Commentary

Torture narrative trumps facts at PolitiFact

There’s no solid evidence that waterboarding works. https://t.co/rWBEn8n9r2 — Bill Adair (@BillAdairDuke) May 24, 2016   Bill Adair, Duke University’s Knight professor of computational journalism, helped found PolitiFact. That likely helps explain his “Truth-O-Meter”-ish Twitter avatar. Adair’s tweet about waterboarding helps show the way mainstream fact checkers help reinforce false partisan beliefs, in this case the popular narrative that torture…
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Trump supporters & truth: A reply to Rider University’s Michelle A. Amazeen

Last week I posted in reply to Politico’s Jack Shafer, who suggested in an article that Trump supporters don’t care if Trump does not tell the truth. We responded with a post suggesting Trump supporters have reason to distrust fact checkers such as PolitiFact. We tagged Shafer in a tweet highlighting our reply and Shafer retweeted it. Meanwhile Michelle A….
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A reply to Politico’s Jack Shafer

In a Dec. 24, 2015 column, Politico’s Jack Shafer wonders why the mainstream media fact checkers have no discernible effect on the presidential race. Republican Donald Trump, for example, pays them about the same heed Godzilla pays the Japanese Air Force. Shafer writes: It would stand to reason that the documentation of Trump’s lies—not to mention his rudeness and crudeness—would…
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PolitiFact vs. Rubio on defense spending

Back in May 2015 PolitiFact, specifically PolitiFact Florida, published an amazingly incompetent fact check. PolitiFact Florida’s fact check looked at whether Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio was right that the United States is not building aircraft, aircraft carriers and submarines. PolitiFact Florida said it found plenty of evidence the United States was building aircraft, aircraft carriers and submarines, rating Rubio’s…
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Review: “His Lips Are Moving: Pinocchio Effect and Other Lexical Indicators of Political Deceptions”

Near the tail end of November 2015 somebody shared with me a link to an NPR story about a new study looking at the lexical features of political lying, “Researchers Examine How to Spot a Lying Politician“: SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Well, Steve, this is research by social scientists who are doing what social scientists do, which is they look for…
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Fact-checker agreement—and disagreement

In recent months we’ve pored over a pair of scholarly works on the topic of fact-checking. One, Checking the Fact-checkers in 2008: Predicting Political Ad Scrutiny and Assessing Consistency by Michele A. Amazeen, we reviewed earlier this year. The second, a doctoral dissertation by former PolitiFact writer Lucas Graves, contains much material we’ll address in one way or another over…
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Revisiting the Romney Jeep ad

Fact Checkers are Great Because They Condemned Mitt Romney’s Jeep Ad? In the peer-reviewed article Revisiting the Epistemology of Fact-Checking, researcher Michelle A. Amazeen offers readers an example of the beneficial effects of good fact-checking: When a framework of fact-checking becomes established, it should become more difficult for a politician to fabricate claims. For example, at the end of the…
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Review: ‘Checking the Fact-Checkers in 2008: Predicting Political Ad Scrutiny and Assessing Consistency’

In 2014 we first heard of a branch of scholarly research purporting to support the accuracy of mainstream fact checking. The research was mentioned in a paper by political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, The Effect of Fact-checking on Elites: A field experiment on U.S. state legislators: While individual fact-checks sometimes veer into punditry or semantic disputes (Marx 2012;…
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The give and take on political donations

Occasionally the mainstream fact checker PolitiFact will publish an article giving an overview of a fact check topic. But two recent fact checks of political attack ads point to the need for one PolitiFact has yet to publish: the relevance of the source of political campaign cash. On March 27, 2014, PolitiFact published a fact check of an ad by…
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Michael Hiltzik wrong on Social Security

Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik blasted PolitiFact Oregon, among other PolitiFacts, with a Sept. 10, 2014 column titled “Another ‘fact-checker’ gets Social Security wrong.” We have complaints about the PolitiFact Oregon item, also. But Hiltzik’s demagogy takes precedence. This paragraph encapsulates Hiltzik’s most objectionable points: The money accounted for in the trust fund was borrowed by the federal government…
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