Media Fact-Checkers Will Be the Death of Us
Fact-checking has become a hot trend in the political world. The success of PolitiFact has inspired every newspaper and television news program to open up their own fact-checking departments, each of them using gimmicks to differentiate themselves. But while one site may award “Pinocchios” and another “Pants on Fire” ratings, there is one thing they can all agree on: Democrats hardly ever tell a lie.
Over the last few years, the liberal media has decided it no longer needs to hide behind even the thinnest veneer of objectivity. The line between punditry and reporting no longer exists. And because the history books will likely reflect mainstream media narratives, only those of us who lived through the Obama years will remember how tenderly and lovingly he was treated by the press. If you count only NBC, CBS, ABC, and the top two or three national newspapers, it’s fair to say that Barack Obama was the least-criticized president in modern memory. When you compare his tenure to Bush’s, the difference in coverage is staggering. And it damn sure isn’t because Obama was that much better.
Unfortunately for them, the American public is starting to catch on. The illusion has started breaking down. People are beginning to see that the mainstream media is just as liberal as conservative critics always said it was. If there was anyone still unconvinced by the time the Black Lives Matter hysteria reached its peak, the Donald Trump saga put the doubts to rest.
Fact-checking is the media’s way of recovering some of that disappearing trust. It’s a nice trick, too. When done well, it works the way all great propaganda works: It makes you forget that it’s propaganda.
Oh, but it is.
Just before the first Clinton/Trump debate, several major newspapers and websites decided to do “independent” roundups of all of Trump’s lies. By remarkable coincidence, they all came to this decision after the Clinton campaign published a long list of “Trump lies” on their official website. After eight years of using Obama administration press releases as a substitute for investigative reporting, our nation’s political journalists are fully comfortable taking their marching orders from the Democratic Party.
But it works! And here’s why.
With fact-checking, you get to decide which facts to check. Donald Trump can tell one lie and ten truths, but if the Washington Post only “checks” the lie, that’s the story readers get. And the reverse is true when it comes to Hillary Clinton. This is the way liberal bias used to work all the time, and that’s why it was so powerful. In fact-checking, these journalists have returned to their greatest strength: Crafting a narrative through systematic inclusion and omission.
The popularity of these features may help prolong the viability of the mainstream media titans (temporarily), but it will come at a steep cost for our democracy.