Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Letters: "Your attempts at proving their bias are as weak as ..."

Recently we decided to establish a page addressing the criticisms this page receives.

An email exchange from Dec. 14-15, 2015 helps lay the foundation for that page, addressing the criticism that we don't prove PolitiFact's liberal bias.

For some odd reason, people skip right past the site description that says we expose PolitiFact's bias, mistakes and flimflammery. So right at the top we're telling visitors that not everything we post is intended to establish that PolitiFact is biased toward the left.

The email came from W. Thompson. That's his real name, so far as we know, though we're not using his first name because of his concerns about receiving right-wing attacks.

We condemn any attempt to identify and personally harass Mr. Thompson in any way over his politics. 

The first exchange between Thompson and me is above-the-fold. Those interested in the rest should follow the jump-break. We included a summary statement at the end.

Dec. 14-15, 2015

W. THOMPSON
I just came across your PoitiFactbias.com web site and read the page I came to.

And you accuse PolitiFact of being biased? Your attempts at proving their bias are as weak as Republican attempts to spin their disasters off on the Democrats.

B. WHITE 
You wrote:

I just came across your PoitiFactbias.com web site and read the page I came to.

Thanks for visiting and reading.

And you accuse PolitiFact of being biased?

Yes, we accuse PolitiFact of being biased, and we provide evidence in support of the accusation. It isn't clear from your message whether you read any of that material.

Your attempts at proving their bias are as weak as Republican attempts to spin their disasters off on the Democrats.

As your analogy lacks any specifics at either end, it's hard to know whether your criticism has any meaning to it.
I'm in the process of developing a page for the critics of PolitiFact Bias. We encounter the same lame criticisms over and over again, so I figured it would help to provide visitors a road map to help them find where we've addressed their complaints.
I'd like your permission to print your message and your followup as a post to PolitiFact Bias.
Thanks again.

W. THOMPSON

 For your information, I read the whole page I was on…. I presume it was the home page…
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Not that I care if you post what I said, but I don’t want to receive 10,000 emails from a bunch of loons….. Some of them might be crazy enough to come gunning for me….

Many of the Republicans I know claim Obama is responsible for creating ISIS when the facts prove that the Bush administration precipitated that with the invasion of Iraq, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and then installing a minority person as the leader.

Those same people also claim that Bush had nothing to do with the GREAT RECESSION even though during his term in office we had several of the largest bankruptcies in the history of the world because the Republicans pushed a bill through that gutted the The Glass Stegall [sic] Act. I know Clinton signed it at the end but it was a veto proof bill so he had no choice.

I could go on but what’s the use.

B. WHITE
You wrote:
For your information, I read the whole page I was on…. I presume it was the home page…
Okay, thanks for that information. What led you to assume you were reading our "proof" that PolitiFact is biased? We have a prominently posted tag line that states that the site is dedicated to pointing out PolitiFact's bias, mistakes and flimflammery (at the top, right under the site title). Many of the blog posts make up examples of unfair harm PolitiFact doles out to Republicans and conservatives (we also highlight good examples of such harm befalling liberals, fro [sic] what it's worth). As our About/FAQ page explains, the anecdotal examples must be understood cumulatively and comparing the best examples harming each political wing. I don't see how you could do that by reading just seven posts, especially since some of them were dealing with flimflammery like Angie Drobnic Holan's misleading NYT op-ed.
Not that I care if you post what I said, but I don’t want to receive 10,000 emails from a bunch of loons….. Some of them might be crazy enough to come gunning for me….
I know just how you feel. [redacted]. I won't share your email address. I'd prefer to use your full name but I can call you "W. Thompson" if that's agreeable to you. The point is not to personally shame you but to address a criticism that we received from a real person.
Many of the Republicans I know claim Obama is responsible for creating ISIS when the facts prove that the Bush administration precipitated that with the invasion of Iraq, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and then installing a minority person as the leader.
I was hoping for an example that would somehow reveal the bias you find evident at PolitiFact Bias. That one's not much help.
Those same people also claim that Bush had nothing to do with the GREAT RECESSION even though during his term in office we had several of the largest bankruptcies in the history of the world because the Republicans pushed a bill through that gutted the The Glass Stegall  [sic] Act. I know Clinton signed it at the end but it was a veto proof bill so he had no choice.

I could go on but what’s the use.
If it's possible that going on would lead you to provide an example of bias in the work of PolitiFact Bias then I would encourage you to continue.

If that wouldn't happen then you're right--there's no use.

W. THOMPSON
 Ok, let’s pick one point. You claim Obama was a liar about keeping your insurance policy. I think Obama meant that but Obama did not personally write the Health Care Act. The people who did write it were probably assistants for some of the Congress Critters and then the professionals reworked what they wrote into something that would work. Obama may, or may not, have known that particular point when he was talking about keeping your insurance. There are lots of pages in that bill and I sincerely doubt that the President read that whole bill.

As for Republicans telling more lies than Democrats, if I had to rate that, I’d call it true because I get tons of lies from Republicans about Obama or the Democrats in my emails and I’ve never seen one that contained lies from Democrats. Oh sure, Republicans claim they get emails that lie about Republicans and I’ve asked dozens of times for them to send me one but I’ve never received one, not even from those who claim they got one.

