Don't dream it, be it" - Brad, Janet and Frank

    by captainlaser on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:18:51 AM PST

  •  High Broderism (12+ / 0-)

    As we all know, the Dean of Washington Journalism, David Broder was the Great Referee!  

    Everyone knew that he was "objective" and looked for the Great Bipartisan Politician who would lead us to the promised land that all Bigfoot Pundits know exists if only people would listen to them and follow their advice.  After all, the Dean actually talked with "real" people outside the Beltway.  Although he did have share with  Sally Quinn how Clinton trashed "their town."  

    We dirty f*cking hippies not only smell but are always wrong, even when we are right on such issues as Iraq. or the stimulus or health care reform.

    So, we now have fact checkers as a surrogate to  the late lamented Dean.  Even they recognize they are lack the gravitas of the Dean, but they do their best to find that elusive third way.

    Has anyone ever noticed how such high Broderism bears a striking similarity to high wankery?

    Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

    by MoDem on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:19:20 AM PST

  •  The history books are full of these "facts" (6+ / 0-)

    "I drank what?!" -Socrates

    by bagman on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:22:01 AM PST

  •  Is the news industry liberal? It is conservative? (38+ / 0-)

    The main thing it is, is fucking lazy.  It's so much easier to cover the horse-race aspect of a Presidential election cycle than to actually examine what the candidates are saying, what they are claiming.
    When George W. Bush was running for President, it was a standard part of his stump speech (apparently designed to show that he would be a good person to reform healthcare in our country,) that "When I was Governor we passed a patients' bill of rights."
    Which was true, except that the state legislature passed said bill over Bush's veto.
    Not a hard fact to uncover.  Not at all.  But still more work than deciding "Hey gang, let's paint Al Gore as a serial liar!"
    The other day I saw some talking head who probably claims to be a journalist say that Ron Paul's newsletters were now getting scrutiny because of his "new front-runner status in Iowa."'s an idea!  Give candidates some scrutiny before they become front runners, and maybe the American public will be well served enough by your "profession" to not allow virulent racists achieve front runner status.

    All upcoming GOP debates will be held at venues with a stage trapdoor, so that the candidates can appear to all pile out of the same tiny car.

    by jazzmaniac on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:25:59 AM PST

  •  You took a long time to say that, "when I agree (0+ / 0-)

    with what the fact checker's say they are right, but when I disagree with what the fact checker's say they are wrong.  

  •  A balance between the parties can be quantified (6+ / 0-)

    by data from Politifact itself.

    Score Left pols and issues versus Right pols and issues at Politifact over the last 5 years or so.  Absolutely "true" gets a plus 5, "pants-on-fire" gets a negative 5, etc.  Then score all Right and Left ratings to determine a composite number.

    One hard-Right politician and presidential candidate alone scored something like 60% "pants-on-fire" - that would be Michelle Bachmann.  There's nothing even close among Democrats.

    Even though I'm personally convinced that "Foxitifact", as I call them, skews their ratings decidedly in favor of the Right, I have every confidence that the difference in scores using such an analysis will be far, far beyond the margin of error untenably in favor of the Left.

    Teddy had the Square Deal. FDR had the New Deal. Obama's got the BFD.

    by thenekkidtruth on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:27:49 AM PST

    •  Statistical analysis minus the stats or analysis (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There is much opportunity for disaster when one claims to know the answer to a statistical analysis of the available data, without even collecting the data in the first place. It can be found under Bad Decision-Making 101.

    •  thenekkidtruth, that analysis would be true (0+ / 0-)

      if Right & Left were each right 50% of the time.  But that isn't the case.  "Reality has a liberal bias."

      As offensive as our adversaries can be, it is always the people on our own side who drive us crazy.

      by Mayfly on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 11:12:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  90% of statists are made up on the spot. (0+ / 0-)

      . . . from Julie, Julia. "Oh, well. Boo-hoo. Now what?"

      by 88kathy on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 12:23:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  you know what I meant - those number thingies (0+ / 0-)

        . . . from Julie, Julia. "Oh, well. Boo-hoo. Now what?"

        by 88kathy on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 12:25:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Look, ppl . . don't give me a hard time on this (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        88kathy, jts327, yaque

        I came up with an equitable way to quantify things.  So go quantify it.

