There was a time not long ago when there was no need for fact-checkers to scrutinize news as it was presented by the media. The news was non-biased. It was told like it was. It was just the facts.
With political unrest and confusion in America reaching new bounds with each passing day, it’s unfortunate how the media has chosen sides. Whichever candidate a particular news outlet stands behind has everything to do with how they will twist and manipulate the top stories of the day to fit their agendas.
Many news articles, though not presented as such, are highly opinionated. Where FOX News may consider a particular Trump rally to have been a raging success, CNN would call it a total flop. So these days, we need fact-checkers to sort fiction from reality. Or do we?
Google has employed teams of people to sort through and verify the barrage of rubbish posted by news outlets, and both Facebook and Twitter have taken it upon themselves to censor their own users if they have doubts concerning the validity of a post.
But the question is, who are these verifiers of the truth and why should we trust them? The obvious problem is that fact-checkers can also make mistakes, and they often use their own biases in determining truths as they apply to their personal ways of thinking.
As an example, in 2012, Politifact slammed Mitt Romney over a campaign ad claiming Jeeps were being manufactured in China, saying this was not true. Politifact later had to admit their report was a lie when they discovered they actually were being produced there.
Snopes, in April 2020, labeled a rumor citing there were 3.5 million more registered voters than the number of actual eligible voters, as false. After discovering the fact to be true, Snopes would not admit their mistake. However, they did change their rating from false to a mixture of true and false.
Here is where the real conundrum begins though. Media fact-checkers have no other way to verify the truth than by reading other media reports, which may or may not be true. Since opinions and biases are more often than not responsible for how a piece of news will be presented, it depends on where whoever wrote the original article, and the ones after that, checked their facts. And so it continues…
Real Clear Politics established and constantly updates a database of information from Snopes, Politifact, FactCheck.org, the New York Times, and a host of other so-called trusted outlets, to fact check the fact-checkers. It had to come to this.
In July, they found that 18% of Politifact’s fact-checking was based solely on opinion. They also discovered that 90% of Snopes fact-checking was done by simply reviewing other news sources, where once again, the validity of what they determine depends on where they check.
Mark Hemingway of Weekly Standard summed the entire fact-checking trend up nicely by explaining: “It’s basically a way for a bunch of reporters with no particular expertise to render pseudoscientific judgments on statements from public figures that are obviously argumentative or otherwise unverifiable. Then there’s the matter of them weighing in with thundering certitude — pants on fire! — on complex policy debates they frequently misunderstand.”
There is only one real way to determine fact from faction, and that’s by staying as current as possible on events as they unfold. Why should anyone rely on a fact-checker who was hired off the street to compare articles and then inject their own opinions into the equation anyway? You can do that yourself. If you have a mind to.