Friday, October 20, 2017

PolitiFact and the principle of inconsistency

In October, six days apart, PolitiFact did fact checks on two parallel claims, each asserting the existence of a particular law. One, by U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, was found "False." The other, by a Saturday Night Live cast member, was found "Mostly True."



Moore asserted that an act of Congress made it "against the law" to fail to stand for the playing of the national anthem. PolitiFact confirmed the existence of the law Moore referenced, but noted that it merely offered guidance on proper etiquette. It did not provide any punishment for improper etiquette.

SNL's Colin Jost said a Texas law made it illegal to own more than six dildos. PolitiFact confirmed a Texas law made owning more than six "obscene devices" illegal. PolitiFact found that a federal court had ruled that law unconstitutional in 2008.

Both laws exist. The one Moore cited carries no teeth because it describes proper etiquette, not a legal requirement backed by government police power. The one Jost cited lacks teeth because the Court voided it.

How did PolitiFact and PolitiFact Texas justify their respective rulings?

PolitiFact (bold emphasis added):
Moore said NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem is "against the law."

Moore's basis is that a law on the books describes patriotic etiquette during the national anthem. But his statement gives the false impression the law is binding, when in fact it’s merely guidance that carries no penalty. Additionally, legal experts told us the First Amendment protects the right to kneel during the national anthem.

We rate this False.
PolitiFact Texas (bold emphasis added):
Jost said: "There is a real law in Texas that says it’s illegal to own more than six dildos."

Such a cap on "obscene devices" has been state law since the 1970s though it’s worth clarifying that the law mostly hasn’t been enforced since federal appeals judges found it unconstitutional in 2008.

We rate the claim Mostly True.
From where we're sitting, the thing PolitiFact Texas found "worth clarifying" in its "Mostly True" rating of Jost closely resembles in principle one of the reasons PolitiFact gave for rating Moore's statement "False" (neither law is binding, but for different reasons). As for the other rationale backing the "False" rating, from where we're sitting Jost equaled Moore in giving the impression that the Texas law is binding today. But PolitiFact Texas did not penalize Jost for offering a misleading impression.

We call these rulings inconsistent.

Inconsistency is a bad look for fact checkers.


Update Oct. 23, 2017: We appreciate Tim Graham highlighting this post at Newsbusters.

22 comments:

  1. At first, I thought this was a legitimate argument. Reading it as is, I agree that the PolitiFact decision looks biased. But you left out an important part of their argument. "lawmakers used the word "should" — not "shall" — with regard to their patriotic guidance. The word "should" implies "usually no more than an obligation of propriety," according to the authoritative legal reference Black’s Law Dictionary. In other words, "should" does not create a legally enforceable duty."

    Seems to me that PolitiFact Bias is skewing the perspective, not PolitiFact.

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    1. I have to agree with this assessment. Moore cites a law that is clearly intended to define model behavior, not criminal behavior. The Texas law, on the other hand, was intended to define criminal behavior and is still on the books. I suppose a zealous LEO and/or prosecutor could actually bring someone to trial on that, although it should get kicked out once a judge sees it. I mean, unless it's a judge like Roy Moore, and then he might defy the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence...

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    2. "Unknown" wrote:

      **you left out an important part of their argument. "lawmakers used the word "should" — not "shall" — with regard to their patriotic guidance. The word "should" implies "usually no more than an obligation of propriety," according to the authoritative legal reference Black’s Law Dictionary. In other words, "should" does not create a legally enforceable duty."**

      We're perplexed over your reading of our post. We covered the issue or propriety over legal obligation here:

      ****PolitiFact confirmed the existence of the law Moore referenced, but noted that it merely offered guidance on proper etiquette. It did not provide any punishment for improper etiquette.****

      Isn't that a fair summary in anybody's book?

      And we emphasized that legitimate difference later in our summary:

      ****(neither law is binding, but for different reasons)****

      The big difference between the two that we pointed out was only one article penalizing the speaker for providing a misleading impression. Do you think Jost gave the impression that the law was on the books and enforceable, or not?

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    3. Jake wrote:

      **I have to agree with this assessment.**

      Unfortunately, your argument is no better than the one from "Unknown."