        With regards to the commentary that my predicted outcome is probably totally wrong so I thus flunked Decision Making 101, well, prognoses are made all the time.  Usually they're based on solid evidence, and so is mine.  That evidence is careful and systematic observation of Politifact's ratings and their rationales for the last 5 years, and my observation is that there has been a huge number of Republican downratings, while at the same time, relatively few Democrat ones.

        If you think I'm all wet, don't take the lazy way out and berate me.  Instead, see my paragraph (1) in this comment and prove me wrong.  Otherwise, your prognosis is no better than mine - and maybe it's not as good as mine.

        There is no current affairs or political website on the internet that doesn't engage in prognosis.  It's a huge part of what DailyKos does, well, daily, for instance.

        Teddy had the Square Deal. FDR had the New Deal. Obama's got the BFD.

        by thenekkidtruth on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 12:45:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Wouldn't work. (0+ / 0-)

      Sample bias.

      Anyway: True = 10; Mostly True = 5; Half True = 0; Mostly False = -5; False = -10; Pants on Fire = -15.

      Obama: n=330, median=0.95
      Boehner: n=48, median=-1.15

      Groups: Toolbox and Trolls... to preserve the best & the worst of DailyKos.

      by opendna on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 02:08:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow! Something that is balanced...and fair! (0+ / 0-)

    It is so rare to read something like don't find it in the MSM, obviously.

  •  Actually the RW noise machine is anti-fact (9+ / 0-)

    witness that they have the need to create their own alternate version of reality via FOX "News" and the am radio crowd.....and wikipedia is too "left wing" leaning so the world needed to be re-factified via "Conservapedia".

    So, yes, actually I would say factcheckers are under attack by an entire ideologically skewed contingent.

    Reality has a left-wing bias, apparently. But does reality exist if you don't believe it is as it is?

    "one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress" -- John Adams

    by blue armadillo on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:30:17 AM PST

  •  Fact Checkers...spawn of the politico-industrial (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    complex...Pretty harmless axshully...provide talking heads with nice intros into commercials....PAY ME!!!

  •  Fact: (13+ / 0-)

    I wish all my Kos friends and warm and happy holiday and a healthy and prosperous new year....

    .... and that we take back the House, gain greater control in the Senate, elect Obama to a 2nd term, take out all the teabaggers, oust the incumbents (primary out the so-called Dems who really align with the Repubs and seek to undermine the progressive agenda), elect more and BETTER Dems, and finally take the country in the direction we thought it would go in in 2008 ...

  •  They are falling into the "must be bipartisan" b.s (7+ / 0-)
    Presuming, of course, that the fact checkers are not part of the same mindset that sent the rest of political journalism down the crapper in the first place. Dawdling through fields of false equivalences, say, or waffling between being astonishingly nitpicking in one moment, only to issue broad, dubious pronouncements in the next.

    That is exactly what they do. IN a lot of their stories about how Obama has increased the debt by so-and-so amount they find the most strained positions so that they can find ways for it to be true and false.

    One trick they like to use is including the last budget created under Bush as Obama's accumulation of the debt. This included TARP, and is a nice way to add over $1 trillion to Obama's debt figures, which unsurprisingly increases his figures substantially.

    After doing this they like to add only the debt after Jan. 20th when he took office, but again the majority of the budget for the year was created under Bush, and most would be his rationally.

    Next they find a 3rd cutoff and figure it from there. This means they can have 1 figure that drastically overstates the numbers, one in the middle, and one at the low end. So, they can be "fair" and say the stories are "mostly true," or something similar. From what I've seen they never include debt from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars as not being Obama's.

  •  Rant on fire! (11+ / 0-)

    Now that's how it's done!

    About a week about a week ago I posted a comment to the effect that words fail to convey the disgust I have for Parse-A-Fact. I was wrong. My words fail me. Hunter does not share that shortcoming. Woot!

  •  Great job! (7+ / 0-)

    Great article! Generally Poltifact does a good job at separating fact from fiction. However as you alluded to in the post, when they are questioned about ratings or research they flat out ignore you or become dismissive of contradictory evidence. I have never seen a change in their rating (though I'll admit I don't read every rating.) Have they ever changed a rating?

    If they use logic, facts, and evidence as guidelines for ratings there would be no reason to whine when questioned about them.  

  •  'PolitiFact’s decision to award its “Lie (7+ / 0-)

    of the Year” trophy to Democratic claims that the GOP “killed” Medicare ...'

    Factual errors in the defense of fact checkers? I've gotta tip my hat.

