Just the Facts

Just the Facts—39eh.

Don’t mistake The Scrapbook’s recent silence on the subject of the mainstream media’s meretricious “fact-checking” enterprise for a sign that things have improved on that front. They haven’t. The “fact checks” are as biased and misleading as ever, it’s just that The Scrapbook got tired of spitting into the wind.

We were therefore delighted to come across an honest and bracing left-wing attack on that same enterprise. Sisyphus Scrapbook is always happy for help rolling this particular boulder uphill, and we don’t care what ideological neighborhood the muscle comes from.

Writing at Current Affairs magazine, editor Nathan J. Robinson decries “the media’s own lack of credibility on matters of fact,” which has disarmed it in its current obsession with so-called fake news websites. He continues: “Especially with the rise of ‘fact-checking’ websites, whose analysis is frequently shoddy and dubious, the political media contribute to the exact kind of ‘post-truth’ atmosphere that journalists criticize Trump for furthering.”

Here’s a choice excerpt:

Conservative writer Sean Davis similarly encountered the topsy-turvy world of Clinton Foundation “fact checking.” When Davis wrote an article about the small percentage of its funding the Clinton Foundation spends on charitable grants (as opposed to its own in-house programming), PunditFact argued that the claim, “while technically true” was nevertheless “mostly false.” Davis was understandably puzzled by the idea that something could be rated false despite “technically” being true.

But this happens frequently on fact-checking websites. Fact-checkers claim that while claims may literally be true, they are nevertheless false for giving “misleading” impressions or missing crucial context. For example, when Carly Fiorina claimed that she had gone from being a secretary to being a CEO, her claim was given “Three Pinocchios” by the Washington Post, even though Fiorina had indeed (by the Post‘s own admission) been a secretary before she was a CEO. The Post reasoned that while Fiorina was literally telling the truth, her statement was nevertheless false since she had advantages in life that other secretaries did not have.

The fact-checkers might think that by going beyond the literal meaning of statements, and evaluating the impressions they leave, they are in fact doing a greater service to truth and reality. In fact, they are opening the door to a far more subjective kind of work, because evaluating perceptions requires a lot more interpretation than evaluating the basic truth or falsity of a statement. It thereby creates far more room for bias and error to work their way into the analysis.

You’ll want to read the whole thing. It’s posted at the magazine’s website, www.currentaffairs.org, headlined “The Necessity of Credibility: Ridding ourselves of fake news requires having media outlets that are actually worth listening to.”


source–weekly std, current affairs, nathan robinson, sean davis, punditfact


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