      **Moore cites a law that is clearly intended to define model behavior, not criminal behavior.**

      Right, and we pointed out that it was about etiquette with no penalty spelled out at all. Toothless, as it were.

      **The Texas law, on the other hand, was intended to define criminal behavior and is still on the books.**

      Still on the books but just as unenforceable as the statutory guidance on proper behavior during the national anthem.

      **I suppose a zealous LEO and/or prosecutor could actually bring someone to trial on that, although it should get kicked out once a judge sees it.**

      Right, but the same could be done with the anthem equiquette. A prosecutor could try to apply the anthem guidelines as legal requirements, and would likely receive a good reaming from the presiding judge (assuming it got that far).

      You don't really have an argument.

      http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2013/04/north_carolina_state_religion_bill_does_unconstitutional_legislation_disappear.html

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    4. I don't see how you could be "charged" under the anthem etiquette law, though. I'm no lawyer, but as far as I can tell, all the federal criminal statues fall under title 18, while the anthem guidance is under title 36. It seems like it would make as much sense to try to arrest someone under the statue that defines the national flower.

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  2. Jake wrote:

    **I don't see how you could be "charged" under the anthem etiquette law, though.**

    Allow me to assist your imagination. A duly appointed officer of the law catches you displaying improper etiquette during the anthem. "You're displaying improper etiquette and I'm arresting you." "But on what charge?" Jake cries. "The charge of displaying improper etiquette. You have the right to remain silent ..."

    **I'm no lawyer, but as far as I can tell, all the federal criminal statues fall under title 18, while the anthem guidance is under title 36.**

    Sure. And laws that are found unconstitutional are entirely void regardless of where the occur in the law. But how does logically prevent you from being arrested in either case?

    **It seems like it would make as much sense to try to arrest someone under the statue that defines the national flower.**

    Or based on a law that was found unconstitutional. Or do you really think the latter makes sense?

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    1. AFAIK LEOs could not legitimately arrest you under a non-criminal code. The anthem etiquette law isn't a criminal law.

      The Texas dildo law defines a criminal offense, so a LEO could technically arrest you for it, and a prosecutor could technically charge you, though it would obviously get tossed out of court.

      That being said, I concede the point that these are functionally similar situations. Assuming LEOs and prosecutors act honorably, you should not be arrested or charged for either.

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  3. What's missing in this short debate is the fact that this site is trying to apply the same standard to two different statements by two vastly different authorities. When a former judge says something is 'against the law' it implies the behavior is illegal. When a comedian says 'there's a real law' I don't think you need to spend too much time debating the enforceability of that law.

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    1. See if this strikes you as rational:

      If we need not pay attention to the truth values of what comedian say then either

      1) PolitiFact should use that justification in giving comedians higher ratings to keep people from thinking comedians are more reliable than they are (hey, look the comedian was more accurate than Moore!) or
      2) PolitiFact shouldn't bother rating comedians.

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    2. Bryan: I didn't say we need not pay attention to the truth values of what comedians say, so I won't waste time on that straw man. My point was these are two different statements by two different authorities, therefore one cannot necessarily use the same test on each to determine truthfulness.

      The lead of the article states that each asserted the existence of a law. I was trying to point out that while that's true, Moore further stated, or at least strongly implied, that a behavior WAS 'illegal'. Jost, on the other hand, stated that the law in question SAYS it's illegal to do X.

      Maybe more to the point, when a former judge states/implies that a behavior is illegal it requires a little more legal judgement: does the law in fact criminalize the behavior; is it enforceable? When a comedian points out the existence of a law - implying silliness but not trying to imply that specific people are 'breaking the law' -I think enforceability is a less important question. Overall, I think an impartial observer would conclude that Jost was more truthful than Moore.

      On a final note, you should realize that your commenters are supporting your mission either directly or indirectly. Truthfulness is important especially in politics -- bad facts lead to bad policy. Improving the performance of a fact checker is a laudable goal and I support that. I hope to continue what can be a constructive dialogue. How you interact with your readers and how you weight constructive criticism will determine whether readers walk away thinking 'right on' or 'bless your heart'.