    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

    by GussieFN on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:41:22 AM PST

  •  Politifact's mistake (6+ / 0-)

    Politifact's mistake was to try to advertise their site and attract viewers by proposing that one statement/rumor/fact was more important than another

    Whether a given statement is true or not, or to what extent, is verifiable by checking sources. This they do fairly well.

    But calling any given statement "* of the year" is completely subjective.

    They should drop their "of the year" opinions completely.

    david s california

    by david s on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:44:13 AM PST

  •  MMFA- the ONLY honest one of them (5+ / 0-)

    Media Matters for America is the only fact checker I trust.

    I guess the truth does have a liberal bias.


    IMO, Politifact is a complete crock, obvious to even the most casual reader.

    •  mmfa is on my 'pay-no-mind' list... (0+ / 0-)

      i mean...i guess they spend all their time paying attention to what all these lying assholes say...

      ok, tell you what: let me know when one of that motley assortment says something truthful or gets something right.  then i'll have learned something!

      we'll stand him up against a wall and pop goes the weasel /rufus t. firefly

      by 2nd balcony on Mon Dec 26, 2011 at 12:48:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  MSM fact checkers are anti-fact, anti-clarity (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jds1978, jts327, Matt Z

    It's all about spreading a meme of equivalence(to keeo the conflict interesting) and placating angry paranoid wingnuts.
    They claim that everything is political warfare which agrees with RW ideology.  

  •  DON'T LAUGH! (0+ / 0-)




  •  like history written by the victors, facts can be (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bagman, OleHippieChick, Matt Z

    elusive and often not absolute

    It is also not surprising that the reputation of a fact-checking organization will rise or suffer based on the tightness, or dubiousness, of their logic. It is not an indictment of the profession. It may, however, be an indictment of individual practitioners.

    Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare."

    by annieli on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:52:59 AM PST

    •  like in any industry--there are those who are very (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chitown Kev, Matt Z

      very good at their craft, and others--not so good.

      Very often, that particular editorial function is relegated to newbies or worse, interns.  They often don't have the skill, maturity, knowledge base, reason, or skepticism it takes to be a good fact checker.

      I had a very nice career doing it--very dense, political pieces, as well as complete fluff.  I considered it content editing--and there was no safety net.  It was my neck on the line.

      News reporters are expected to be accurate in their reportage and should not require factchecking.  Magazine and book writers will often feel the temptation to veer away from fact here and there in order to impart a litle color, (see Stephen Glass) and that is where factchecking is invaluable.

      No doubt, in budget cut-backs, these positions are considered less necessary, but that is a big mistake, in my opinion.

      His silence says everything we need to know.

      by livjack on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 03:35:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'd like to see on of these organizations respond (3+ / 0-)

    to Hunter's diary.

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy;the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness

    by CTMET on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 11:00:12 AM PST

  •  The fact checking bloggers from St. Pete (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    screwed up and they don't want to hear about it.  And their friends at the Village Inn want to hold telethon for them.  Color me unimpressed.

  •  How about this one: (7+ / 0-)

    Shitload of liars:  "The decorated war hero Democratic candidate is actually a sniveling liar who put his fellow officers in danger and earned a purple heart with a paper cut"


    Dan Rather having his ass kicked for reporting a story that is actually borne out by the ACTUAL MILITARY RECORD of the sniveling cowardly entitled liar Republican candidate, aka president Codpiece, who pretends to actually know what combat is like.  Oh, and who claims "Mission Accomplished" about 8 years before the mission ends, and blames someone else for the fucking sign.


    You know, I'd like to chalk up the differences between these assclowns and Democrats, even democrats I don't much like, to actual heartfelt ideology about the way things should work.

    But do I believe that they believe that cutting taxes for their cronies will create jobs?  No.  There is something wrong with them, something craven and cruel that I can't fathom.  I mean I can't imagine saying "let people all lose their houses" before we do something, or holding the nation hostage to some handout to folks who pollute the air and water to suck the last drop of oil from the planet while screaming murder at money spent on clean alternatives.

    It's not ideology for these politicians.  They're broken somehow.  They don't even represent their own constituencies.

    The two parties ARE different, Nader aside.  Sure I'd like Obama to move to the left.  But I wouldn't trade him for any republican I've seen yet.  Something's wrong with them that scares me to death.

    Why is it that a 3% tax increase for the wealthy is considered "socialism" and an 8% wage cut for the middle class is "doing your part"? MartyM

    by delphine on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 11:16:28 AM PST

  •  Fact checking the fact checkers is good but (0+ / 0-)

    who fact checks the fact checkers of the fact checkers? Blech.

