How The Fact Checkers Cheat: A Case Study

“AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

A promising journalism watchdog website has come to my attention: Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC News). On the “About” page we learn that it

…is an independent online media outlet. MBFC News is dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices. MBFC News’ aim is to inspire action and a rejection of overtly biased media. We want to return to an era of straight forward news reporting….MBFC News follows a strict methodology for determining the biases of sources….MBFC News also provides occasional fact checks, original articles on media bias and breaking/important news stories, especially as it relates to USA politics…

This is a relatively new site, launched in 2015.  It is unusual in that it aims to find both conservative and liberal bias alike. It will be interesting if it can keep to the middle of the road with all the crazy traffic coming at it from all directions. As Ethics Alarms can attest, this is harder than it looks.

The first example of MBFC News’s work (for me) is promising. As readers know, I distrust  factcheck sites and fact-checkers, as well as the periodic fact-checking exercises by sources like CNN. While sometimes a particular fact-checker may be fair and responsible, the same source can be overwhelmed with bias in another instance, and use dishonest or misleading means to discredit some disliked politician, usually a Republican. Some prominent fact-checkers. like Snopes and Politifact, are routinely biased and exist primarily to make progressives smile. Others, like the Washington Post’s “The Fact-Checker,” Glenn Kessler, have good days and bad days. At least Kessler tries; like many of his breed, however, he never learned what a lie is.

My favorite of the fact-checker services has long been FactCheck.org., which also tries to be even-handed, and is more careful than Kessler. Thus I was impressed to see that when MBFC News set out to see how fair the fact-checkers were when they examined Donald Trump’s State of the Union Message, it examined the best. So did I, and was hunkering down as I prepared a post on what appears to be the Annenberg Foundation’s project’s capitulation to “the resistance.”

How I love it when someone else does my work for me, and does it well.  In an article that factchecks the Factcheck.org factcheck (whew!) of the speech,  Karen O’Connor Rubsam writes,

“First, there are some global observations regarding the Factcheck.org article. Factcheck.org seems only to identify what they perceive as incorrect statements.  To be unbiased there should be some commentary on the entire address along with an overall assessment as to how much was “factual” versus “not-factual.”  A more thorough reporting of the entire address can be found here. Additionally, as shown below, factcheck.org introduces opinion and “biased words” in much of their fact-checking. Further, there appears to be some bias in how factcheck.org transferred the salient points from their analysis to the Summary bullet points.  Accurately reporting in the summary bullet points is important since many readers will just read the bullet points.”

Read it all at the site, which deserves the traffic, much as I would love to put up the whole thing. Two examples should suffice: when I read the Factcheck.org analysis, these points, far from the worst,  caused me to conclude that the site had finally started playing typical factcheck games and gone over to the Dark Side, where bashing the President is deemed more important than being fair and truthful. (I promptly exiled it from the Ethics Alarms links): Continue reading

Ethics Observations On MSNBC Host Joy Reid’s State of the Union Tweet

I would like to ignore MSNBC’s racist, vicious African-American host Joy Reid. She deserves to be ignored. Sometimes, however, I can’t help myself, as with the her tweet above from last night. If someone respectable wrote that, my head might explode. The tweet’s not so far from Reid’s usual warped point of view that it prompts that reaction, thankfully. Still, I am forced to observe and ask…

1 Who is she tweeting to? What kind of Americans regard religion, family, law enforcement, the military, and love of country outdated and obsolete values?

2. This increasingly appears to be to be the attitude of the majority of the Left. If it isn’t, then Democrats certainly gave the impression it is, based on their studied contempt when such institutions and values were evoked in the President’s speech. If they were communicating what they don’t really believe, then they were lying. If they really oppose those values that they scowled about, then Republicans should remind voters of who is running against them this year: people who think like Joy Reid.

3. Since when is “nationalism” a sinister word and concept, especially when it is defined as Reid defines it: religion, family, rule of law, national defense, and love of America? Reid labeling those Fifties values is just false history: Every President up to Obama made those same values essential to the vision of America they projected.

Wrote Ann Althouse in part on her blog, regarding the New York Times Reidish critique,

Was Trump’s SOTU theme “nationalism”? Was it devoid of values?…Individualism is a value, and the whole speech was expressive of the value of individualism….
Freedom is a value. Trump spoke of it in connection with our kinship with freedom-loving people in foreign countries: We “stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom”… Freedom is a universal value that we share with good people all over the world and that “gave birth to a special place called America.”…Self-government is a value. The “yearning… to live in freedom” led to “a revolutionary idea: that [Americans] could rule themselves.” By instituting a system of self-government, Americans “light up the world.”

All old-fashioned, irrelevant, defunct, discredited values from those racist Fifties, right, Joy? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/31/18: The State Of The Union Speech Didn’t Stink Edition

Good Morning.

1 About the President’s speech. In yesterday’s Warm-up, I yearned for the honesty of Gerald Ford, who had the courage to by-pass the usual State of the Union happy talk and admit that the nation was not in a good place. Now that President Trump has delivered his first State of the Union message, I have to admit that being positive, or as my late father would have said, quoting his favorite poem, keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, is a good approach too.

The President has managed to find an excellent speechwriter. That is an admirable and responsible thing. These were not, unlike his Inaugural speech was, Trump’s own words, but he gets credit for them, or should, just as much as Ronald Reagan got credit for Peggy Noonan’s soaring rhetoric and  Jack Kennedy deserved the accolades he received for Ted Sorenson’s justly famous scripting. [The full text of last night’s speech is here.] The SOTU was also well-delivered. I know a lot of people would say that any speech this President delivers was horrible and he looked like an ass even if it was the equivalent of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and delivered with the skill of Tom Hanks, but that’s their problem. Not to be repetitive, but  such people need to understand the effects of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance if they are going to venture outside their little bubbles and echo chambers.

In fact, this is a good test of your Trump-hating friends’, or your own, integrity. If you can’t concede that the speech was at least pretty good, then you are no longer able to perceive reality where this President is concerned. In no way can that be a good thing. Fix it. Continue reading