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    3. "Rational Moderate" wrote:

      **I didn't say we need not pay attention to the truth values of what comedians say, so I won't waste time on that straw man.**

      You did, in fact, make a statement implying that comedians by default have low credibility: "When a comedian says 'there's a real law' I don't think you need to spend too much time debating the enforceability of that law." If that's not what you meant then you ought to clarify.

      **My point was these are two different statements by two different authorities, therefore one cannot necessarily use the same test on each to determine truthfulness.**

      That's a vacuous point without some sort of specific justification behind it.

      **Maybe more to the point, when a former judge states/implies that a behavior is illegal it requires a little more legal judgement: does the law in fact criminalize the behavior;**

      Why doesn't that same question apply when a comedian makes the same statement? And why aren't we seeing people arrested all the time for disrespecting the national anthem if it is a criminal act? The anthem is common, no? Perhaps even more common than persons in Texas owning more than four obscene devices.

      **When a comedian points out the existence of a law - implying silliness but not trying to imply that specific people are 'breaking the law' -I think enforceability is a less important question.**

      That's a road leading toward subjectivity of ratings. Is that a good thing?

      **Overall, I think an impartial observer would conclude that Jost was more truthful than Moore.**

      So perhaps you noticed what we did not do here at PolitiFact Bias. We did not say this statement should rate thus-and-such and this other rating should be the same. The point we focused on was the way PolitiFact made the misleading aspect of the statement a central part of the rating in one case and apparently an complete non-factor in the other. Would you say your rationale makes PolitiFact consistent despite our criticism? Is it completely irrelevant to the rating that the comedian may have led people into thinking that the Texas law he mentioned is, in fact, enforceable?

      **On a final note, you should realize that your commenters are supporting your mission either directly or indirectly.**

      We take all criticism seriously and reply to most of it. PolitiFact isn't like that. You should see some of the replies I've received from Sharockman.

      **How you interact with your readers and how you weight constructive criticism will determine whether readers walk away thinking 'right on' or 'bless your heart'.**

      We think in fact-checking, it isn't very important who makes a statement. The important things are the words used along with the context. And when a comedian says "There's a real law saying thus-and-such" and there's no evidence that he's joking about the existence of such a law, it is appropriate for the fact-checker to evaluate the truth of that statement just as it would the same statement coming from a former judge.

      That's how a fact checker best approaches a topic objectively.

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  4. I'll try to make this simple. In a nutshell your original argument is that two fact checks both involved the existence of a law and questions of enforceability. Both laws exist but are unenforceable. Politifact gave them different scores, therefore they are inconsistent and biased.

    In the article you implied the assertions of Moore and Jost are equivalent. Later, in your comments to me you said "why doesn't the same question apply when a comedian makes the same statement?" The problem is that the comedian didn't make the same statement - he made a different statement.

    Jost made a statement about the existence of a law and characterized what was in the law. He did so accurately. It could be argued there was an implication of the current state of legality of the actual behavior which leads us to the enforceability question. The law is not enforced or enforceable therefore he got a mostly true rating. As far as I can tell he got knocked back from True to Mostly True on that point. This seems fine to me.

    Why does it matter that he's a comedian? Context. When a comedian is pointing out the existence of a law that sounds silly one can infer the point isn't legal analysis. In other words if there's an implication on the current enforceability of the law it's probably a weak rather than strong implication. Enforceability is farther from his main point which was the existence of the law.

    On the other hand Moore made a statement on the legality of kneeling then pointed out the law in question to back that up. The question of enforceability (as well the legal language and type of statute) are central to his main point. The fact that he was judge reinforces the implication that he's making a legal judgment as to the current illegality of kneeling not merely pointing out the existence of a law.

    I'm happy enough to put aside the comedian/lawyer part of this discussion if you like. I think it matters but far less than the fact that your dealing with two different statements. Moore was clearly making an assertion on the legality of a certain behavior while Jost was asserting the existence of a law. Enforceability is crucial in the former and tertiary in the latter. In short, there a parallels but not equivalence.

