Bouncing Fact Checks Left and Right

Posted on October 15, 2012

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The ‘new’ thing – I should say obsessive trend with Liberals is ‘fact checking’.  The very notion that a website is named ‘Fact Check.org’, carries a suggested imprimatur of legitimacy. Are they legitimate and are they inscrutability objective?

An analysis of the accuracy of the fact checkers themselves finds them to be wanting with regard to methodology and quality control of their product.

One example detailed by Patterico’s Pontifications, is the fact checking done by FactCheck.org against the National Rifle Association’s claims that Obama is in opposition to 2nd Amendment rights. FactCheck chooses to ignore and de-emphasize Obama’s documented history of votes and actions favoring gun control measures – instead, pointing only to Obama and his campaigns efforts towards damage control.

This, from a segment of the political spectrum that has never evinced any kinship or sustained interest in facts.  My interpretation of the fact checking trend with progressives is two fold. First, I see a motive here based on the brooding resentment among the Left that the ‘great unwashed’ are no longer unanimously accepting every pronouncement of the media monarchy as established, unquestionable truth.

There was a time in the not too distant past, that the puppetmasters had a stranglehold on what was reported as news and how it was reported. If Walter Cronkite reported it on the CBS Nightly News, it would have been unthinkable for anyone to be taken seriously, were they to challenge his recitation of events.

That has been gradually eroding. The dethroning of Dan Rather, in the wake of revelations that he put forth forged documents to the public in his headlong rush to derail the election of George W. Bush, was a watershed moment in the downward spiral of credibility.

Secondarily, it appears that it is a tactical move based on some commonly held perceptions of the media landscape among them.  Liberals have been the architects of the world of information that most Americans consume. As such, they have designed it to be a world of ‘McNews Nuggets’.  These ‘nuggets’ typically contain an elaborate construct of pseudo fact checking that involves and incorporates the elements of erroneous, selective, contextually false and in many cases, entirely fabricated statistics.

Such fact checks involving slanted and subjective studies, can be repackaged into nuggets that the Obama Media Cartel can disseminate in the media echo chamber with virtually no risk of having the fact checker’s assertions properly vetted.  And a certain segment of the population is convinced that if Anderson Cooper, Soledad O’Brien or Ed Schultz reference talking points from Media Matters, the Washington Post or any of the universe of George Soros’ subsidized national disinformation mafia, it must be accurate because ‘they couldn’t say it on the air if it wasn’t’.  Sorry, but yes they can and yes they do.

Progressives are living in a world of fear – anxious that their cardinal beliefs and policies are in jeopardy of being discarded because of the conspicuous evidence of their failure.  The collective wisdom among them now resolves that if they can launch a concentrated and relentless counter attack on the credibility of conservatives, using the best tool at their disposal, the ubiquitous mass political media, they can turn the tide of public sentiment back in their direction. 

It is a sophisticated replication of the old punchline of the man caught in the act of infidelity, “Honey, who are you going to believe – me, or your two lying eyes?” The gimmicks employed by these fact checking operations are amusing, yet clearly cynical.

If a marginally political reader such as a ‘moderate’ or centrist, trusts the objectivity of the fact checker – they can avoid the detailed abstractions of the fact checkers by simply viewing little widgets used to sum up the conclusions of an issue.

Washington Post uses ‘Pinnochios’ and rates the truth of a public figure’s statement by the number of images of the famed character of fable. Four Pinnochios is a whopper – a complete misrepresentation of facts. Others use variations of meters as in the case of ‘PolitiFact’ where, for example, the needle pegs to the Left with a corresponding Red light for a falsehood and pegs to the Right with a Green light for trustworthiness of the statement.

When questioning whether the fact checking going on is credible and meets criteria of objective reporting standards, it might be valuable to consider the factors that mitigate against impartiality.

In their book, ‘The American Journalist’, Journalism professors at Indiana University, David H. Weaver and G. Cleveland Wilhoit surveyed more than 1,000 journalists, and reported that:

  • Journalists were instructed: “The media are often classified politically in terms of left, right and center. On a scale from zero (meaning extreme left) to one hundred (meaning extreme right)….where on this scale would you place yourself?”
  • Most of the journalists surveyed (57.5%) chose numbers that placed themselves in the middle of the spectrum, with 22.1 percent ranking themselves as more liberal, and 17.9 percent saying they were more conservative, and 2.5 percent not responding.
  • When the political leanings of U.S. journalists are analyzed separately for executive (those who supervise editorial employees) and staffers of prominent and nonprominent news organizations, we find more journalists (both executives and staffers) from prominent organizations claiming to be left-of-center.”
  • Among the prominent, or elite, media, 32.3 percent rated themselves as more liberal, compared to 11.8 percent who said they were more conservative. Eight percent rated themselves as solidly “left,” but none of the media elite would place themselves squarely on the “right.”
  • Nearly four in ten of all journalists surveyed (38.5%) described themselves as Democrats, compared to just 18.8 percent who said they were Republicans. Among the journalists working at prominent news organizations, just 6 percent would admit to being Republicans, compared to 43 percent who said they were Democrats.

This corresponds with numerous other studies which have all presented similar findings. Another notable study was conducted by the Los Angeles Times. The Media Research Center reports:

In 1985, the Los Angeles Times conducted one of the most extensive surveys of journalists in history. Using the same questionnaire they had used to poll the public, the Times polled 2,700 journalists at 621 newspapers across the country. The survey asked 16 questions involving foreign affairs, social and economic issues. On 15 of 16 questions, the journalists gave answers to the left of those given by the public.

  • Self-identified liberals outnumbered conservatives in the newsroom by more than three-to-one, 55 to 17 percent. This compares to only one-fourth of the public (23 percent) that identified themselves as liberal.
  • 84 percent of reporters and editors supported a so-called “nuclear freeze” to ban all future nuclear missile deployment; 80 percent were against increased defense spending; and 76 percent opposed aid to the Nicaraguan Contras.
  • 82 percent of reporters and editors favored allowing women to have abortions; 81 percent backed affirmative action; and 78 percent wanted stricter gun control.
  • Two-thirds (67%) of journalists opposed prayer in public schools; three-fourths of the general public (74%) supported prayer in public schools.

The logical conclusion to be reached in all of this is that it is important to know who is conducting the fact checking, what external entities may be mandating that results conform to an pre-selected agenda and  to cross-reference the sources that are referred to in the fact checking analysis. One would also do well to consider and beware of the tendency of many of these fact checkers towards selective interpretation and ‘cherry picking’ the data used to conclude whether a public figure is telling it straight or not.

It’s important anytime, but particularly in a national election cycle, where the pundits and talking heads are especially motivated to sell their candidates and beliefs to the many who haven’t had their heads in the game and are especially vulnerable to manipulation.

Remember when Global Warming and Climate Change was ‘settled science’ and therefore…a fact?

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