    I suspect the fact checkers Hunter blasts for their false equivalencies tend to engage in them as pre-emptive defenses against claims of their being partisan hacks. It may be they consider their own undermining of their credibility to be a lessor evil, a sacrifice to the god of Remaining Relevant.

  •  Politifact says they didn't judge the Ryan plan (4+ / 0-)

    on its' merits yet they say that the Dems lied when saying it would end Medicare as we know it. How is that you can not judge a plan on its' merits and be able to determine what it will or will not do? First of all, the supposed lie says it will 'end' Medicare. When is the end? 20, 30 years from now? I guess if the program is totally different in every way 30 years from now, but still called Medicare, then the Dems lied. How stupid is that?

  •  See how the word this????? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, foresterbob

    They say:

    "Democratic claims that the GOP “killed” Medicare"

    Does that look like what Democrats said???

    Didn't think so.

    I thought they said that:

    The GOP VOTED to "kill" Medicare.

    Big difference in my mind, but that's just me.

    Did Democrats really claim that the GOP "killed" Medicare?

    I didn't see it...

    When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace. Jimi Hendrix

    by Dave B on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 11:39:04 AM PST

  •  Gotta agree. (6+ / 0-)

    I've seen Politifact say things like

    While he said 15 billion crickets, and the figure was actually 1 million crawdads. he was right that exo-skeletoned creatures will be affected by increased taxes on using our waterways as public toilets, so we rate this true.

     in one article, and then in the next something like

    He said 3 billion 5-headed goat-eating kernsnufflets, while the actual figure is 2.95 billion 5-headed goat-eating kernsnufflets.  As this figure wasn't perfectly accurate, we rate this statement false and think the person who said it really smells and mistreats small animals, and is just a mean deceitful person for saying such a horribly misleading thing.

    in another.  They're inconsistent to such a degree as render themselves irrelevant when it comes to actually determining the truth of a statement or lack thereof.

  •  Ryan Saves Medicare, Slavery is Freedom, War is... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    .....Peace, Ignorance is Strength.

    It's not that this is an assault on truth, it is a classic assault on the idea of "truth."

    Basically it is dialectics - don't answer the question, just keep redefining the question and the meaning of words until it bends your direction.  Americans have always rejected this 19th century European intellectual wankery, and instinctively regard it with revulsion.

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 12:03:46 PM PST

  •  Tell it, Hunter!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matt Z

    You broke this down so well. Thanks for taking the time to do it.

  •  Search on Politifact (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matt Z

    I did a simple search on Politifact, and found that in the last year they have rated statements by comedian Jon Stewart as often as Statements made by Bill Oreilly, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh...

    •  So? What's that got to do with the (0+ / 0-)

      premise of the diary?

      Unapologetically pro-citizen. Not anti-corporation just very pro-citizen.

      by CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 01:20:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  False equivalency & sample bias. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mike101, Chitown Kev, Matt Z

        If gopre400 was correct, it might indicate that "he said/she said" is being expressed in the data sample.

        Suppose you wanted to do a statistical analysis of how Politifact deals with right and left media outlets. You might find that Politifact gives Right and Left equal attention and rules that they lie equally.

        What would be excluded from your analysis is observation that the sample for Left-wing media is a late-night comedian on Comedy Central, while the sample for Right-wing media is a cross-section of the most powerful names in cable news and radio.

        I doubt gopre400 is correct: Jon Stewart has three ratings but Bill O'Reilly has 10.

        Groups: Toolbox and Trolls... to preserve the best & the worst of DailyKos.

        by opendna on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 02:32:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Search... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I typed in the names of each person listed, two of Jon's Statement were rated in 2011 1.) saying "Fox news are consistently most uninformed. and 2.) saying "Congress was like 7-11"; 1 of Bill's statement was listed 1.) saying Bill told the President that he asked President Bush about Americans "hating him"

          I researched further and found that more a Bill's Statements had been rated.

      •  So? (0+ / 0-)

        One the premises of the diary was to show the differences in ratings between "right" and "left" are unbalanced. I was  posting an example to show how that is true if Politifact is focused on comedians as much as news analyst.  

  •   At least get your title factually accurate... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mike101, Matt Z

     The title to this diary is not even factually correct.  

    Fact-checkers have been under assault by right wingers since before the days of Barry Goldwater.

