Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lairs of editors at PolitiFact Florida


With this item we go back a few years into PolitiFact Florida's history to remind us of the extent to which fact checkers will allow inaccuracies to go into print or onto the Internet.

PolitiFact will sometimes pick on the accuracy of somebody else's headline. PolitiFact Florida's headline on a fact check of Gov. Rick Scott is a doozy:

The problem is obvious just from the image capture, but we'll explain it just in case it's not obvious to somebody.

The headline says Scott claimed Thomas Jefferson called regulations an "endemic weakness," which, by standard norms of interpretation, means Scott is saying Jefferson used the term "endemic weakness" in describing government regulations.

But the section above quoting Scott doesn't jibe with PolitiFact Florida's headline. It's Scott using the term "endemic weakness" and saying Jefferson's complaints against the King of England as expressed in the Declaration of Independence serve as a vintage example.

PolitiFact Florida's fact check never makes the case that "endemic weakness" was attributed to Jefferson.

Making matters worse, Scott didn't even imply that Jefferson was complaining in principle that regulations make up an endemic weakness of government. He just used Jefferson's complaint as one example supporting his own point.

PolitiFact ignores Scott's real point and fact checks a tangent:
Scott quotes Jefferson correctly. But we wondered, what did Jefferson mean when he wrote that line? Did he think regulations are an endemic weakness in government?
Poor PolitiFact Florida! Its fact check assumes it matters whether Jefferson was saying regulations were an endemic weakness of government! It doesn't matter. Was Scott using a solid example of a proliferation of government regulations? Not really. But that doesn't mean Scott was saying Jefferson called government relations an "endemic weakness."

How does this type of colossal blunder make it past layers of editors? Why is PolitiFact's cure for Scott's inaccuracy worse than the disease?

It's makes us think perhaps PolitiFact uses lairs of editors instead of layers of editors. Perhaps layers of lairs of editors.

With a hat tip to the old "Batman" television series, our conception of a PolitiFact lair of editors:


Another year has come around, and finds us still blessed with peace and friendship abroad; law, order, and religion at home; good affection and harmony with our Indian neighbors; our burthens lightened, yet our income sufficient for the public wants, and the produce of the year great beyond example. These, fellow-citizens, are the circumstances under which we meet, and we remark with special satisfaction those which under the smiles of Providence result from the skill, industry, and order of our citizens, managing their own affairs in their own way and for their own use, unembarrassed by too much regulation, unoppressed by fiscal exactions.
 --Thomas Jefferson, Second Annual Message to Congress, December 15, 1802
The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild, and government to gain ground.
 --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, Paris, May 27, 1788

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