If I were a PolitiFact editor, and I were responding to a wave of criticisms while simultaneously attempting to reassure readers that I was a serious person worthy of their future confidence, I would not have printed this self-promoting, narcissistic, reader-blaming whinefest
At a Republican campaign rally a few years ago, I asked one of the attendees how he got his news.
"I listen to Rush and read NewsMax," he said. "And to make sure I'm getting a balanced view, I watch Fox."
My liberal friends get their information from distinctly different sources — Huffington Post, Daily Kos and Rachel Maddow. To make sure they get a balanced view, they click Facebook links — from their liberal friends.
This is life in our echo chamber nation. We protect ourselves from opinions we don't like and seek reinforcement from like-minded allies. [...]
PolitiFact had its latest brush with the Echo Chamber Nation this week. We gave our Lie of the Year to the Democrats' claim that the Republicans "voted to end Medicare." That set off a firestorm in the liberal blogosphere, with many saying that claim was not actually wrong. We've received about 1,500 e-mails about our choice and only a few agreed with us.
The (only) theme here is that the current criticisms of PolitiFact are because people are whiners who only want to hear news that affirms their own world view; ergo, PolitiFact is right, so there. If this requires lumping people like Paul Krugman in as someone who can't be bothered to read news that's not forwarded on from Facebook friends, so be it: A premise is a premise. We can't possibly be wrong on this because we're the fact checkers, damn it—it says so in our name—so the only other explanation is that the entire rest of the nation sucks. Eh, fine, whatever.
I think it is probably a bad idea for a fact-checking institution devoted entirely to politics to generically assert that all of the people who read them are little more than flighty little morons, but PolitiFact has not exactly made a name for itself for consistency or impeccable judgment. So break out the tiny violins: having apparently failed to convince critics of their rightness the first time around, now they're just going full-on into "our enemies are all around us" territory.
But like Newt Gingrich, they shall rise up through the fire and brimstone and that barely functional ethernet router sitting over there, and prove the haters wrong.
In reality, fact-checking is growing and thriving because people who live outside the partisan bubbles want help sorting out the truth. PolitiFact now has nine state sites run by news organizations around the country that employ more than 30 full-time journalists for fact-checking. We've inspired many copycat sites around the nation and roughly a dozen in other countries.
And yet, for many of our readers, the love for PolitiFact has always been conditional. They love us when we confirm their views that the other side is wrong — and they hate us when we don't.
Yes, PolitiFact is dangerous. We have disrupted the status quo because we're doing what journalists should have been doing for a long time — holding politicians and pundits accountable for their words.
Jeebus. Talk about unnecessary Braveheart moments (didn't check that one, did you, PolitiFact? You should have. It was hilarious.)
Again, to the editors at PolitiFact: Why did you publish this? If you are confident in your judgment, stand on your judgment and be done with it. When trying to convince people that you are impeccably objective and invariably rational, writing overemotional screeds claiming your critics are merely hate-filled, narrow-minded dimwits does nothing to inspire confidence.