Fact-Checking

Matt Welch no the fact-checking genre:

But the real problem with such lists isn’t the lack of partisan diversity; it’s the glaring lack of lies told to the public in the service of wielding government force. Only one of PolitiFact’s Top 10—Obama blaming 90 percent of the 2009−12 deficit increase on George W. Bush—involved an official lying about his own record. The rest all focused on the way that politicians (and their surrogates) characterized their competitors’ actions and words. This isn’t a check on the exercise of power; it’s a check on the exercise of rhetoric.

And when it comes to rhetoric that motivates journalists into action, nothing beats culturally divisive figures from the opposing political tribe. So it was that in May 2011, the respected Nieman Journalism Lab set the mediasphere abuzz with an academic study of more than 700 news articles and 20 network news segments from 2009 that addressed a single controversial claim from the ObamaCare debate. Was it the president’s oft-repeated whopper that he was nobly pushing the reform rock up the hill despite the concentrated efforts of health care “special interests”? Was it his promise that “if you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan,” something that has turned out not to be true? Was it the way Obama and the Democrats brazenly gamed and misrepresented the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring of the bill, claiming it wouldn’t add “one dime” to the deficit?

No. The cause for reconsideration of the ObamaCare coverage was not the truth-busting claims made by a sitting president in the service of radically reshaping an important aspect of American life but rather the Facebook commentary of a former governor, Sarah Palin.

Here is the issue with media bias:  It is not that journalists sit in some secret room and craft plans to overthrow their ideological opposition, Journolist notwithstanding.  It is that a monoculture limits the range of issues to which the media applies skepticism.  I am as guilty as anyone.  Hypotheses and pronouncements that do not fit with my view of how the world works are met with much more skepticism, checking of sources, etc.    The media is generally comfortable with a large and expansive role for government and seldom fact-checks the arguments for its expansion.

In fact, as I have written before, the media has an odd way of covering itself against charges of being insufficient skeptical about new legislation:  They raise potential issues with it, but only after it passes.

  • herdgadfly

    The "Really Big Shew," as Ed Sullivan might call it, is the effective destruction by our media of popular right-leaning politicians over the past decade - beginning with Newt Gingrich after his 1994 triumph and the failure of any and all right-wing Republican candidates to rise to the top of the emotional media-driven popularity contests that now make up our presidential contests since that time. George W. Bush got elected because the Dems could not run Bill Clinton again and his failure to stand up against Democratic congressional power plays made him the scapegoat in 2008.

    With a victory assured in 2008, the media set out to destroy the most popular of politicians in that election, Governor Sarah Palin - and over the past four years, they have buried her. The Death Panels are being formed as we speak, but the media will never again address the issue. Strangely, somehow her name always comes up when deranged people do mass murder. Limbaugh refers to the problem as "low-information voters." I call it "media skew."

  • mesocyclone

    You are certainly correct.

    But what can we do about it?

  • bigmaq1980

    "I am as guilty as anyone."

    You are wrong there. I am a newcomer to this blog, but your blog is "opinion" (that I think is well thought out argument/perspective, including good, supportive references) that does not attempt to hide its point of view, nor pretend that it is presenting a "neutral" or "balanced" report of events (aka "news"). The MSM is guilty of this in spades.

    Personal anecdote: While working in NYC, I saw a huge protest in front of city hall. That night, I found out it was a Tea Party protest from the news (local and National). The news made it seem as if it was pathetically small crowd. I could not believe it as I saw many protests that year and this was just short of the largest by my estimate (my award for largest goes to the NYC public housing rent protest). They deliberately misrepresented what happened! That was a major eye opener for me, as it is one thing to be biased (which I only casually gave some thought to) - but, this was clearly far beyond that line.

    I don't believe in a conspiracy, as in a coordinated effort that cuts across all media (and there are several who honestly think they are behaving ethically, and many do), but I am wary that there is undue political influence to an overly receptive herd.

    As a community, to claim/imply they don't have a bias is deceptive, to actively distort the news is corrupt. Fortunately, the New Media is countering this (at least they make plain their bias and I can discount any hyperbole they may introduce).

  • bigmaq1980

    In a free market, about all we have is the option to "boycott" MSM.

    But, by definition MSM is mainstream because alternatives has a higher cost (money, time, etc.) to seek and acquire.

    I think it would take something blatant and egregious to motivate enough of the public towards a boycott of MSM. Even my personal observation (in earlier comment) has plausible deniability for the media.

  • agassiz830

    The problem I have with Poltifact is they don't stick to checking the facts. And when they do, they make facts up. Like in this one where they invent the fact that street car is the modern word and trolley is out dated. There is no basis for this sort of thing if they're just dealing with fact checking. But since they strayed into commenting on Wisconsin Govenor Walker's tone of something he said in debate, they invent a "fact" to back up their commentary. This sort of behavior may not be a mass conspiracy but it is more nefarious than just group think, IMHO.

    http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2012/jun/01/scott-walker/wisconsin-recall-scott-walker-says-tom-barrett-pla/