Monday, October 9, 2017

PolitiFact does racial profiling (Updated)

On Oct. 6, 2017 PolitiFact confirmed Newsweek's report that white men commit the majority of mass shootings (bold emphasis added):
As details about the Las Vegas shooter’s identity emerged, media outlets noted some of the characteristics fit neatly within a familiar profile of prior mass shooting perpetrators.

Newsweek, for instance, ran a story with the headline, "White men have committed more mass shootings than any other group." The article builds on this claim, stating that 54 percent of mass shootings carried out since 1982 were done so by white males.
The "Mostly True" rating awarded to this claim counts as extremely dunderheaded. PolitiFact even explains why in the text of the fact check, but skips its common practice of rating "meaningless statistics" harshly on the "Truth-O-Meter" even when reported accurately.

That, for example, is why Donald Trump received a "Half True" rating for correctly stating that the Hispanic poverty rate went up under the Obama administration. PolitiFact said the statistic meant little because the Hispanic poverty rate went down during the same span.

In this case also, the rate counts as the key statistic. But PolitiFact's numbers showed that whites were no more than proportionally represented in the statistics (bold emphasis added):
Newsweek's claim is literally accurate. But it's worth noting the imprecision of this data, and the percentage of mass shootings by white men is lower than their share of the male population, according to Mother Jones.
Newsweek, for its part, allows a liberal expert to expound on the racial resentment factors that might explain the white male penchant for shooting up the town. And Newsweek follows that with the admission that maybe the sheer abundance of white people might help explain the data (bold emphasis added):
The high number of white men committing mass shootings is also explained, at least in part, by the fact white people make up a majority of the U.S. population (63 percent) and men are more likely to commit violent crime in general: In the U.S., 98 percent of mass shootings and 90 percent of all murders are committed by men.
Newsflash: There's no need to look for special explanations for the high number of whites committing mass shootings unless they are committing more than their share. And they aren't, according to the numbers PolitiFact used.

How did a statement just as flawed as Trump's garner a "Mostly True" rating?

That one's not hard. We know the ratings are substantially (if not entirely) subjective and that PolitiFact staffers are like everybody else: They're biased.  And their bias trends left.

But this fact check we found particularly egregious because it helps inflame racial conflict, albeit illogically. And we find it hard to imagine that the folks at PolitiFact did not realize, before publishing, that the fact check would feed that illogical thinking.

Here's a smattering of commentary from the comments at PolitiFact's Facebook page. We won't offer up the names because our purpose is to shame PolitiFact, not the people PolitiFact helped mislead.
"Because they listen to news media outlets that tell them they will be minorities in 20 years and that immigrants are taking away their jobs and women are threatening to take away their masculinity through economic means via education and most of them are stupid enough to believe it."
"White males, directly or indirectly, are responsible for far more than we realize!! We need to own what we've done and are currently doing!!"
"When you factor in the native genocide attacks and racially driven attacks, of course. Leave those out and they still are."
"I'm white so I'm not proud of it and I'd rather not admit it, but yes, probably. We probably lead in serial killers too."
"Add in serial killers and it gets worse."
"It shows 54% of mass shooting are done by whites, that there is a great chance of possibility that the next one can follow the same pattern."
"The point is that people like to pass laws based on statistics. For instance, there is, in effect, a Muslim ban and that was based on the assumption that it would make America safer because, supposedly and erroneously, Arab Muslims are a danger. Facts like the ones posted here negate that logic and show the racist intentions and biases behind actions like the travel ban."
"testosterone.....white priviledge [sic].....dangerous outcome?"
"Yes. And most of them are the ones with all of the guns... The REPUBLICANS."
"The real terrorist threat to the U.S.: extreme right wing white males."
Thanks, PolitiFact, for helping to bring us the truth in politics. Or something.


Update Oct. 9, 2017: PolitiFact reposted its fact check to Facebook. We'll take the opportunity to supplement our selection of comments from people buying into the deception.


"it seems white men are more motivated to commit mass shootings the [sic] people of color so there you have it."
"The focus is the right-wing NRA narrative that implies either minorities or radical Islamic terrorists are the biggest threat to safety rather than angry/crazy white guys with guns."
"well thankfully if the trend continues [white majority shrinking?--ed.] that won't be the case and we can stop sending worthless thoughts and prayers all the time."
"the facts say that even after you adjust for the per capita rates white males still do far more then their fair share of the mass shootings. The "Mostly True" rating is only because there's some debate over what really qualifies as a mass shooting for statistical purposes. RTFA."
"Ban white men."

Maybe PolitiFact will post the article again soon so we can update with even more comments.


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