Patterico's Pontifications

12/20/2011

PolitiFact’s 2011 Lie of the Year: A Surprise

Filed under: General — Karl @ 8:55 am

[Posted by Karl]

In handicapping PolitiFact’s 2011 Lie of the Year finalists, I suggested that — by the site’s own criteria — the DCCC claim that House Republicans voted to “end Medicare” ought to be Lie of the Year, as it had the most impact on the national discourse.  But I concluded, based on the site’s general liberal skew, that it would award the dishonor to the claim that Obama’s stimulus created zero jobs.  Imagine my surprise:

PolitiFact debunked the Medicare charge in nine separate fact-checks rated False or Pants on Fire, most often in attacks leveled against Republican House members.

Now, PolitiFact has chosen the Democrats’ claim as the 2011 Lie of the Year.

Of course, the supposedly neutral fact-checkers go on to advise Democrats how to make the charge with just a few tweaks.  And they claim that Obama was more “precise,” although he claimed the GOP would “voucherize” Medicare (when the plan has been one of premium support, not vouchers).

Even so, prominent progressive pundits are, er, upset this morning.  Paul Krugman titles his commentary “Politifact R.I.P.,” the American Prospect’s Steve Benen claims PolitiFact should be ashamed of itself and calls the selection a “credibility-killing choice,” and the WaPo’s Greg Sargent calls it a “cheap and easy way to establish [a] fake aura of ‘balance’.”

At first glance, one wonders why they care.  After all, PolitiFact has called various Democrats out over similar Mediscare attacks repeatedly, without any effect on the behavior of the Democrats or the establishment media.  Thus, PolitiFact’s most useful function may be in triggering an analysis of the overwrought reactions of these progressive crybabies.  

PolitiFact’s biggest lie is its conceit that a political judgment call can be easily labeled as a “lie” in the first instance — even lefty ideologues like Glenn Greenwald have figured this out.  Thus, the only people who are emotionally invested in PolitiFact tend to fall into two categories.  First, there are zealots so wild-eyed that their ideology is Truth, with no “fact” outside their belief system.  Paul Krugman personifies this type, right down to his non-falsifiable belief in the gospel of Keynes.  Second, there are the partisan hacks who are only interested in “fact” as a political convenience.  Greg Sargent, who manages to make Bob Shrum look like a cross between Socrates and Hamlet, personifies this type even better than Steve Benen, which is undoubtedly why the WaPo hired Sargent.  Ironically, it’s the sharper ideologues who are interested in acknowledging a difference between fact and opinion.  PolitiFact is to be thanked for exposing this, if for nothing else.

–Karl


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