On the Intellectual Bankruptcy of 'Fact Checkers'
5:00 PM, Dec 15, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
If you haven't already, please excuse the shameless self-promotion and read my story in THE WEEKLY STANDARD on the media establishment's obsession with "fact checking." Therein I note this pernicious trend highlights the media's general bias and incompetence in roughly equal measure.
Since researching and writing the piece, I'd generally been avoiding fact checking websites because in doing so I was increasingly prone to slamming my head into the keyboard in frustration. Anyway, today a reader sent me a link to an article by Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post "fact checker," and well, PPflWHbJgltP3ZEZd.
Here's Kessler on "Ron Paul’s inaccurate definition of ‘bankruptcy’":
Oh, that was helpful.
There's a variety of reasons why this is absurd. For one, bankruptcy in the legal sense is a very specific matter. Obviously, there's no extranational court that the U.S. can petition to file chapter 11. So I don't think that's what Paul was invoking. Since we're nitpicking, I consulted a dictionary. There's a more general definition that simply means you're unable to pay your debts. I hate to burst Kessler's bubble, but private citizens routinely file for bankruptcy when they have debt to income levels below 68, let alone 99 percent. And I don't think Kessler is taking into account the bigger U.S. debts looming on the horizon—an impending $30 trillion Medicare shortfall comes to mind.
And here's a simple question for Kessler: If the "the United States is able to pay its debts" as Kessler insists, why does the national debt keep rising? And why is it rising preciptiously? It's up over $4 trillion, an increase of 40 percent, since Obama took office.
But what really blows my mind is that while Kessler's explanation is ridiculous, Paul said this on August 11 and Kessler is just now getting around to writing it up. I would also note that PoltiFact "fact checked" Paul's statement and arrived at the same patently absurd conclusion on August 12. (They also "fact checked" Gary Johnson on a remarkably similar statement in September. PolitiFact really seems to have it out for libertarians.) Unlike his "fact checking" competition, Kessler's conclusion here doesn't even have the distinction of being timely or original to mitigate its obvious wrongness.
Regardless, the truth—and the American people broadly recognize the problem—is that the federal government is spending us into the poorhouse, and generally wrecking any shot this nation has at a prosperous future. Arguing with Ron Paul about the technical definition of bankruptcy here is the equivalent of attempting to shoot the messenger, while somehow putting your foot in the cross-hairs. I don't know how long fact checkers expect to cite widely understood generalities and then use them as a launching point to say "Ah hah! Politicians may insist otherwise, but as professional Writer-of-Things, I assure you sky is actually chartreuse!" and then expect to retain any credibility.
Not all of Kessler's "fact checks" are this egregious, but in keeping with his own fondness for arbitrary ratings scales, I'm giving Kessler's Ron Paul whopper four General George Custers for being willfully obtuse in the face of large numbers.