Sunday, December 20, 2015

Attack of the offsite critics!

Unlike PolitiFact, PolitiFact Bias regularly engages its critics.

We gained an opportunity recently to have some back-and-forth with some off-site critics. We ran across some traffic to our site coming from a message board. Somebody had linked to this site, and the link had drawn dismissive responses. But the responses were quite vague about the reasons behind their dismissiveness. So I joined the forum to see if I could uncover those reasons.

The first two detailed reasons were based on misunderstandings. One critic thought we were saying that Republicans and Democrats lie equally. We don't say that because we have no idea. Finding out would take a detailed and complex study. We're not aware of any serious attempt at such a thing (we're aware of one unserious attempt).

Another critic thought we were saying Democrats and Republicans lie proportionately to each other. Again, that's not what we say. Finding out the proportions of Democrat and Republican lies would take a detailed study. We don't pretend to have done anything of the kind.

These misunderstandings stem from our attempts to describe what results PolitiFact's ratings ought to give if PolitiFact used the types of editorial discretion it describes, but did so with ideological blindness. PolitiFact's collection of ratings would still suffer from selection bias, so the ratings would not support generalizations about the proportions of lies for either of the two political parties. But the selections would have a "shape" of sorts, and we say that shape should be about proportional for both parties regardless of whether one states more untruths than the other.

What did we learn from engaging our critics on this occasion? We found no legitimate criticism, but found good reason to improve our description of a minor point we make at the site.

Correction Dec. 21, 2015: Fixed some minor typos and added a comma.

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