March 12, 2011

Accepting PolitiFact (or not)

Justin Katz

To be honest, I sort of hoped that the PolitiFact brand would drift away after the election. Sometimes, I guess, these contrived media brands are like government departments — more or less permanent. In the interest of public service, I've created a new category for posts to help deepen and broaden the brand, after a fashion.

Part of the impetus for the category was also the proximate introduction to a new site called PolitiFact Bias and a post, on his own blog, by Rhode Island resident and Cornell law professor William Jacobson:

I have written about PolitiFact before, includine the clear bias shown by The Providence Journal in its application of ratings during the campaign by former Democratic Mayor David Cicilline against Republican John Loughlin in my home RI-01 District. I also have noted an analysis of PolitiFact bias against conservatives.

Two recent examples demonstrate that PolitiFact as a brand has serious problems.

Jacobson offers two instances in which PolitiFact, as I've complained before, fails to follow its own criteria for rating the validity of a statement from True to Pants on Fire. In the months between my complaint and Jacobson's, I've actually been offered a bit of inside description of the PolitiFact process: Apparently, we can't attribute all of the blame to the journalists who pen the pieces, because at least at the Providence Journal, there's a PolitiFact board that rules on the statement and tasks the writers with explaining it.

I couldn't get details on the makeup of the board, but the process sounds exactly as the skeptical public already suspected: The analyses back-fill to the conclusions.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Interesting stuff about the secret workings of the PolitiFact RI board. I suppose you've already given all the detail you're able to ethically divulge.

Thanks for adding the new category.

Posted by: Bryan White at March 12, 2011 4:26 PM

Politi-Fact has no credibility with me what so ever. On July 20, 2010, I was given a "pants-on-fire liar" rating for relaying the information given to me by Arizona law enforcement that those being human trafficked across the US / Mexico board are often force to carry narcotics as a price of passage. It is extremely difficult to prove this, however this is what I was told by law enforcement on the ground in Arizona (Governor Jan Brewer said the same thing). Subsequent to piece's publication it was reported in the same Providence Journal that 72 Guatemalans were gunned down by the cartels for refusing to carry the drugs. Then the Interior Minister of Mexico made a speech outlining that the human traffickers were being forced to carry drugs. I presented all of this exculpatory evidence to Politi-Fact and was told "well, we already covered that story so we don't want to go back and re-hash it." These low-lifes called me a liar and didn't have the guts to go back and correct their error. I can only conclude it was because Politi-Fact is agenda driven journalism at its very worst.

Posted by: Rep. John Loughlin at March 12, 2011 5:25 PM

"at the Providence Journal, there's a PolitiFact board that rules on the statement and tasks the writers with explaining it."

A Truth Board!

Is Sheldon Whitehouse aware of this infringement on his territory??? Let the record show that the senator's Truth Commission long preceded this johnny-come-lately ...

Posted by: Monique at March 12, 2011 7:10 PM

If you don't like Polifact's conclusion, it's biased.
If you do, it's not.
It's zapped Chafee on a number of occasions, and I've agreed with it.
And those chain letters that have gotten Pants of Fire
Earned the designation on merit.

Posted by: bella at March 12, 2011 9:12 PM


It doesn't matter to me whether I *like* PolitiFact's conclusions. What matters to me is whether PolitiFact applies its standards consistently (it doesn't) and whether it treats Republicans the same as Democrats. The evidence is mounting that PolitiFact's body of work shows a marked political bias. The so-called "Lie of the Year" for 2010 is a classic example.

Posted by: Bryan White at March 13, 2011 2:00 PM

bella-OK.OK.Got it.You want witnesses to prove you qualify for SSDI for mental disability-I'll be happy to supply an affidavit.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 13, 2011 2:53 PM

Joe, I pity those who have to live with your attitude (as opposed to just reading it on some online forum).

Posted by: bella at March 13, 2011 8:39 PM

bella-I need your pity like a recurrence of cancer.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 13, 2011 9:41 PM

"facts" are just words which those who don't agree with tend to discount. Since most of the world view of those who preach here is completely fabricated, I would not possibly imagine that facts would have anything to do with anything.

Many people think the world started 6,000 years ago. Many think it will end this May, others any moment and many others in 2012.

Do you really think the great minds at AR are any different that all those crowds?

The Big Lie of the right is that they can lie 9 times out of 10, and yet if one thing is true (as is likely), they run with it, instantly forgetting they have totally lost credibility.

On the other hand, should independent minded people, journalists or others commit the exact opposite of getting 9 out of 10 things correct, that is fodder for thousands of words describing why we should not take it seriously.

Posted by: JAbudd at March 13, 2011 9:46 PM

@ JAbud, who wrote:

"The Big Lie of the right is that they can lie 9 times out of 10, and yet if one thing is true (as is likely), they run with it, instantly forgetting they have totally lost credibility."

It seems like running with the one true thing would assist credibility. Are you saying that the audience doesn't believe the one true thing because of the loss of credibility associated with the nine things they don't run with? That suggests a problem with the audience.

Posted by: Bryan White at March 14, 2011 12:18 AM

.........That suggests a problem with the audience.

I would refer my kind reader to the Boy who Cried Wolf as well as the common American saying that if you thrown enough waste at a wall, sooner or later a piece will stick.

That does not mean it doesn't smell.

As a mathematical problem, the difference is 10% corrector 90%, a 900% difference.

Conclusion - PF is probably right, AR probably wrong. It is possible foe flipped nickel to land on its edge, but highly unlikely.

Posted by: JABudd at March 15, 2011 5:22 PM
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