    And, over the decades,  the right wing assault on fact-checkers has been a huge WIN for the right wing. (Not even counting Fixed News & right wing hate radio, which are very unapologetic, outspoken enemies of truth and facts).

    The right realizes if all their pie-in-the sky bullshit & conspiracy theory nonsense is placed under close scrutiny by authentic fact-checkers, the Republican party will cease to exist.

    That's why the traditional media refuses to fact-check Republican bullshit:  Because the 1% driven traditional media has to have the 1% driven Republican party viable in order for the 1% driven traditional media to function.

    When Fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in excess body fat and carrying a misspelled sign.

    by wyvern on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 12:15:11 PM PST

  •  Death Panels (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WheninRome, Matt Z

    "Death Panels"

    "Job Creators"

    The Gingrich memo, which is essentially a order to lie.

    On and on.

    "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

    by nosleep4u on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 12:16:40 PM PST

  •  The twin goals of balance and truth (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mike101, Matt Z

    are not always compatible. If one side stops caring about ordinary truth in favor of a new kind of “truth” meaning “true to what I believe”, then ordinary evaluation of traditional truth will cause imbalance in favor of the other side. This in turn will leave the fact checker vulnerable to accusations of favoritism.

    This situation is exacerbated by talk radio, cable news, and the Internet, which allow people to tune out information sources that say things they do not want to hear. Fact check organizations that find more fault with one side—whether outcome corresponds to traditional truth or not—will lose a great deal of audience, because people who favor the factually challenged side will tune them out. This in turn translates into many dollars of lost revenue for the fact checkers and for other new sources sharing the same outlet. Therefore, the primary emphasis is on balance, not truth, and the challenge is to do this in such a way that few people notice.

    •  That is one sad realization. n/t (0+ / 0-)

      -- We are just regular people informed on issues

      by mike101 on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 04:00:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You want sad? Consider this... (0+ / 0-)

        The side that favors traditional, empirically-backed facts can do only one thing in order to restore the imbalance: embrace subjective “facts”.

        If the empirical side continues to adhere to objective facts, the other side will be free to say whatever they want and they will still receive full coverage by all media, in the name of balance. So the only thing possible for the more objectively focused side is to start being even more outrageous than their opponents.

        As long as the dynamic remains as it is, either this shift will occur (and there are plenty of signs that it already is happening--sorry OWS) or the subjective side will swamp the objective one (again).

  •  It might not hurt if they were under assualt.. (0+ / 0-)

    .. or rather named what they really are - another branch of media with their own particular ideas & opinions about facts.  

    They may not be of the exact same mind set as the MSM but they are pulled into (or self-proclaimed to "impartially" floating above) the same stream.  

    The party of so called "conservatives" has by far the greater concentration of wealth in this country and their political leverage depends largely on using that $$$ advantage to pollute that river of information/goals/pursuits to secure their agenda.

    Most all organizations (politicfact, or American Idol) are pulled by the laws of motion to the fastest, deepest, most lucrative part -  the middle - The Overton window - the main stream.  

    Fact checking to me is just a new name on an old gig, that used to be ingrained in and sought for the sake of excellence in journalism. The satisfaction of a job well done.

  •  Hunter, you're a really fine writer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DollyMadison, StellaRay, Matt Z

    Merry Holidays to you and yours, and keep it coming!

    A man, a plan, a canal, Panama

    by Karl Rover on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 01:21:02 PM PST

  •  Well, there's still the New Yorker (0+ / 0-)

    fact checking is more or less a religion over there.

    How do I know? they had an article about it.  And since their articles are fact checked to the highest degree possible, it just had to be true!!

  •  Best explanation yet of why it isn't a lie... (5+ / 0-)

    I've seen the strictly factual:

    "The Republicans voted to end the current medicare program and replace it with a program called medicare which provides minimal and decreasing premium support to seniors"

    I've seen the fancy car metaphor:

    "The Republicans voted to take away your Ferrari and replace it with a golf cart that has a Ferrari badge on the hood"

    But the best one was at the first WaPo thread linked to:

    "If Glenn Kessler caught his wife banging another man, it wouldn't be cheating if he was named 'Glenn'"

    As they say in internet land: FTW!!!!

  •  What was Politifact's runner-up lie of the year? (0+ / 0-)

    Republicans' assertions that Obama screwed up our victory in Iraq, as exemplified by this column by Krauthammer?

