Main Menu

The fallacy of fact checking

Ms. Conspiracy catches the early morning TV news, and she told me that the fact checkers will be working all weekend on Bill Clinton’s speech, because it had so many things to check. I listened to the speech myself this morning and it certainly provided lots of claims for the fact checking mill.

Of course fact checking Bill Clinton isn’t what I do here, but I wanted to make a larger point. Whatever the accuracy of Clinton’s facts, lots of people watched his speech, and far more listened to the speech than will ever read the FactCheck.org article on it or the PolitiFact.com articles (and here) as they come out1.

This realization is somewhat demoralizing to me as a fact checker of the birther movement. The damage is mostly done before anyone gets to this web site and the ones who come here are either those already disinclined to believe the birthers anyway, or who wouldn’t believe what they see here.


1This is why I support a constitutional amendment to impose the death penalty on politicians who lie to get elected.

Print Friendly

,

11 Responses to The fallacy of fact checking

  1. avatar
    Rickey September 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    Fact checking is like trying to bail water on the Titanic. It might do some temporary good, but it won’t stop the water from coming in.

    Just two days ago a Republican I know forwarded me an e-mail which links to the much-edited and discredited YouTube video that purports to prove that Obama is a Muslim and that Fox is being prohibited from airing it. That one has been circulating since 2009.

    What can you do? I forwarded the Snopes article to him and told him that he should tell the person who sent it to him and everyone else that he forwarded it to that the e-mail and video are hoaxes.

    These people have no sense of skepticism. The believe whatever they are told, providing it confirms what they already believe.

    Today somebody I know on Facebook posted a sign which says that Obama has been enriching himself since taking office because his net worth has gone from $1.5 million to $12 million. According to Forbes, his net worth now is about $6 million, and most of the increase has come from the huge jump in his book sales since he was elected.

    So it goes.

  2. avatar
    Dave September 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    I am equally disturbed by the headline and lede of Factcheck’s story about the speech: Our Clinton Nightmare, which begins “Former President Bill Clinton’s stem-winding nomination speech was a fact-checker’s nightmare: lots of effort required to run down his many statistics and factual claims, producing little for us to write about.”

    By “little … to write about” they mean they didn’t find much factually wrong with his speech.

    I am concerned that they seem to view their job as finding lies. I naively thought their job was checking facts, whatever way it turns out.

  3. avatar
    Rickey September 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    So far Politifact hasn’t found any misstatements in Clinton’s speech.

    http://www.pnj.com/article/20120906/ELECTIONS/120906005/Politifact-Bill-Clinton-s-night-DNC?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Beaches|s

  4. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG September 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    I regularly use fact checking sites to shut people up on my Facebook friends list. My daily feed has a lot less garbage in it now.

  5. avatar
    MattR September 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Dave:
    I am equally disturbed by the headline and lede of Factcheck’s story about the speech: Our Clinton Nightmare, which begins “Former President Bill Clinton’s stem-winding nomination speech was a fact-checker’s nightmare: lots of effort required to run down his many statistics and factual claims, producing little for us to write about.”

    By “little … to write about” they mean they didn’t find much factually wrong with his speech.

    I am concerned that they seem to view their job as finding lies. I naively thought their job was checking facts, whatever way it turns out.

    You are forgetting the most important maxim in political journalism today, “both sides do it”. The news media, including the fact checkers, is desperate to present this race as two roughly equivalent sides who will both push the boundaries in order to win. It is not in their DNA to admit that Ryan’s speech was full of lies but Clinton mostly stuck to the truth.

    So that leaves them grasping for straws such as one of the AP’s “fact checks” which points out that Clinton had no moral authority to call out Republicans for lying after Clinton’s statements regarding Monica Lewinksy. I am still trying to figure out what fact that is checking.

  6. avatar
    Thomas Brown September 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    “This is why I support a constitutional amendment to impose the death penalty on politicians who lie to get elected.”

    While we’re on fantasy executions, can I advocate for capital punishment for anyone who describes my relationship with the President as “your messiah”?

  7. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    I thought that AP story very unprofessional.

    MattR: So that leaves them grasping for straws such as one of the AP’s “fact checks” which points out that Clinton had no moral authority to call out Republicans for lying after Clinton’s statements regarding Monica Lewinksy. I am still trying to figure out what fact that is checking.

  8. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 6, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    I’m sure they wouldn’t be missed:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlOb0XMxt84

    Thomas Brown: While we’re on fantasy executions, can I advocate for capital punishment for anyone who describes my relationship with the President as “your messiah”?

  9. avatar
    CarlOrcas September 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: I thought that AP story very unprofessional

    It was incredibly unprofessional. The AP should be ashamed of it.

  10. avatar
    JPotter September 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    The AP is taking the position that someone who has allegedly lied must give liars a pass…forever?

    Effin’ brilliant. That’s a liar’s paradise.

  11. avatar
    JPotter September 6, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    MattR: “both sides do it”.

    The greatest lie of them all … the refuge of scoundrels. As the serpent said in the Genesis of JPotter, “It’s okay, baby, everyone’s doing it.”

    “Don’t judge me objectively …. morality is relative … my created truth is that you’re the liar!”

    Disgusting.