Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Politifact continues to rate as "barely tolerable"

The "Politifact" experiment at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been panned on almost a regular basis since it began. Most of the time their critiques are so random and arbitrary and the focus is so misplaced or at best scattered. The classic example of this that still stands out to me is when they didn't dispute a single FACT in a Tom Barrett ad last year, but they didn't like the presentation of the graphics in the ad. So even though the claims in the ad were completely factual, they rated it a "pants on fire".

The other extreme is when they test a statement that isn't even in dispute as if they are just itching to give the person a "true" rating. We all know that the sky is blue and that is obviously not in dispute, so why waste our time?

As if people weren't getting annoyed enough with the arbitrary and random ratings of "Politifact" before now, the outfit has randomly changed its rating system. Somehow I'm not surprised. I noticed today that some things that were declared "barely true" a day ago have now suddenly become "mostly false". How is that even logically possible? What changed besides their whims?

One recent item that randomly changed from "barely true" to "mostly false" is the fact that Randy Hopper paid net state income taxes only once over a 9 or 10 year stretch. Sorry folks but that is a fact that not even he disputed in the news report cited in the ad [Fond du Lac Reporter, 10/24/08]. He obviously disagreed with the conclusion that was made based on that fact but he didn't dispute the fact itself. In fact it doesn't even seem that "Politifact" disputes these facts as it includes some of the following in its very subjective rating:

"...from 1998 through 2007, Hopper’s five businesses had no state income tax liability; and that from 1997 through 2007, Hopper personally had a liability in just one year..."

"Hopper, who didn’t dispute the facts in the 2008 newspaper article..."

"The records indicate that over a decade, Hopper’s businesses had no state income tax liability and he owed taxes personally in only one year."

So what gives? Where is the falsehood in saying that he didn't pay those taxes if he didn't and if both Hopper and "Politifact" know that he didn't? As has become typical, they appear to be upset not at the literal facts but at what they personally perceive to be the impression left by the ad. In fact they say as much in their conclusion. So the basic and literal facts of the ad are correct and no one disputes them, but "Politifact" doesn't like the "impression" that they imagine is left behind, so that makes the entire ad "barely true"...or excuse me..."mostly false".

OK I think I've got it now...and I rate this "Politifact" experiment as "barely tolerable".

1 comment:

jimspice said...

I made this very point on Politifact WI's Facebook page.