  •  Stop exaggerating! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StellaRay, Matt Z

    Republicans did not vote vote to kill Medicare. They only voted to slit its throat.

    Not the same thing atall, atall.

    Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
    I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

    by Leo in NJ on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 02:52:03 PM PST

  •  Bravo, Hunter! (0+ / 0-)

    Excellent essay---I'd like to see it go viral.  I'd like to see Rachel Maddow do a segment using Hunter's article.  This false equivalency thing has soared to dangerous heights, imo.

    The truth of it is, balance is a natural state, and can't be faked.  But that hasn't stopped the media from trying to fake it, and now the "fact" checkers have adopted the same false standards.  

    Politifact's "lie of the year" was indeed the biggest lie of the year for me.  Might as well have been parsed by FOX.  And their self righteous defense of themselves is almost worse than the original crime.

    Oh well, a year of tumult passed, another year ahead.  I'll take a breath and a pause to say Merry Christmas, and every other kind of happy holidays out there to all here at this vibrant community I count on to give voice, to hear voice, to anchor me to those out there that define sanity the way I do.

  •  journos held powerful accountable? when? (0+ / 0-)

    Gingritch still lies his butt off.  Romney still has nothing but a slick smile, Bachman/Santorum are Religious fanatics, Cain got a free ride for a long time with 10 million dollars of free publicity, Sarah Palin still makes the newspaper whenever she opens up her mouth and spouts out nothing? Wall Street Criminal go un-investigated.  

    The 41,000 held nobody accountable, and didn't even report on the OWS as anything but a side show instead of bringing their issues to the front.  With News Journos like these we don't need any enemies.

    80 % of success is JUST SHOWING UP! Japanese's 40 million subsidy to whale hunting is nuts. Newt wants to isolate, crush, and replace the secular socialist left!

    by Churchill on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 09:44:35 PM PST

  •  "fact checking" is a ruse (0+ / 0-)

    I think through the Politifact incident we are coming to see how "fact checking" may just be the newest incarnation of the "fair and balanced" vomit spewed out by the Fox/Rove propaganda machine of corporate fascism. The so-called "fact checking" organizations stick to actual facts and truth telling for a year or so to build credibility.  Then they exploit that credibility in service of the Republican lie machine.

    "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." Edmund Burke, "Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents" (1770).

    by shockratees on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 10:31:12 PM PST

  •  Politi"fact" is over (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matt Z

    I think Politi"fact" is over as a reputable service.

    48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam> "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Edna St.V. Millay

    by slouching on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 11:12:27 PM PST

  •  irony: you're so into your theme you missed it: (0+ / 0-)

    After more than 30 years of writing about Washington institutions, we truly find there is little difference between Democrats and Republicans in terms of twisting the facts and being misleading when it suits their political purposes.

    "Really. You don't find there is much difference between the parties, in terms of twisting the facts and being misleading."

    you left out the "when it suits their political purpose" in your analysis.   i think you overlooked it because you were personally affronted that the wapo was so full of shit...again.  i don't think you would really like to argue that democrats are less likely to lie (or at least ignore unpleasant facts) when it seems politically advantageous to do so.

    anyway, i wouldn't like to argue that...

    for me, at this point, this whole discussion is silly.  the republican party, or the conservative movement, or however you want to call it, has gone so far off the deep end that it makes no difference as to whether they are lying, or mistaken, or just spouting their morally- reprehensible opinions based on nothing but their anti-humanistic world view.  to  "fact-check" anything these people say is to allow them a dignity they not only haven't earned, but one they actively disdain  (can you say 'purple-heart band-aids'?)

    frankly, to the extent there is any actual legitimate political argument in this country, it takes place among democrats, independents (these, i think, are basically republicans who are, to their credit, ashamed to call themselves republicans nowadays) and a very, very few old-fashioned, northeastern "tom dewey" republicans.  It is among these people that all the fact-checking needs to be is only among these people that facts matter.

    let's be selective as to those we deem worthy of fact checking...let us unceasingly brand the rest as a priori irredeemably full of shit.  


    we'll stand him up against a wall and pop goes the weasel /rufus t. firefly

    by 2nd balcony on Mon Dec 26, 2011 at 12:34:41 AM PST

  •  Well now! (0+ / 0-)

    This is apparently pretty much the best thing ever, isn't it?

    Democrats must
    Earn the trust
    Of the 99% --
    That's our intent!

    "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

    by Seneca Doane on Mon Dec 26, 2011 at 02:07:15 AM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site