There are lots of words that have different definitions, depending on what, or whose, dictionary you use and everybody seems to use the one whose definition is closer to what they think. When I went to school, Webster’s was the only dictionary but that’s no longer true. Wiki’s definition can change from day to day since anyone can edit it.

You also seem to have a problem when PolitiFact used the 700,000 number that Rubio himself used when talking about a watch list. If Rubio used that number in his “speech” what is wrong with PolitiFact using that same number when fact checking Rubio? Besides, I doubt that Homeland Security is ever going to release the real number.

That’s like the proverbial “tilting at windmills”.

B. WHITE
You wrote:
Ok, let’s pick one point. You claim Obama was a liar about keeping your insurance policy.
Yeah, okay. We think Obama knew when he was making that claim that ordinary insurance churn made it false. And once a grandfathering deadline was part of the law that made it even more obvious. So it was probably a deliberate deceit, in our view. But more importantly, Mr. Thompson, what did we ever write about that topic at PolitiFact Bias that would make us biased?
It's looking more and more as though your opinion about the quality of our criticisms rests on nothing other than your own bias. We've written extensively about PolitiFact's choice of Obama's statement as its "LIe [sic] of the Year," but our angle on that was the fact that it's ridiculous for PolitiFact to call that its "Lie of the Year" 1) when PolitiFact didn't rate the claim that year and 2) Never rated the claim lower than "Half True," which makes it the only "Lie of the Year" rated other than "False" or "Pants on Fire." I should think you'd agree with us that PolitiFact was up to something fishy with that selection (flimflammery). I went on to argue at my fact check site that the other half of that year's "Lie of the Year," where Obama supposedly backtracked on the claim ("What we said was") was actually true. All the mainstream media fact checkers said that claim was false. I'm pretty much the only one who defended Obama.
There are lots of pages in that bill and I sincerely doubt that the President read that whole bill.
So he went out of his way to promise people they wouldn't lose the insurance they had when he didn't know what was in the bill? The president himself called it a promise, W[redacted]. That's either administrative incompetence or a lie. And didn't he keep saying it after fact checkers said the claim didn't hold up ("Half True")?
As for Republicans telling more lies than Democrats, if I had to rate that, I’d call it true because I get tons of lies from Republicans about Obama or the Democrats in my emails and I’ve never seen one that contained lies from Democrats.
That's wonderful! Since you're totally unbiased we'll take that to the bank and simply report that it's true Republicans lie more.
No, seriously? What does that even have to do with bias at PolitiFact Bias? We have no idea who lies more between Republicans and Democrats because nobody's done a proper unbiased scientific study of the question. So we're biased and you're not because you're willing to base your view of the facts on the email you get?
You also seem to have a problem when PolitiFact used the 700,000 number that Rubio himself used when talking about a watch list.
Quote us having a problem with Rubio [sic] using the 700,000 number. Maybe PolitiFact was right that Rubio was using the estimate for the total number of persons on the watch list. But is that a fact or an assumption based on the numerical coincidence? Our true problem is not PF using the 700,000 number but PolitiFact failing to check the fact in the terms Rubio had used in context (name matches). That's an obvious and factual failure on PolitiFact's part. Maybe you're not seeing it because of your own bias.
Consider the possibility.  

W. THOMPSON
It’s easy for you to claim I’m biased when you leave all the qualifiers out and cherry pick what you want to use to “prove” I’m biased and you’re as pure as white snow. Which is exactly what you’ve done with the PolitiFact pieces. It’s also what has been done with the majority of the videos on places like YouTube that Republicans post. The rest have been total forgeries, where they’ve clipped words and phrases and pasted them together.

I’m finished because all you’re doing is selectively nit picking words and phrases, just like all Republicans do when they can’t intelligently discuss a whole statement or article….

B. WHITE
You wrote:

I’m finished because all you’re doing is selectively nit picking words and phrases, just like all Republicans do when they can’t intelligently discuss a whole statement or article….


Mr. Thompson, I've been imploring you to draw your example(s) from one or more of the articles at PFB. You seem disinclined to even try, digressing into stories about Republicans filling your email account with lies. Absolutely the best you've done is your baseless suggestion that we don't care for PolitiFact's focus on the number 700,000 in the fact check of Marco Rubio. We explained your mistake on that. Where's your reply to that point? You're done because we cherry-picked your cherry-picking. Or something like that.
I'll call you W. Thompson, and I won't publish your email address. I'll publish everything you wrote to me, and readers can judge whether we cherry-picked your response in an attempt to avoid your powerful arguments (rather than trying to find the nugget or two worth addressing).


Summary

Some people apparently assume that with the name "PolitiFact Bias" everything we post is intended to bear directly on PolitiFact's liberal bias. That's never been the case. We have always showed a willingness, for example, to publicize good criticism of PolitiFact from the left.

We make a broad, probabilistic case arguing PolitiFact shows a liberal bias. Most journalists lean left. PolitiFact's story selection is consistent with liberal bias (more and more damaging stories about conservatives), PolitiFact's mistakes tend to harm conservatives and benefit liberals and PolitiFact's ratings likewise show patterns consistent with liberal bias.

We're working on ways to bring a more focused version of that message to the public. Stay tuned.

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