Tuesday, December 13, 2016

We called it: PolitiFact's 2016 "Lie of the Year" is Fake News

Back on Dec. 5, 2016, we at PolitiFact Bias reviewed PolitiFact's candidates for "Lie of the Year" and agreed that PolitiFact would choose "Fake News" as its winner:
This surprise nominee has everything going for it. Fake news is fake by definition, so who can criticize the choice? It's total journalistic hotness, as noted. And the choice represents a call to action, opposing fake news, in symphony with a call that is already reverberating in fact-checking circles.

Is it a lame choice? Yes, it's as lame as all get out. I'd doubt journalists even have a clue about the impact of fake news, not to even mention the role fact checkers play in supporting false news memes that liberals favor.
The article PolitiFact published to announce its choice, written by editor Angie Drobnic Holan, jibes right on down the line with the reasons Jeff and I thought it was an idiotic-yet-predictable choice.

"Fake News" is so broad, we thought, that it would end up as PolitiFact's self-justification for its own existence.

We also pointed out that the choice shields PolitiFact from criticism. On the one hand, Fake News gives PolitiFact an excuse not to pick a good candidate, such as Hillary Clinton's aggressive and false defense of her email activity--one with a fairly inevitable impact on Clinton's election prospects--that would risk offending its primarily liberal audience. On the other hand, Fake News is so vague that it offers no target for criticism.

Holan even took the predictable path of tying Fake News to the election results without any real data to back her argument:
Fake news found a willing enabler in Trump, who at times uttered outrageous falsehoods and legitimized made-up reports. Clinton emboldened her detractors and turned off undecideds with a lawyerly parsing of facts that left many feeling that she was lying. Her enemies ran wild.
Got the subtext? Fake News was a big key to Trump's victory.

Another subtext throughout Holan's article presents fact-checking (the mainstream media brand, with PolitiFact as its star player) as the antidote to the society-destroying effects of Fake News.


Even before PolitiFact announced its Lie of the Year for 2016, we planned to dip our toe into Fake News outrage by compiling a list of PolitiFact's top fake news stories for 2016. That is, we will show people how PolitiFact's articles sometimes reinforce and spread false beliefs.

We expect to publish the list next week.


  1. Don't forget about this gem:

    "As for Trump, who took Lie of the Year honors in 2015 for his body of work, there were many possibilities. Since the Tampa Bay Times started PolitiFact in 2007, no other major politician has a worse record for accuracy, with more than 70 percent of his claims rated Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire."

    Good ol' HypocritiFact

    1. PolitiFact's bogus use of its own subjective Truth-O-Meter ratings certainly counts as a form of fake news, and we will not miss the opportunity to point that out again.

      And you've picked out a terrific example of that unscientific use of statistics.

    2. "ConnecticutHeartthrob wrote:

      **Fake news is not subjective; it is objectively incorrect.**

      Fake news could accidentally prove correct. We're calling PolitiFact's graphs and charts "Fake News" because the people at PolitiFact *know* the graphs and charts do not represent a scientific approach to candidate honesty yet present them with exactly that frame more often than not. That's dishonest, right?

      **I agree that Politifact does use subjective ratings but the fact that it is subjective does not make the information they publish false. It merely makes it non-objective.**

      Where's PolitiFact's disclaimer declaring its charts and ratings subjective? If it's not there, then it's deceptive. So it's not "merely non-objective," it's deceptive.

  2. **Fake news cannot actually be correct. The falsity of it is what makes it fake.**

    It is actually the *intent* to create a false news story in the guise of a real news story that makes up "Fake News." But a news story intended as fake might accidentally prove true. Sorry if I'm repeating myself.

    **There is no such thing as objective journalism since it contains editing, which is inherently subjective.**

    Philosophically speaking, you're a bit of a mess.

    If you abandon objectivity, then there's no non-subjective notion of truth. There's just opinion. What is a "fact-checker" if truth is subjective? Everybody's a fact-checker, and nobody is more correct than anybody else. That's absurd, right?

    Objectivity is the mooring place of truth.


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