The entire existence of a media fact-checker is a reality of redundancy. If the press was in fact doing its job there would be no need for this subculture, as they would be expected to have already laid out the facts in the standard reporting. But years ago a number of news outlets developed their own fact-checking divisions as a means of beating back conservative media voices, becoming only more entrenched in the Donald Trump era.
As the press pounced on the numerous claims of presidential prevarications they became seen as a needed service. What has evolved however is these arbiters of the truth have become instead a tool of the narrative crafters. There are countless examples of these corrections agents declaring stories to be ‘’False,’ or ‘’Untrue,’’ despite the presence of verified details. The fact-checkers became story interpreters, declaring certain reports as inaccurate based on their own translation or projected influence it may have on the broader discussion.
Candace Owens has just displayed her personal battle with those policing the news landscape on social media. She recently had a video posting on Facebook become labeled as false information, and as a result it was suppressed on the platform. The language that got her pieces flagged stated, ‘’Joe Biden is literally and legally not the President-elect. So why is the media pretending that he is?’’ For the minds at Politifact, the Poynter Institute fact check division that aids Facebook in in its quest to ferret out ‘’misinformation” on its platform, this comment by Owens was too controversial.
Here is where you see the foibles in these fact-check scolds. Nothing in the Owens comment was factually incorrect. Her post was flagged as ‘’false’’ because of how it could be used in the broader political discussion.
Owens fought the ruling on her post, ultimately taking legal action. PolitiFact came back and actually issued a Correction on its appraisal.
Correction: PolitiFact originally labeled this video false in our capacity as a third-party fact-checker for Facebook. On November 20, an appeal to that decision was made on behalf of Ms. Owens. PolitiFact approved the appeal on November 20, determined that a correction was appropriate, and removed the false rating.
That this required involving lawyers is the ridiculous aspect, but Owens was at least able to battle for the accuracy in this instance, something the very fact-checkers are charged with in their own mission statements. The revealing part is that this is hardly an isolated instance. Fact-checkers exist behind a shield of their own making, the assumption of accuracy built into their task. It is often up to the readers to ferret out the accuracy of these claims.
Take for one example how during the presidential debates Donald Trump was declared to have delivered an ‘’avalanche of lies,’’ by Daniel Dale, CNN’s in house fact-checker. Dale proclaimed that Biden was largely hewing to nothing but the facts — we had to provide for him the laundry list of falsehoods Joe unspooled at nearly the same rate as President Trump. The sin of omission is a common trait with these viscounts of verite’.
Glenn Kessler is one of the fact-checkers at The Washington Post, and he tipped his hand as to what we can expect from him and his brethren in the next four years. When presented with the news that members of the Biden team are being pushed aside for cabinet positions by entrenched Obama people, he took the revelation in stride — or, more accurately, ‘’in shrug.’’ He declared, in almost bored fashion,’’I’m sorry, this is an evergreen story. Happens every four years. I read this same tale at the start of Trump, Obama, Bush…’’
Interesting that he mentioned the Trump transition. Four years ago, when similar news of drama and confusion were said to be taking place with the incoming crowd, Kessler had a far less apathetic take on the matter: ‘’Trump’s transition team ‘Is like Game Of Thrones,’’ he reported at that time. We can get a sense of his truth-telling position given that Glenn does not even fact-check himself.
One other trait from this fact-check consortium is that they rarely apply their magnifying glasses to the news sources on the left, especially the major outlets. Since most of those operate their own fact-check divisions, and these are gathered together into a network that sees them working together, there is little motivation to think of correcting the names within their own environment. As a result you get reporters behaving in the fashion the fact-checkers are supposed to alert us about, while not being called out.
At the New York Times writer Kevin Roose declared he found a number of news stories on social media that served as evidence of users distributing ‘’right-wing misinformation.’’ He supplied four headlines to news stories to buttress his claim. The issue — all four news items which he gave were in fact accurate. So now we have gone fully 180 degrees out of phase; the news outlets are going so far as to declare accurate news stories as misinformation, all due to those doing the writing declaring they do not fit in a narrative.
This is the flung open window to what the following four years will be like in the press during a Biden administration.