9.07.2012

Fact Checking Fact Checkers' Fact Checking

After Paul Ryan's speech to delegates at the RNC last week, many Democrats were up in arms about whether or not what he said was actually true. Whenever debates like this come up I am always reminded about lies, damned lies and statistics, typically consider who is doing the speaking and complaining, and move on. In short, most of the things any major politician says in a speech are debatable (by nature), the statistics they use are questionable, and those who hit back in kind the hardest typically have the same exact credibility issues to contend with.

However, I often pay more attention (if only slightly and always with a grain of salt) when fact-checkers present their findings, particularly if I get the sense that they are truly calling balls and strikes without an agenda to motivate their analysis. Unfortunately, the fact that there are some at least some credible fact-checkers has lent an air of neutrality and authority to any outfit which claims to limit its activities to whatever it describes as fact-checking. This corollary, of course, makes about as much sense as someone assuming all the eggs in a carton are good just because one isn't broken, but it is one which has taken a firm hold on the public consciousness nonetheless. Cue chicanery...

I have read a few pieces on this topic recently. While this article is clearly agenda-driven in its own way, it is also clear that the author is on to something; that is that many 'fact-checkers' are just political operatives looking for holes in their opponents' armor. Indeed, beyond looking for such holes, they might also have as many questionable notions in their assertions as they accuse their subjects of having. While the IBD article linked-to focuses on Democratic party-linked fact-checkers, you can be sure both sides are playing this game. Dear Readers, I guess this is all just part of the hyper-partisan world we live in...however that doesn't make it any less important to be vigilant in understanding where your 'facts' are coming from...

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