    On a final note, I would never expect to have the term vacuous directed at me in polite discussion. Using that term says my statement is lacking in thought or intelligence which is insulting. I'll assume that was not your intention but this is the sort of thing I was referring to when I mentioned how you interact with your commenters. It's actually ironic in this case since you directed it at a statement that borders on truism yet you provided no basis for refuting that statement.

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    1. Apologies, I misread this from your post initially:
      "So perhaps you noticed what we did not do here at PolitiFact Bias. We did not say this statement should rate thus-and-such and this other rating should be the same. The point we focused on was the way PolitiFact made the misleading aspect of the statement a central part of the rating in one case and apparently an complete non-factor in the other."

      Upon re reading I'll retract the first paragraph of my reply. I think my reply does address your question about the treatment of of the 'misleading' part or what I called the enforceability question. It appears to have been a factor in the Jost analysis (otherwise I think a True rating would have been the outcome). In the Moore case it seems reasonable to be central for the reasons I outlined above.

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    2. Rational Moderate wrote:

      **In the article you implied the assertions of Moore and Jost are equivalent.**

      No. We argued they were parallel, and we emphasized that the laws were unenforceable for different reasons.

      **Later, in your comments to me you said "why doesn't the same question apply when a comedian makes the same statement?" The problem is that the comedian didn't make the same statement - he made a different statement.**

      We used that question not to argue the statements PolitiFact rated were equivalent, but to press our point with you that it doesn't matter who makes the statement. The words and context matter in gauging the truth value. You didn't answer the question, but you repurposed it to suit your argument.

      **The law is not enforced or enforceable therefore he got a mostly true rating. As far as I can tell he got knocked back from True to Mostly True on that point. This seems fine to me.**

      PolitiFact does not say that specifically. It describes a "Mostly True" rating as befitting true statements where context is missing. He could have received a drop in the ruling for specifying "dildos" when the law was actually broader than that. But despite the descriptions, the ratings are subjective.

      **On the other hand Moore made a statement on the legality of kneeling then pointed out the law in question to back that up.**

      Did you read what Moore said in context? The interviewer fished for Moore's views on the anthem protests. Moore said the protests were against the law and asked if the interviewer was aware of that. The interviewer said no, and Moore named the statute. Then Moore described his objection to the protests on the grounds that it disrespect U.S. law. Given that the anthem protocol is, in fact, spelled out in statute, is Moore's view unreasonable? PolitiFact left out that context for some reason.

      **The question of enforceability (as well the legal language and type of statute) are central to his main point.**

      Are they? Is it incoherent for Moore to claim that snubbing a statutory set of manners shows disrespect for the law?

      **The fact that he was judge reinforces the implication that he's making a legal judgment as to the current illegality of kneeling not merely pointing out the existence of a law.**

      Do you truly think it is proper to subordinate the literary context to Moore's history as a judge? If so, we have a basic disagreement. What is it that makes it impossible for a comedian to offer an earnest opinion that a law exists, even in the context of comedy? We say context is the key, not the person.

      **I'm happy enough to put aside the comedian/lawyer part of this discussion if you like**

      I'd much prefer for you to concede the point than drop it. But that's up to you.

      **Moore was clearly making an assertion on the legality of a certain behavior while Jost was asserting the existence of a law.**

      I think both were asserting the existence of a law as well as a question of legality. No law, no question of legality. We don't view those issues as separable.
      We would remind you again that Moore made no point about legal consequences for not observing statutory practice regarding the anthem. He simply said it showed disrespect for the law. He did not suggest arresting the protesters, for example.

      **Enforceability is crucial in the former and tertiary in the latter. In short, there a parallels but not equivalence.**

      "Parallel" was our term in the original post, so we're pleased to see you agree. And we think your judgment of the relative importance of enforceability is hyperbolic at best. But perhaps you weren't aware of the context of Moore's comments.

      **On a final note, I would never expect to have the term vacuous directed at me in polite discussion.**

      **borders on truism**

      Truisms and tautologies are trivial by nature. Vacuous means "containing nothing." So I asked for specifics.

