Sunday, June 1, 2014

PolitiFact's layers of inaccuracy

Do mainstream media outlets ever tire of their self-serving mantra that their layers of editors give them an insurmountable edge over mere bloggers?

Puny bloggers!  Mainstream Media will SMASH!

The problem?  The mainstream media have trouble with serious self-criticism.  We'll get our example, of course, from PolitiFact's PunditFact.

On May 28, 2014, PunditFact fact-checked tea party icon Sarah Palin's claim that the federal government spent money on a plan to deal with a zombie apocalypse.  PunditFact found only a Centers for Disease Control public relations campaign that used mention of zombies to help communicate the need for disaster preparedness.  That wasn't a plan, PunditFact ruled, so Palin received a "False" rating.

However, PunditFact soon heard from people pointing out the Department of Homeland Security used a campaign similar to the CDC's.  And, more importantly, the Pentagon kept a zombie apocalypse response plan in its computer database for use in training operations.  Not for real zombies, necessarily, but just to make preparedness drills more interesting and (hopefully) facilitate effective training.  So there was a plan after all, and the government apparently spent money on it.  So PolitiFact immediately revised its rating to "Half True."  And PolitiFact stuck with its rating of "False" since the "plan" wasn't really a plan.

The fact check was an epic fail, in other words.  But PolitiFact's layers of editors and fact checkers will make sure that its misinformation spreads as much as possible.   PolitiFact Oregon writer Dana Tims does his part for Oregon Live the day after PolitiFact's update to its story:
PunditFact's check, not surprisingly, found that the government has no contingency plan to cope with an invasion of the Undead. While the Centers for Disease Control did play off the zombie apocalypse craze in 2011 "as a way to pass along real information about preparing for emergencies that don't involve zombies. They wrote up a tongue-in-cheek blog post, which successfully generated plenty of attention." Palin, for her post touching on Undeath Panels, walked away with a False rating.
 Not surprisingly, eh?  Almost sounds like a bias against Palin's claim.

Either Tims wasn't aware of the fact check's afternoon update admitting the existence of a plan to cope with a zombie apocalypse, or else he just isn't good at reporting the facts.  Either way, Tims shows us the way faux checkers of facts manufacture false legends and refuse to let facts get in the way of attacking a favorite target.

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