“Factchecks” became ubiquitous in the media with a vengeance after Donald Trump was elected, though they had been around for a while. This is how Trump ended up with a database of the 30,000 “lies” he had told: a majority of those were defined as such by partisan “factcheck” sites like Snopes, Politifact and The Washington Post’s service headed by poor Glenn Kessler. The exercise was always dishonest and deceptive to the core. I am proud to say that long before Trump was President, during the Bush II administration, I was at a conference that featured the head of FactCheck.org, the best of the factcheckers, but still, as the saying goes, the best of a bad lot, and after her speech I questioned her about a recent verdict by her service that was obviously pure opinion and tainted with progressive bias. She became immediately defensive, and then lapsed into huminahumina double talk. I nailed her, and she knew it.
The irony, and it is a despicable irony, is that media factchecks are not really factchecks, which implies an objective examination of facts. To the contrary, what are called factchecks are too often the kind of lies that factchecking groups claim they exist to call out and warn the public about. But the public is not being informed by such factchecks. It is being deceived, usually for a partisan (that is progressive, pro-Democrat) objective.
I never saw any of the major factcheckers debunk the claim, made on election night 2016 by a prominent historian, that one reason Hillary lost was that political parties seldom win the Presidency three terms in a row. I did, on Ethics Alarms, because the claim is ridiculous and easily proven false. Similarly, I have never seen a factchecker challenge the common assertion—I saw it again last week—that Hillary Clinton was “the most qualified Presidential candidate” in American history. That whopper is even more ridiculous than the “three times in a row” curse. Ethics Alarms slapped that one down too: the evidence is unequivocal.
But those were objective and honest examinations of deliberate misinformation. That is not what most media factchecks are.
And, in a Christmas season miracle, Facebook just admitted as much!
Conservative journalist John Stossel sued Facebook for defamation after Facebook’s factcheckers labeled climate change information that Stossel posted as “false and misleading.” In its court filing last month, Facebook denied that it defamed Stossel because only false assertions of fact qualify as defamation, and its factchecks are not assertions of fact. Huh?
“The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion.”
Amusingly, this is identical to the much ridiculed argument made by Kellyanne Conway as she tried to defend President Trump’s fanciful inflation of his inauguration crowd. She called it “alternate facts.” Now Facebook is defining its factchecks as just different opinions over what reality is—alternate facts.
Those of us who were paying attention, of course, knew this about the factcheckers all along, that they were dishonestly posing as objective arbiters of the truth when their real objectives was political advocacy. It’s still satisfying to see Facebook, which employs two of the most egregiously biased factchecking services to weed out “misinformation,” admit it.