Wednesday, September 26, 2012

All we want are the facts, Sir!

Detective Joe Friday in Dragnet.

Many of us remember Detective Joe Friday’s insistence on the facts in the 1950s tv series, Dragnet. Today’s websites devoted to fact-checking unavoidably remind us of that earnest detective. But the facts being checked are not criminal (we hope), but rather political, during yet another heated presidential campaign in which the truth is too often a casualty.

The Nation’s Ari Melber discusses the impact of fact-checking on the Obama and Romney campaigns:

A tabulation of recent rulings from PolitiFact, a prominent but increasingly controversial website devoted to fact-checking candidates' claims, found that “statements by Mitt Romney and other Republicans” were rated false “twice as often as statements by President Obama and other Democrats.” That's a lot more false statements by Republicans, which makes it harder to cling to the false equivalency that “both sides do it.”

Or maybe not.

A snap poll of conservative reactions shows that the study of Politifact, from George Mason's Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), proves the conservative theory that the fact-checkers are out to get Republicans.

“This discrepancy is not because the Romney campaign is egregiously truth-challenged,” explains The Weekly Standard, “but because the 'fact checking' enterprise is more often than not partisan.” When you're done attacking the messenger, go for the refs! That approach may be welcomed by CMPA, however, which has played up its past studies as proof that life is hard for the GOP. (Press release headlines include “GOP Candidates Were Big Joke to TV Comics in 2011,” “TV News Coverage Helped Sink Santorum…”, and, for good measure, “Arab Media Boost Obama.” Oh that Arab Media—it just loves American presidents.)

In the end, it's true that your view of the findings depends on your view of Politifact, though, because if you think they generally get it right, then cumulative data like this is still bad for the right:

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