20 August 2005

Factcheck squared redux

Close readers of my blog may recall that I dissed FactCheck.org for dropping the ball about Social Security. The Decemberist lays a mighty smackdown on them, if you're interested.
Is factcheck.org politically biased? I don't know, but my guess would be that it's not. The problem is that they get played, and I think the GOP has been more aggressive about playing them. If you set yourself up as the last word on the truth or falsehood of ads, you will immediately be the addresse of a lot of spin. Factcheck obviously wants to respond quickly, and they want to respond with clear assertions of truth or falsehood, unlike many of the newspaper "ad watch" projects which are so mealy-mouthed that a reader winds up more confused after reading it than before. But trying to fulfill those two goals, its far too easy to read the first spin that comes in on the fax, conclude that it sounds persuasive, and run with it.

Newspapers make errors, blogs make errors, political ads stretch the truth and make errors. But to have the credibility to be the ultimate arbiter of truth in political discourse, factcheck.org has to be impeccable. They have to limit their assertions to things that can be said with certainty and they need to at the very least correct their errors immediately. Factcheck.org has forfeited the opportunity to play that role.

It breaks my heart, a bit: the site was a good idea.

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