Not, in fact, facts

Dave Killion — December 20, 2011

Would you like something to help wash down those lies?

Back in January the Washington Post revived a website called The Fact Checker –

The purpose of this website, and an accompanying column in the Post, is to “truth squad” the statements of political figures regarding issues of great importance, be they national, international or local. As the 2012 presidential election approaches, we will increasingly focus on statements made in the heat of the presidential contest. But we will not be limited to political charges or countercharges. We will seek to explain difficult issues, provide missing context and provide analysis and explanation of various “code words” used by politicians, diplomats and others to obscure or shade the truth….

…We will strive to be dispassionate and non-partisan, drawing attention to inaccurate statements on both left and right.”

About three months later I compared the number and ‘size’ of the lies attributed to both Republicans and Democrats, and saw the the Republicans came off much the worse. My conclusion? Either Fact Checker was partisan, or Republicans actually ARE the lying-est liars ever. I suspected the former.

Three months later, Fact Checker did their own review and found things had balanced out. I was pleased to see this, and carried on, content that Fact Checker was doing valuable work showing both parties were crammed full of the truth-challenged. Foolish me. I never considered the possibility that Fact Checker (or any other purported ‘fact checker’ ) may not actually recognize that their opinions do not constitute facts. Happily, the Weekly Standard recently woke me to my carelessness

“They call themselves “fact checkers,” and with the name comes a veneer of objectivity doubling as a license to go after any remark by a public figure they find disagreeable for any reason.”

“If the stated goal seems simple enough​—​providing an impartial referee to help readers sort out acrimonious and hyperbolic political disputes​—​in practice PolitiFact does nothing of the sort.”

This has been an embarrassing oversight on my part, but I share it hoping others will learn from my mistake.

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