Thursday, November 6, 2014

PunditFact PolitiFail on Ben Shapiro, with PolitiMath

On Nov. 6, 2014 PunditFact provided yet another example why the various iterations of PolitiFact do not deserve serious consideration as fact checkers (we'll refer to PolitiFact writers as bloggers and the "fact check" stories as blogs from here on out as a considered display of disrespect).

PunditFact reviewed a claim by Truth Revolt's Ben Shapiro that a majority of Muslims are radical. PunditFact ruled Shapiro's claim "False" based on the idea that Shapiro's definition of "radical" and the numbers used to justify his claim were, according to PunditFact, "almost meaningless."

Lost on PunditFact was the inherent difficulty of ruling "False" something that's almost meaningless. Definite meanings lend themselves to verification or falsification. Fuzzy meanings defy those tests.

PunditFact's blog was literally filled with laughable errors, but we'll just focus on three for the sake of brevity.

First, PunditFact faults Shapiro for his broad definition of "radical," but Shapiro explains very clearly what he's up to in the video where he made the claim. There's no attempt to mislead the viewer and no excuse to misinterpret Shapiro's purpose.



Second, PunditFact engages in its own misdirection of its readers. In PunditFact's blog, it reports how Muslims "favor sharia." Pew Research explains clearly what that means: Favoring sharia means favoring sharia as official state law. PunditFact never mentions what Pew Research means by "favor sharia."

Do liberals think marrying church and state is radical? You betcha. Was PunditFact deliberately trying to downplay that angle? Or was the reporting just that bad? Either way, PunditFact provides a disservice to its readers.

Third, PunditFact fails to note that Shapiro could easily have increased the number of radicalized Muslims in his count. He drew his totals from a limited set of nations for which Pew Research had collected data. Shapiro points this out near the end of the video, but it PunditFact either didn't notice or else determined its readers did not need to know.

PolitiMath


PunditFact used what it calls a "reasonable" method of counting radical Muslims to supposedly show how Shapiro engaged in cherry-picking. We've pointed out at least two ways PunditFact erred in its methods, but for the sake of PolitiMath we'll assume PunditFact created an apt comparison between its "reasonable" method and Shapiro's alleged cherry-picking.

Shapiro counted 680 million radical Muslims. PunditFact counted 181.8 million. We rounded both numbers off slightly.

Taking PunditFact's 181.8 million as the baseline, Shapiro exaggerated the number of radical Muslims by 274 percent. That may seem like a big enough exaggeration to warrant a "False" rating. But it's easy to forget that the bloggers at PunditFact gave Cokie Roberts a "Half True" for a claim exaggerated by about 9,000 percent. PunditFact detected a valid underlying argument from Roberts. Apparently Ben Shapiro has no valid underlying argument that there are plenty of Muslims around who hold religious views that meet a broad definition of "radical."

Why?

Liberal bias is as likely an explanation as any.


Addendum:

Shapiro makes some of the same points we make with his own response to PunditFact.

4 comments:

  1. "PunditFact"? Why take yourselves seriously? No one else does.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "First, PunditFact faults Shapiro for his broad definition of "radical," but Shapiro explains very clearly what he's up to in the video where he made the claim."

    Actually, he doesn't. He says that radical beliefs are not just terrorism-Which is true. However he does not explain his criteria in why he chose sharia law. What Jon Greenberg simply stated was that when narrowing down the results, you get a far more varied view. What's even worse is that Ben Shapiro followed up this claim by saying "70% of Indonesians believe 9/11 was not done by Al-Qaeda, therefore they're all radicalised."

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    Replies
    1. AdamSRB Profile wrote:

      **he does not explain his criteria in why he chose sharia law.**

      It's one thing to not explain the criteria, it's another thing not to describe the definition of "radical." It's a poor play to say he's not doing one based on his not doing the other.

      **What Jon Greenberg simply stated was that when narrowing down the results, you get a far more varied view.**

      And the more varied view shows Shapiro's is false? Because that's the conclusion of Greenberg's "fact check."

      **What's even worse is that Ben Shapiro followed up this claim by saying "70% of Indonesians believe 9/11 was not done by Al-Qaeda, therefore they're all radicalised."**

      Is it radical to advocate state enforcement of religious law, in your opinion? Even just for those who adhere to that religion?

      Delete
  3. Chris asked

    **"PunditFact"?**

    Yeah, PunditFact. You know, the branch of PolitiFact that examines the claims of Pundits.

    **Why take yourselves seriously? No one else does.**

    We take ourselves seriously because at least we know what "PunditFact" is.

    We look forward to your next comment, Chris.

    ReplyDelete