Monday, April 6, 2015

Tweezers: PolitiFact and the Indiana boycott

Sometimes PolitiFact focuses on one part of a statement. Sometimes PolitiFact spreads its focus to cover the whole of a statement. We use the "Tweezers or Tongs" tag for posts where we draw a contrast involving PolitiFact's choice of focus.

On April 2, 2015, PolitiFact published a story looking at a statement from Red State's Erick Erickson. Erickson wrote about Indiana's version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the willingness of some on the left to punish Indiana economically for passing the legislation.

PolitiFact lays out the basics, we provide the bold emphasis:
In a column for conservative grassroots site, editor-in-chief Erick Erickson criticized business owners and people on the left who say the law will allow anyone to cite religious belief in refusing to serve gays and lesbians. Erickson’s opening sentence hones in on Apple chief executive Tim Cook for what he sees as hypocritical business practices.

"To recap: Tim Cook (please, please click this link) and the left are happy to do business in countries that stone to death or otherwise jail gay people, but will not do business with Indiana," Erickson wrote, "which merely passed a law insisting that the ‘free exercise’ clause of the first amendment be on the same legal footing in courts as the ‘free speech’ clause of the first amendment."
Obviously Erickson wasn't talking only about Apple CEO Tim Cook. He mentioned "the left." And Erickson has a point that some on the left took action to cut back business dealings with Indiana:
Companies, celebrities and even local and state governments have come out in opposition to Indiana's controversial "religious freedom" bill. Several have even cancelled plans to do business in the state, citing the potential for discrimination against gays and lesbians.
PolitiFact's story contains mention of only one boycott: the one PolitiFact says Erickson said was coming from Apple. Tweezers.

PolitiFact claimed Erickson was making the point that Cook was acting hypocritically by boycotting Indiana while continuing to do business with nations like Iran. But if that was really Erickson's point then why did he dedicate only one line in his entire column to that point? Tweezers.

Erickson was making a broader point about the reaction by some on the left. He accurately characterized reaction of some on the left in threatening Indiana with economic sanctions. And in the process he made it sound like Apple had committed to a concrete set of such sanctions against Indiana. That's where PolitiFact's tweezers came in, for Cook had simply written a column criticizing Indiana's RFRA law.

But here's the hole in PolitiFact's fact check: Did Apple have any sponsored events occurring in Indiana that it might have cancelled, like some other companies had done? If not, is it safe to assume Apple would not have joined some other companies in canceling such events?

The Apple convention "MacWorld/iWorld" took place in the middle of March earlier this year. In San Francisco. A lost opportunity to teach Indiana a lesson?

What did PolitiFact do wrong, if anything?

As we pointed out, if Erickson was making a point about a real Apple boycott of Indiana, he had plenty of opportunity to mention Apple specifically. But he did not. He lumped Cook in with the boycott, which was somewhat misleading, but Erickson was setting the stage for a general criticism of the left's intolerance to resistance of its mainstreaming of homosexuality. And Cook's a fair example to match with the point of Erickson's column. PolitiFact missed the point of the column and the reference to Cook, using its tweezers to ding Erickson while not even acknowledging the reality of the boycott threatened by companies aside from Apple.


Impartial tweezers?

Nah. PolitiFact's trick is to often treat parallel statements from liberals or Democrats with tongs. Sure, part of the statement is false, but part of it is true! So, "Half True" or something!


The Erickson response: Erickson defended his column by saying sometimes a tweet is just a tweet. PolitiFact gleefully made light of that excuse, noting that Erickson's column was not a tweet. Note to Erickson: What PolitiFact did was ridiculous, but you need to do better than that.

Correction: Struck "Florida" from the title, as PolitiFact National was responsible for the Red State fact check, not PolitiFact Florida.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks to commenters who refuse to honor various requests from the blog administrators, all comments are now moderated. Pseudonymous commenters who do not choose distinctive pseudonyms will not be published, period. No "Anonymous." No "Unknown." Etc.