Rachel Maddow: Politifact ‘No Longer Trying’

Rachel Maddow has had a bit of a problem lately swallowing what Politifact is dishing out. So have a lot of other liberals. The idea behind Politifact was that it would be an unbiased source of fact checking for politicians and pundits alike. It was a laudable idea and a welcome change from the usual “he said/she said” reporting of the mainstream media. And for a while, it was good.

Unfortunately for Politifact, as Stephen Colbert said, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” What this means is that even as Politifact strove to be a neutral player, the avalanche of lies coming from the Right, by necessity, gave rise to far more negative ratings for conservatives than liberals. The Right Wing, ever watchful for someone paying attention to their deceptions a little too closely, objected to this at the top of their lungs.

But still, for a while, it was good.

Politifact continued to weigh in on controversial statements and did so with a fair amount of integrity. Liberals were occasionally, and correctly, raked over the coals for telling a whopper but, far more often, it was conservatives that received the not-so-coveted “pants on fire” award. Out of 200 “pants on fire” rulings, about 27 of them were given to liberals or liberal slanted chain emails. The rest were all conservatives and conservative emails. That’s a very telling statistic.

Politifact even had a handy Obameter that keeps track of his promises made, kept and broken. The funny thing about that particular set of statistics is that it is completely ignored by firebagging liberals who swear Obama has broken every single pledge he made. I guess conservatives aren’t the only ones who like to cherry pick their facts to reinforce a narrative.

And reinforcing a narrative is where the whole system falls apart.

The media (and conservatives) are heavily invested in that most transparent of memes: The “Both Sides” Meme. This gives the media an excuse to present “both sides” of a debate while not holding anyone accountable to the truth. This makes for great ratings but little else. It certainly doesn’t keep the public informed in any meaningful way. Politifact was supposed to be above this kind of forced equivalence but the constant pressure from the Right started to erode their standards. And so they started to make certain…adjustments in how Politifact handed out rulings.

For the first two years that it did so, Politifact awarded the “Lie of the Year” to conservatives. Not terribly surprising given the atmosphere the GOP has fostered since Obama took office. But the 2011 Lie of the Year came as quite a surprise as it was handed to the Democratic Party for stating that the GOP had signed onto Paul Ryan’s budget and that it would end Medicare. In a year where GOP mass hysteria reached all new levels, this was the Lie of the Year?

The justification for this was long-winded but it literally came down to the following: Even though it would not function the same or even remotely provide the same benefits, it would still be called Medicare. Therefore the GOP, according to Politifact, had not voted to end Medicare. I covered this back in December in more detail.

And then Politifact nitpicked the President’s State of the Union address to death.

And then they nitpicked a campaign ad for Obama’s reelection to death.

And then they gave Marco Rubio’s statement that the country is mostly conservative a free pass.

Last night, Ms. Maddow laid into Politifact yet again:

Politfact’s reasoning is as follows: Despite the fact that, yes, the GI Bill was compared to being on the Dole (Britain’s version of welfare) and yes, one critic suggested that “the lazy and ‘chisely’ types of veterans would get the most benefits, whereas the resourceful, industrious and conscientious veterans would get the least benefits, if any” and, of course, another said, “If every white serviceman in Mississippi… could read this so-called GI Bill, I don’t believe there would be one in 20 who would approve of it…  We have 50,000 Negroes in the service from our state and in, in my opinion, if the bill should pass in its present form, a vast majority of them would remain unemployed for at least another year, and a great many white men would do the same” and it is true that yet another critic said, “Colleges and universities will find themselves converted into educational hobo jungles.” While all of this is true and is almost identical in language and intent by modern-day critics opposed to “welfare queens” and “lazy Negros,” the word “welfare” was not actually used.

Therefore, O’Donnell’s statement that critics of the GI Bill called it welfare gets a “mostly false.”

Got that? Split those hairs any finer and we’re gonna have nuclear fission. I think Maddow is right. Politifact isn’t even trying anymore. What a damn shame.


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