My New Think Again column is called “As We Leave Iraq, Remember How We Got In” and it’s here.
My new Nation column is called “Cuomo Is Still Governor One Percent” and it’s here.
Happy holidays. Now here’s Reed:
Fact-checking, in the New, Old-Fashioned Way
by Reed Richardson
Just in time for Christmas, PolitiFact delivered a big, fat gift to the Republican Party and its efforts to end Medicare. Sure, this gift was wrapped in a tissue-thin veneer of objectivity and held together by a transparently weak ribbon of a qualifier—it was missing the phrase “as we know it”—but when PolitiFact slapped a brazen “Lie of the Year” bow on top, all pretense pretty much disappeared.
The reaction to such a gross distortion, one that no doubt will be featured in GOP campaign ads throughout the general election next fall, was swift and full-throated:
Here’s the inestimable Pierce on its general “pissantery.”
Here’s Jonathan Cohn with an excellent healthcare policy rebuttal.
Here’s Dave Wiegel talking about how the “lie” actually has its origins in, of all places, the Wall Street Journal.
Also, I’d just point out that last week in this space I criticized PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” award as a kind of ephemeral, self-promotional PR gimmick. Yes, it can generate a lot of temporary buzz, as all the aforementioned links attest to, but even if it’s accurate, which in this case I don’t believe it is, elevating one comment above all others doesn’t do much for the general tone of political discourse in the long run. Indeed, as a contribution to the discourse, the stunt traffics in the same kind of hyperbole that PolitiFact and the rest of the fact-checking sites supposedly spend the rest of the year unmasking.
This swift pushback to the "Lie of the Year," plus recent criticisms of fact-checking in general from yours truly as well as others from both the left and the right clearly struck a nerve. So much so that Glenn Kessler, author of the Washington Post’s “The Fact Checker” site, published something of a fact-checker cri de coeur yesterday with a (admittedly half tongue-in-cheek) lede of “Fact checkers are under assault!” But to read his otherwise serious defense of what he and others of his journalistic ilk do is to get a rehash of many of the same personal foibles and institutional pathologies that have long plagued the profession.