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  5. This thread shows how issues are not always black and white. Reading the two statements side-by-side, they are clearly different. The fallacy is in deeming that the two quotes are "parallel" and then concluding that they must therefore get the same rating. What does "parallel" even mean? I too am interested in the truth and use Politifact as a quick check, then do a more thorough investigation when I need to be more certain of the facts.

    This website is commendable because it provides a discussion about the fact checkers and I appreciate the information that is brought to light. In this particular case, I would agree with Politifact's rating. I am open to evidence that Politifact might have a liberal bias, but this example is not evidence for that assertion.

    In closing, I want to point out an unrelated issue, and that is the premise of your website. If you are truly interested in bias, you should make an honest evaluation on both sides. From the start, your website appears to focus on showing a liberal bias. But, I appreciate your upfront honesty and willingness to entertain criticism.

    Full disclosure: Since I feel truth is important, I have for the first time donated to Politifact this year because I want them to have sources of funding that are not tied to a particular ideology. Though I agree they sometimes make mistakes, I sense that they are sincerely interested in an informed public and generally are on the mark with their assessments.

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    1. Mark G. Kuzyk wrote:

      **The fallacy is in deeming that the two quotes are "parallel" and then concluding that they must therefore get the same rating.**

      The fallacy, Mark, is the straw man fallacy involved in claiming that we argue the statements must get the same rating.

      **I am open to evidence that Politifact might have a liberal bias, but this example is not evidence for that assertion.**

      We are open to evidence offered in support of your conclusion.

      **If you are truly interested in bias, you should make an honest evaluation on both sides.**

      We're not sure what you mean. We do highlight criticism of PolitiFact from the Left when we detect good examples (we choose not to highlight much criticism because we do not think it deserves attention).

      **I sense that they are sincerely interested in an informed public and generally are on the mark with their assessments.**

      We think the people at PolitiFact know that their use of charts and graphs misleads their audience. The fact that they push that type of content despite knowing better convinces us that the people behind PolitiFact are not completely sincere in their pursuit of truth.

      We appreciate you taking the time to comment. Cheers.

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  6. Point 1: I'm not sure that your intention was to say that you made a straw man fallacy. But that's what your response implies since I was referring to your use of "parallel."

    A law is a rule or set of rules that when broken carries a punishment. Moore's statement is false because the statement of the statute does not compel adherence and there is no consequence to breaking it. The Texas law states it is illegal to have 6 or more dildos and it's defined to be a state felony, so true on both counts. Politifact then qualifies the fact that though the Texas dildo law is on the books, it is misleading to say it is a law because it has mostly not been enforced. Therefore, the "mostly true" rating rather than true. This all sounds pretty sound to me.

    Perhaps you have evidence on your site to support the claim that "We think the people at PolitiFact know that their use of charts and graphs misleads their audience," but I have not seen it and don't have much browsing time to dig deeper. Perhaps you could point me to it...

    And thanks for the quick reply.

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    1. Mark G. Kuzyk wrote:

      **I'm not sure that your intention was to say that you made a straw man fallacy. But that's what your response implies since I was referring to your use of "parallel."**

      The straw man fallacy is obviously yours. We used "parallel" properly, identifying similarities between two cases while also highlighting significant differences. The difference do not erase the parallels. But the fallacy is what I said it was the first time: When you concluded we were saying that the ratings must be the same in the two cases, you created a straw man. We never made that argument and didn't imply it. You ought to own up to your error.

      **A law is a rule or set of rules that when broken carries a punishment**

      Or not.

      http://www.dictionary.com/browse/law

      Did you go shopping for a definition that enabled your argument or did you just luck out? What's the source for your definition?

      As your argument depends wholly on the definition you posted (which appears nonstandard), your argument is a non-starter until you support that key premise.

      **Therefore, the "mostly true" rating rather than true.**

      The ratings are subjective, Mark. The definitions are too vague to support any objective application of "Truth-O-Meter" ratings even if PolitiFact tried to do it that way.

      And that's one reason why we don't second-guess the ratings. It's pointless. But PolitiFact produces plenty of inconsistency for us to highlight.

