This is “Fact-Checking”?

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 3, 2012

Stephen Hayes makes an exceedingly good, exceedingly overlooked point about the “fact-checking” of Paul Ryan’s convention speech:

Here’s the funny thing about most of these [fact-checking] articles: They fail to cite a single fact that Ryan misstated or lie that he told. In most cases, the self-described fact-checks are little more than complaints that Ryan failed to provide context for his criticism of Barack Obama.

And this blog post treats us to an epic–and fully justified–rant regarding the hypocrisy of the “fact-checkers.” Do read the whole thing since I can’t well excerpt all of it (even though I want to), but here is a taste:

Yeah okay, that thing Obama said was false, but that’s not really a big deal. It wasn’t a big or important policy plank. Not many people heard it or voted for him based on that. It’s a side issue, really. Look at all this other true stuff he said. But THIS statement on this (R)’s website about, like, how he wants to cut spending X% while having taxes be Y% and Z% of the money goes to the bottom W% (or whatever – ONCE AGAIN I DON’T CARE), and my spreadsheet says that’s all mathematically infeasible? THAT’S A HUGELY IMPORTANT LIE. It’s shocking and unforgivable so I’m gonna totally highlight it constantly and vent my outrage about it. Everyone else should be as outraged by it as I am. This particular issue of whether we spend X% on Y% of Z plays a hugely prominent role in how I think about politics and so EVERYONE ELSE SHOULD SEE IT THE SAME WAY and be required to have an opinion about it too.

It is in this way that the biases and priorities of the pundit himself will inevitably be embedded, to at least some extent, in all his ‘lying liar’ conclusions. As a result, folks who don’t share those biases or priorities may be disinclined to clap on command for those conclusions. The pundits, in turn, frustratedly throw up their hands and declare that the public – or at least their political opponents – Just Don’t Care About Truth. From there it’s apparently not a huge leap (for them) to the conclusion that they, the pundits, just need to be shriller in their punditry and more openly one-sided in their advocacy.

Perhaps they should ask themselves: why are they getting so frustrated in the first place? Why do they even care whether some Fact-Checking report on a Paul Ryan X%-of-Y%-of-Z statement went viral, or dropped down the memory hole, whether people took it to heart or seemed to ignore it? What’s it to them – the journalists – in the first place? Do your report, report the Truth, and move on. Right?

The answer, of course, is that they care because they have a dog in the hunt, so ‘lies’ that aren’t ‘caught’ and corrected and retracted hugely bother them – at least if they come from one side of the aisle. From the other side, not so much though.

Here is my earlier post on this issue, by the way. And I will repeat that it’s more than a little galling to see Obamaphiles who claimed that Romney is a felon, didn’t pay his taxes and killed a woman with the cancer death-stare complain that the Republican campaign represents the Butchering of Honesty. Oh, and to top things off, one of them is also comparing Paul Ryan to Joseph Goebbels. I imagine that many other Democrats find the comparison valid, which if true, would mean that their allegiance to the “civility” and “new tone” they once pretended to champion is about as honest and heartfelt as is their allegiance to “facts” and “fact-checking.”

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