Friday, August 5, 2016

PolitiFact's laughable neutrality

What can we learn about foreign affairs from the expert journalists at PolitiFact?

Let's look at an example, specifically the existence of ISIS.

Who is to blame for ISIS?


Vice President Dick Cheney was partly responsible for ISIS:



Maybe climate change played a role in creating ISIS. PolitiFact at least accepts that climate change worsens terrorism (FactCheck.org would not go that far).



Actually, climate change definitely helped create ISIS:



Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state while ISIS grew in power and controlled large parts of Syria and Iraq? And the U.S. Senator who voted to authorize military intervention and then voted against the surge in Iraq? She had nothing to do with it:




Inside Baseball Stuff

The "False" rating Trump received interested us because the text looks like it leads toward a "Mostly False" ruling. The last two lines pass for a surprise ending.

Check it out:
There were several factors that contributed to the growing power of ISIS, but it’s misleading to pin the responsibility solely on Clinton. For starters, the roots of ISIS trace back to 2004, when Bush was president and before Clinton was Obama’s secretary of state.

She did vote to authorize force in Iraq in 2002 while a senator, but that was advocated by the Bush administration and the vast majority of senators. The intervention in Libya, which she supported, did give ISIS an opening, but Trump is overstating her role by saying she is responsible for ISIS.

This claim is inaccurate. We rate it False.
It would surprise us not at all if Linda Qiu, who wrote the fact check, recommended a "Mostly False" rating to PolitiFact's "star chamber" of editors. After which the editors decided no way was Clinton responsible. In that situation, they would have tasked Qiu with tacking on the "False" conclusion. We think the last line does not quite fit the story.


Jeff Adds:

This line struck me as bizarre:
She did vote to authorize force in Iraq in 2002 while a senator, but that was advocated by the Bush administration and the vast majority of senators.
Hillary is absolved from the consequences of her own voting record if it's what Bush wanted? It doesn't count if lots of other senators did it too?




Edit: Deleted strike-through text that was not intended for publishing in second sentence. -Jeff 1251PST 8/5/2016
Edit 8/5/2016: Supplied missing hyperlinks to O'Malley and Trump fact checks.
Edit: Added Jeff Adds section-Jeff 1436PST 8/5/2016
Edit: Added link at "star chamber" in final paragraph. -Jeff 0708PST 8/8/2016

5 comments:

  1. Not necessarily related to the current blog post, but Conservapedia is now linking to your website.

    http://www.conservapedia.com/PolitiFact

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well... I'm going to be killed. Just throwing this out there, this is from the Bernie Sanders Article:

    "That’s not to say that climate change isn’t contributing to existing problems. Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley used more accurate language when he said, "One of the things that preceded the failure of the nation-state of Syria and the rise of ISIS was the effect of climate change and the mega-drought that affected that region, wiped out farmers, drove people to cities, created a humanitarian crisis." We rated his comments Mostly True."

    Interesting stuff, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oshawottstarter, we're not sure why you think you'll be killed. Yes, you quoted accurately part of one of the PolitiFact stories we mentioned. But we're not sure what point you're trying to make. Do you agree PolitiFact finds it essentially true that climate change definitely played a part in helping to bring about the rise of ISIS?

      Delete
    2. The statement to which Politifact was responding implied that Clinton was the person primarily responsible for ISIS. They make this clear in their remark " it’s misleading to pin the responsibility solely on Clinton". In this framing, it is correct to label the charge "False". I personally agree that Clinton bears some responsibility, but since Trump made an absolutist statement, the Politifact rating seems defensible.

      Delete
    3. Leo Tohill wrote:

      **The statement to which Politifact was responding implied that Clinton was the person primarily responsible for ISIS.**

      That is PolitiFact's interpretation of Trump's statement. PolitiFact tends to have a tin ear for hyperbole.

      **They make this clear in their remark " it’s misleading to pin the responsibility solely on Clinton".**

      Doesn't PolitiFact know that Trump has said the same thing of Obama? So he blames both of them solely for ISIS, therefore it's easy to see he's wrong (or something) since both cannot be solely responsible.

      It's not a very objective approach to fact-checking, is it?

      **In this framing, it is correct to label the charge "False".**

      Why not frame the claim about Cheney the same way?

      **I personally agree that Clinton bears some responsibility, but since Trump made an absolutist statement, the Politifact rating seems defensible.**

      The key to this, Leo, is whether the ratings are defensible based on a consistent application of principle. PolitiFact sometimes grades absolute statements strictly and sometimes it doesn't.

      The minute we start accepting any old PolitiFact justification regardless of consistency, we're setting ourselves up to be hoodwinked by faux fact-checking.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Delete