      **Perhaps you have evidence on your site to support the claim that "We think the people at PolitiFact know that their use of charts and graphs misleads their audience," but I have not seen it and don't have much browsing time to dig deeper.**

      We think "we think" pretty reliably indicates opinion, but we're happy to share the evidence backing that opinion. We often use Twitter to needle PolitiFact about its use of charts and graphs. Thus it's nearly impossible for the organization to remain unaware of the criticism. And we barb the needle by using PolitiFact's own admissions about its "Truth-O-Meter." They admit the ratings are subjective. They admit to selection bias. Either factor makes the charts and graphs an unreliable guide to the honesty of a politician. We've suggested PolitiFact include a disclaimer to the effect that the ratings are subjective and do not control for selection bias. A modest request, no? PolitiFact has shown no interest in ensuring its readers are so informed. So draw your own conclusion.

      https://twitter.com/ZebraFactCheck/status/896047327399600128

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    2. Thanks, Bryan, for the clarifications. With regards to the definition of law, I am using the legal one according to https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/law since we are debating the veracity of statements referring to claims about US laws. Note the part that states "In U.S. law, the word law refers to any rule that if broken subjects a party to criminal punishment or civil liability." So I think that my statement caught the spirit of the legal definition, which when applied to the two cases you are comparing shows a clear in-equivalence. I would argue that they deserve different ratings, with the comedian's statement to the right of the politician on the meter.

      Sorry that I misconstrued your comment about parallels. The dictionary definition is:

      a person or thing that is similar or analogous to another.
      "a challenge that has no parallel in peacetime this century"
      synonyms: counterpart, analog, equivalent, likeness, match, twin, duplicate, mirror
      "an exact parallel"

      I would argue that the use of the word "parallel" is too vague and loaded because it gives the impression (at least to me) of equivalence as the synonyms imply. Applying the legal definition makes this point moot; I don't see a parallel between the two given that one meets the definition and the other doesn't.

      I fully agree with you that Politifact should admit that there is always some bias and a sprinkling of opinion. And any system with ratings is from the start suspect. But I have found that when I am feeling intellectually lazy, Politifact is still the best source to get a general sense.

      It's late and I'm tired, so apologies for typos and imprecise arguments...

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    3. **With regards to the definition of law, I am using the legal one according to https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/law since we are debating the veracity of statements referring to claims about US laws. Note the part that states "In U.S. law, the word law refers to any rule that if broken subjects a party to criminal punishment or civil liability."**

      Does that source carry any particular weight compared to other legal dictionaries? Because I've found no less than five others giving a definitions for "law" that do not match the spirit of the one you managed to find.

      It does not serve your argument well that the definition you chose to follow has so little sourcing behind it. This point remains the linchpin of your argument. Why should we use this rare definition rather than the ones offered in other legal dictionaries?

      **I would argue that they deserve different ratings, with the comedian's statement to the right of the politician on the meter.**

      As we noted earlier, PolitiFact's rating system itself is defined vaguely. It is ultimately subjective. If you want to subjectively rate the two statements with Moore's to the false side of Yost's you can certainly do that. But you can accomplish that without rating one "False" and the other "Mostly True."

      **Sorry that I misconstrued your comment about parallels. The dictionary definition is:

      a person or thing that is similar or analogous to another.**

      Mark, you're making an error that PolitiFact often makes. When interpreting a comment, it is proper to use the definition that makes the best sense of what the other person is saying. Personal impressions count for nothing. Interpreting done well involves looking for meanings one may not have known about to put the best face on what was said. Many words have "vague" definitions in that they have multiple meanings and various nuances. In those cases we allow context to guide us. In the case of our post, we described both the similarities and differences with care. There's simply no good reason to try to make the word "parallel" to mean "perfect parallel." The context could never support that interpretation.

      **Politifact is still the best source to get a general sense.**

      Fact Check dot Org is much better than PolitiFact, though both lean to the left. Fact Check holds itself to a higher standard of research and eschews cheesy meters.

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    4. This thread shows how even the most trivial topics such as this one are not black and white. I'll focus on just one issue.

      You state:

      "Does that source carry any particular weight compared to other legal dictionaries? Because I've found no less than five others giving a definitions for "law" that do not match the spirit of the one you managed to find."

