What ever happened to fact checking?
It’s that time of year again. Coldfronts are rolling in. Ugg-boot-girls are coming out of hibernation. Corn-mazes are once again the world’s most popular tourist trap. And let’s not forget that it’s election season: the time of year when you visit family, and listen to grandpa ask why nobody’s talking about Barrack Obama’s birth certificate anymore.
The answer, Grandpa, is facts.
And you should hold on to them while they last, because apparently they’re just not that important anymore.
At Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. a few weeks back, there were god-only-knows-how-many pundits in attendance. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, you name it. I’d like to applaud them all for doing a real great job at moving their mouths on television. These guys are real talented talkers. They talked about how the speeches would affect the candidates. They talked about how nice people looked. They talked about the weather. It made the American political process feel like the Grammys.
What they didn’t do was fact-check. At least not often. Research is the number-one staple of journalism, but somehow the weather was more important. Fortunately, there are other organizations to do the job that the mainstream media should be doing – Politifact.com and Factcheck.org, for example. So when Paul Ryan gives a speech that’s loaded with factual errors (and oh sweet pecan pie, are there a lot of them) these websites have your bases covered. It makes for great bedtime reading.
But there’s been a circle of complaints lately, that these websites have a liberal bias because there are often more corrections of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Here, I’d like to quote The Rev. Sir Dr. Stephen T. Mos Def Colbert, D.F.A., Heavyweight Champion of the World: “Reality has a well known liberal bias.”
If a news organization tried to document equal amounts of factual errors, it would be suffering from what’s called a bias to fairness.
Let me walk you through an example.
If a group of republicans got together on Capitol Hill to create a bill supporting Todd Akin’s claim that female bodies have a self-defense mechanism preventing pregnancy from rape, the headline would read “Debate rages over female reproductive science.”
All you non-dumbasses out there would ask, “What debate is there to be had?” We already know for a fact that Teeth (if you haven’t seen it, it’s a movie about a vagina with teeth) isn’t a true story (thank god.)
In that case, there would be nothing wrong if a newspaper ran the headline “Republican bill based on incorrect views of biology.” I mean, of course, as long as they fact-checked it first and could prove without a shadow of a doubt that the female body doesn’t magically lockdown to bad-guy sperm. Or excrete Aliens-esque acid upon hostile contact. That might be difficult to prove when everyone’s so busy talking about the weather.