Factcheck.org thinks you are a moron

by Kieran Healy on May 12, 2005

Atrios points to an absurd bit of ‘fact checking’ from Factcheck.org:

Judicial Fight Prompts Duelling, Distorted Ads
Millions are being spent on rival ads supporting and opposing two of President Bush’s most controversial judicial selections. Neither ad is completely accurate. … A rival ad by the liberal People for the American Way quotes Texas judge Janice Rogers Brown as saying seniors “are cannibalizing their grandchildren,” without making clear she was speaking metaphorically of debt being passed on to future generations by entitlement programs. … Brown was speaking about the debt being passed on to future generations, not suggesting that Medicare or Social Security causes old people to eat human flesh. Here’s the full quote from a speech she gave in 2000 before the Institute for Justice: … “My grandparents’ generation thought being on the government dole was disgraceful, a blight on the family’s honor. Today’s senior citizens blithely cannibalize their grandchildren because they have a right to get as much “free” stuff as the political system will permit them to extract.”

That’s certainly a colorful metaphor. Readers can decide for themselves whether the idea being expressed is “radical” or not.

Thanks for clearing that up! I now know that Janice Rogers Brown was not, in fact, claiming that Social Security causes seniors to literally eat the flesh of their grandchildren.

Yet it seems that Factcheck.org is not abiding by their own high standards. I think they need to issue a Factcheck on themselves, for erroneously (and perhaps maliciously and with partisan intent?) implying that the Progress for America foundation and the People for the American Way were engaged in a duel using their Ads. Analysis: (1) These organizations are merely legal entities, and strictly speaking cannot in fact have a duel between themselves or with real human beings. (2) Even if they could do so in principle, political Ads are not suitable weapons for dueling. According to an authoritative history of the practice, there has never been a case where the disputing parties agreed that their weapons of choice would be “30-second Spots at Dawn.” This is because major U.S. networks do not air political ads this early in the morning. (3) Perhaps most decisively, dueling was outlawed in all American states in the years after the civil war, and in Washington DC as early as 1839. The continued neglect of basic facts like this in the public square is slowly poisoning our body politic. Oh shit. I mean, not literally poisoning … Look, I’ll fix that later, OK? I need to get back to writing the release about how the “Nuclear Option” in the Senate is not actually a threat to bomb the opposing parties using silo-launched thermonuclear devices.

{ 18 comments }

1

DGF 05.12.05 at 12:27 pm

Hah, this could almost be a parody of the sort of “balance” that passes for objective reporting in the MSM. To recap, the Progress for America ad:

1. Indicates that court cases are being delayed by Democratic obstruction when in fact the cases are moving faster than before;
2. Falsely claims that several newspapers endorsed a candidate, when they actually endorsed said candidate for the Texas Supreme Court, not the Fifth Circuit Court;
3. States that Janice Brown has been “praised by Democrats” — when the only Democrat that has publicly endorsed her is Zell Miller.

On the other hand, the PFAW ad:

1. Quotes JRB directly, prompting a ludicrously unnecessary clarification of an obvious metaphor;
2. States that “President Bush’s own attorney general criticized her ten times,” which Factcheck cites because he wasn’t AG when he criticized her.

The PFAW complaints seem almost tongue-in-cheek by comparison. But it could be that my shameless partisan shillery is just making me think that.

2

ChicagoTom 05.12.05 at 12:30 pm

This is the best post mocking this factcheck.org entry.

It took me a while to realize what exactly they were talking about when they did their analysis.

It never EVER would have occured to me that they were infact implying that the ad was erroneous because the cannibal comment was meant to be taken literally.

After reading this post, it makes it very clear that my opinion that no one in their right mind could read it that way was in fact wrong. Fact-check did in fact read it in a way no one else would.

3

abb1 05.12.05 at 12:34 pm

…how the “Nuclear Option” in the Senate is not actually a threat to bomb the opposing parties using silo-launched thermonuclear devices.

Why, it’s not ‘nucular’, so it’s clear.

4

mikez 05.12.05 at 12:43 pm

They also need to clear up that ‘kiss-up, kick-down’ comment about Bolton. While it’s likely that he has actually kicked those beneath him, there’s no evidence that he is in the habit of kissing his superiors.

5

bi 05.12.05 at 12:53 pm

On an unrelated note, I think the US should legalize duelling once more. I mean, why should anyone take away a man’s inalienable right to show off his machismo with a gun barrel?

6

Janice Rogers Brown 05.12.05 at 12:55 pm

I’ll be damned if I’ll let these lies about me stand. (I mean, not literally damned, just a figure of speech you understand) (And not lies literally, but rather truthful tidbits used to reduce my character and suitability to serve as a judge of the law you understand) (and not literally stand but rather let go unchallenged you see).

7

abb1 05.12.05 at 1:00 pm

8

jet 05.12.05 at 1:16 pm

bi,
No guns; make them use sabers. With modern medicine, very few would die, and the survivers would quickly come to value the virtue that is humility.

9

jet 05.12.05 at 1:18 pm

Kieran, thanks for the clarification. I was thinking I’d never be able to visit grandma again for fear of winding up as Sunday dinner.

10

Erik 05.12.05 at 1:30 pm

You left out one of the best example of accidental deadpan humor I’ve ever heard: ‘Actually, Brown was speaking about the debt being passed on to future generations, not suggesting that Medicare or Social Security causes old people to eat human flesh.’ Yes, they really say that.

11

bi 05.12.05 at 2:24 pm

jet: …or the virtue of honing up their sabre fighting skills to the point of invincibility. Yagyuu Jubei!!!!!!!!!!!!

12

kevin 05.12.05 at 4:16 pm

This reads like someone exasperated at the command “make it balanced! they both must be doing something wrong!” to a situation where it just doesn’t apply indulging in a little rebellion.

13

P ONeill 05.12.05 at 4:41 pm

They’ve got even more work to do than Kieran describes. For instance, today Senator Norm Coleman’s office made this claim “Contrary to his assertions, at no time did Mr Galloway contact the permanent subcommittee on investigations by any means, including but not limited to telephone, fax, e-mail, letter, Morse code or carrier pigeon,” Mr Coleman’s office said in a statement.”

Can Coleman really be claiming that the committee office is equipped to receive communication by Morse Code or carrier pigeon?

14

JW 05.12.05 at 4:54 pm

Also note that the high priests of accuracy at Factcheck.org identify Janice Rogers Brown as a “Texas judge.” Now, I’m no fancy professional fact-checker or anything, but last time I looked into this, JRB sat on the *California* Supreme Court. How embarrassing for them.

15

duus 05.13.05 at 12:33 pm

fabulous!

16

jre 05.13.05 at 2:21 pm

Hee, hee!
That slays me!

No … I’m actually alive, not even sick, really.
I didn’t mean to imply that you were even attempting
Ah, screw it.

17

david tiley 05.14.05 at 12:14 pm

They have been doing the pigeon thing for a century. They attract the pigeons to land by spreading carpets of attractive metaphors on top of the building.

Once the pigeons have pecked the messages out on carefully watched ouja boards, the officials pack them into special padded nests in brass tubes, and fire them back across the floor of the Atlantic through pneumatic hoses.

Headquarters is in the Canary Islands.

18

Ethical Werewolf 05.14.05 at 9:16 pm

I was going to post on that too, but every time I went near the computer room, Grandma started biting me.

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