      Would your please post a link here to those five references? I cannot find one other legal dictionary online aside form the Free Dictionary's legal dictionary (which I quoted) and others that seem to be watered down versions of this one.

      This Free Dictionary site also publishes medical and financial dictionaries in addition to the one on law. It also publishes a general dictionary, which draws from a variety of specialties.

      In the medical dictionary, law is defined as "a uniform or constant fact or principle." Clearly, this definition is chosen because it's the one used in medicine. I won't go through all the sections, but each one focuses on the definition suited to that specialty.

      The definition I used in my very first response to you was the definition that came to mind when I thought of the law. Bryan, when you called me on it, I searched for "legal definition of 'law'" and the legal dictionary came up. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to find other legal dictionaries, and the weakest form of the definition I could find came from Findlaw.com, which has as the first definition "a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority." Since the two comments being compared, "real law in Texas" and "against the law", it's hard to argue that they are not both referring to the legal definition. In the most generous analysis, Moore was being figurative, but when on it's face value, it is not illegal to kneel. Jost was correct that a law exists on the books.

      True, there are subtleties and nuances of word definitions, but when you analyze the analyzer, there is even more room to bend the argument to your own bias. The more qualifications you add, the easier it is to match your conclusion.

      Using the legal definition of law and illegal, it's not difficult to conclude that in the literal and "in the spirit" interpretation of each statement, Moore's comment is false and Jost's is true. I hope that in this we agree.

      Politifact might have been totally off base in how they reached their conclusion, and there are undoubtedly many nuances that need to be accounted for, so I won't argue against your conclusion that Politifact is left leaning -- it would be an endless rabit hole.

      I could go on to analyze your analysis of Politifact, but that level of abstraction would be fruitless.

      I do like Fact Check and they are lest gimmicky than Politifact.

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  7. **Would your please post a link here to those five references?**

    https://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=1111
    http://dictionary.findlaw.com/definition/law.html
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/law#legalDictionary
    http://thelawdictionary.org/letter/l/page/13/
    http://www.yourdictionary.com/law#law
    https://www.nolo.com/dictionary/law-term.html

    **it's hard to argue that they are not both referring to the legal definition. In the most generous analysis, Moore was being figurative, but when on it's face value, it is not illegal to kneel. Jost was correct that a law exists on the books.**

    Here we agree, though Moore said "against the law" and not "illegal." Sometimes a well-meaning paraphrase or summary can alter what the original statement was intended to convey.

    **True, there are subtleties and nuances of word definitions, but when you analyze the analyzer, there is even more room to bend the argument to your own bias.**

    I work from the premise that every speaker/writer deserves charitable interpretation (that among the plausible interpretations choose the one that makes the best sense of the statement). It seems to me that journalists in the mainstream fact-checking business don't waste much time on the concept. They're more likely to play toward public narrative.

    **The more qualifications you add, the easier it is to match your conclusion**

    Of course the object is to evaluate the most charitable interpretation before reaching the conclusion. Attractive narratives (among other things) may interfere with that process.

    **Using the legal definition of law and illegal, it's not difficult to conclude that in the literal and "in the spirit" interpretation of each statement, Moore's comment is false and Jost's is true. I hope that in this we agree.**

    I suppose you could do that, but Moore didn't say "illegal," so its connotative attachment to criminal law tends to contaminate the argument. Stick with "against the law" and that connotation (by the dictionary) tends to disappear.

    **Politifact might have been totally off base in how they reached their conclusion ...**

    I often find people defending PolitiFact's ratings using arguments that appear nowhere in the corresponding fact check. It makes me wonder if it's coming from the same people who say they ignore the ratings and simply look at the print evaluation.

    **I could go on to analyze your analysis of Politifact, but that level of abstraction would be fruitless.**

    ?
    We truly love to see our work challenged where a good basis exists for doing so. I think I can say without bragging that we are a bit more philosophically sophisticated than the fact-checking journalists we criticize.

    If you know in advance your critique of our analysis finds no significant error then we thank you for not wasting our time. Otherwise we'd love to hear it and we will provide a substantive response.

    Cheers.

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