The Lost Art of Truth


Fact checking has become an incredibly valuable tool, and yet, all too few people are actually using it.  It would seem to be a popular past time, right?  With the abundance of websites and newspaper columns dedicated to it, you’d think that people are jumping straight to a reliable source to check some new information or graphic prior to believing it as accurate, right?

We’ve got :

Snopes

PolitiFact

FactCheck.org

The Fact Checker

FlackCheck.org

OpenSecrets.org

TruthOrFiction.com

Not to mention every major news paper, online journal and TV network.

That’s just a partial list, and, yet…

Every day, the facts are stated incorrectly and when that is pointed out, there is always some argument.  When someone does bother to pull out the fact checkers, then the fact checkers are attacked.  The most obvious and clear recent disdain is, when Neil Newhouse, a pollster working for the Romney campaign, flatly stated, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

But, then, Mitt Romney hasn’t exactly been the standard bearer of consistency has he?  This is just another in a long line of flip flops.  This position espoused by Newhouse, and not yet contradicted by the Romney campaign, is in direct contradiction to the words Romney himself spoke back on August 9th.

You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on the radio. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them

Or, perhaps more accurately, it is typical of the double standard that both the far right and the center right wish to apply to each other, but it is a particular hypocrisy with which the far right is even more comfortable.  Perhaps because they have more experience rotting in that particular filth.  Perhaps because the far right generally is more comfortable subscribing to the belief that the ends justifies the means.  They want to demand that their prime opponent be held to a higher standard of accuracy than that to which they themselves should be held.  For so long, the center and what has remained of the left has played the role of the honorable party.  We have made the attempt to remain decent and play fair despite what the right has done.  Despite the dirty tricks of Watergate era Nixon, Iran Contra Reagan, blatant lies of pill head Rush Limbaugh, false patriotism of Glen Beck, and so on, and yet we have tried to remain above it.  Not all of us, certainly.  Some of the politicians have gotten in there and played dirty too, but not as well and not as dirty.  Again, it likely comes down to experience.

So, the piece to which Romney was referring above, an ad run by a SuperPAC  supportive of Obama, Priorities USA Action, which gave the impression that Romney was responsible for the death of a woman because Bain Capital had closed a plant thus removing her health insurance.  An ad, which fact checkers have called false, saying:

The ad uses innuendo for a serious allegation, but there’s no proof directly linking the death to Bain. We rate the claim False.

This should be called for what it is.  It is wrong.  It is deceitful.  It is completely in keeping with the center right politician that Obama is.  It is typical of the politics of fear that the right wing plays.

So, when an image like this pops up:

RNC debt clock - We built this juxtaposition

It looks very legit.  Both of these things were at the RNC this week in Tampa.  It gets posted quickly and without checking.  However, someone had, very likely, superimposed two images.  Sadly, it is actually also factually accurate.  The supply side economics, unpaid for wars built on lies, an unpaid for Medicaid drug coverage, and ineffectual, morally offensive, and economically destructive tax cuts for a very limited number of people did, in fact, build that debt.  Want a dispassionate, non-partisan look at which presidents are responsible for the debts?  Here:

US Debt Accumulation by President

But, of course, you don’t, do you?  It is unlikely that very many people with an open mind are reading this far along.  The sad reality appears to be that very few people remain that are willing to consider facts any more and that is the point, isn’t it?  Politics has become religion for many.  So many whine about wanting change, but so few actually do.  Most of us are doing one of two things, either we’re pissing into the wind, or we’re simply bitching and moaning because we are preaching to the choir.

It is my fervent hope to actually open a dialog with people who are undecided or who are on the other side of the fence.  I posted a while back in response to someone asking, “What are you going to do?”  Part of that response was, to educate as many people as possible with actual facts.  The trick is finding people who are actually willing to having open and honest discussions.

As Bernard Baruch said, (and was later repeated by, and usually attributed to, Daniel Patrick Moynihan):

Every man has a right to his own opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts. – Deming Headlight (New Mexico), 6 January 1950, as cited in the Yale Book of Modern Proverbs

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About Just Torch

Author of the SCIAMAGE column a space devoted to American political and social commentary and analysis. It is unabashedly liberal, but makes every effort to present clear, verifiable facts and sound reasoning. It also makes a commitment to clearly distinguish between facts and opinions. View all posts by Just Torch

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