As 2020 winds down, there’s plenty of “Orwellian” distinctions to be made, but is there any more so than the idea of “fact-checkers?”
Near as I can tell, fact-checking was invented by the media to address their bias-by-omission approach to news reporting. The greatest source of news bias has always been what they left out, not what they reported.
When they did report something that was true, but went against their narrative, they didn’t really have a way to rationalize it. Enter fact-checking.
Humans have always been remarkably creative problem-solvers. It’s why freedom always leads to the best problem-solving and innovation. The invention of fact-checking is just another example.
Fact-checkers are heralded as omniscient, impartial beings from on high who descend down to declare who, or what, is true, and who, or what, is false. As a result, they also determine who, or what, is right, and who, or what, if wrong.
With the introduction of fact-checkers, the media got a great three-fer. They could now share news or footage that goes against the narrative and then have a fact-checker appear and explain why they are wrong. It also creates the illusion that something that is opinion is “fact,” because a “fact-checker” said so.
Most importantly, the implied message is that they did the research and verification for you, so you’ve no need to do your own research or look into anything more deeply yourself.
In reality, when you read fact-checkers, you’re just reading the words of people with more of an agenda than the politicians and news stories they’re fact-checking. But the title of “fact-checker,” which comes with it some imaginary status of being unbiased, allows them to act like a referee and make the final call on things people say or do. And like referees, they often get the call wrong.
The most egregious examples of bad fact-checking come, of course, when they fact-check an opinion. Back in January of 2019, I remember Donald Trump said there was a crisis at our Southern border, and one of the networks fact-checked that claim as false.
Imagine I declared this the most important site on the internet for those seeking to understand what conservatives think and some fact-checker reviewed the claim and determined, “no, it’s not.”
It’s all a matter of opinion. And much of what politicians are a confluence of fact, opinion, exaggeration, and aspiration, making nearly all of it impossible to fact-check.
The antidote to fact-checking is a renewed emphasis on free speech. The more people are encouraged to proudly and confidently proclaim what they think, what they’re seeing, and what they’re experiencing, the more information we’ll have, as a public, to determine the nuances of what our public leaders are saying and doing.
Facts are easy to check when we’re looking at a wall and determining whether or not it exists. But when you fact check a statement or claim made by a politician, there’s almost always just as much a degree of truth as there is a degree of false. Humans are dynamic, as are the laws and regulations we make to govern them. When politicians are trying to speak in a news-friendly sound bite, it’s rarely going to be 100% right or wrong.
Fact-checkers are just serving to further damage the state of the news industry in this country by trying to create people who are even more reliable than the news organizations themselves. It also changes the mission from reporting the news to judging those who make it.
This is how our fact-checkers have transformed our news organizations to thought police. Our corporate media have been reading from the same script for years, but with the advent of fact-checkers, they’ve moved squarely into thought police.
They don’t just tell us what is happening, but what we’re to think about it. Our media now serves to tell us what we’re to think about everything. The idea of “we report, you decide” is long gone. With the help of fact-checkers, the state of our news media is now “we tell you what you think, and you think it… or else.”