No Minister

More fun with “Fact Checkers”

with 4 comments

I’ve written about this propaganda before (Layers and layers of fact checkers), highlighting how someone like Andrew Sullivan could compile a list of major lies and/or mis-reporting of facts by the MSM…

But when the sources of news keep getting things wrong, and all the errors lie in the exact same direction, and they are reluctant to acknowledge error, we have a problem. If you look back at the last few years, the record of errors, small and large, about major stories, is hard to deny. It’s as if the more Donald Trump accused the MSM of being “fake news” the more assiduously they tried to prove him right.

… while continuing to believe the MSM on other issues.

But here’s a link to a more recent article in The Tablet, that goes into greater depth about who some of these “fact checkers” are as it explores the case of Instagram placing a warning label on an American human rights lawyer’s post that blamed rising inflation in the United States on “corporate greed.” Now that’s an argument that I think is bullshit, but it should be engaged and debated, not vanished:

The first of the modern fact-checking sites, Snopes, was started in 1994 as an early online community organized around urban myths. followed in 2003, and PolitiFact—now operated by the Poynter Institute—was established in 2007.

The IFCN was launched in 2015 as a division of the Poynter Institute, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based media nonprofit that calls itself a “global leader in journalism” and has become a central hub in the sprawling counter-disinformation complex. Poynter’s funding comes from the triumvirate that undergirds the U.S. nonprofit sector: Silicon Valley tech companies, philanthropic organizations with political agendas, and the U.S. government. The nonprofit sector, as it’s euphemistically called, is an immense, labyrinthine engine of ideological and financial activism that was valued at almost $4 trillion in 2019, the overwhelming majority of which is dedicated to “progressive” causes. The IFCN’s initial funding came from the U.S. State Department-backed National Endowment for Democracy, the Omidyar Network, Google, Facebook, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

At first, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook/Instagram, resisted the idea that a lack of social media policing had been one of the main factors in Trump’s 2016 election win, saying that it was “a pretty crazy idea” and that it was “extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome.”

But under pressure from leading Democrats including Hillary Clinton, a coordinated push from the party’s halo of nonprofits, and a coup from his own employees, who include some of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors, Zuckerberg buckled.

On Nov. 17, 2016, a new organization called the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) published an open letter to the beleaguered Facebook CEO. “We would be glad to engage with you about how your editors could spot and debunk fake claims,” the IFCN generously offered on behalf of the letter’s signatories, a group of 20 nominally independent fact-checking organizations grouped under its network. The following month, Facebook announced that the IFCN would be its main partner in a new fact-checking initiative

Zuckerberg might be one of the richest men on the planet but even such wealth can bend to the will of the state, despite all the claims by the Far Left:

It became a necessary feature of the new journalistic industrial complex in order to inoculate large tech platforms from government regulatory pressure and the threat of “private” lawsuits from the NGO sector. In other words, it was a concession by tech companies to the not-so-subtle threat that if they didn’t start censoring themselves, they might get their windows—or their monopolies—broken by the state.

Fact-checking was actually an ordinary, expected but fundamental part of the old MSM (at least the decent ones) – an internal auditing process of reporting – from the mid-20th century as they supposedly tried for “objective, fair and balanced” reporting compared to their partisan forebears of the 18th and 19th centuries. There was always a certain amount of bullshit attached to this image, as the histories of the likes of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather would later attest, but the Internet trashed the MSM in multiple ways, most of all in revenue:

Between 1990 and 2017, daily and weekly newspapers lost more than a quarter of a million jobs, over half of their workforce. The decline accelerated during the pandemic with at least 6,154 media workers laid off from the beginning of March 2020 through August 2021 and 128 news organizations shut down during the same period. 

Which also meant that the costly process of internal “fact-checking” increasingly got binned. Into this breach stepped the same reporters who had once been “trusted”:

As journalism collapses, it opens up a space for successor practices grouped under the banner of countering disinformation. In 2014, there were 44 fact-checking organizations in the United States, according to the Duke University Reporters’ Lab census. As of the June 2021 census, there were 341 “active fact-checking projects,” 51 more than in the previous year.

The sickest joke about this is that it relies on trust built up in the past for a completely different world, even if that trust was misplaced:

Fact-checking trades on readers’ respect for older journalistic values like objectivity without acknowledging the role of the prestige media in deliberately undermining those values by implicating them in the continuance of racism, sexism, and other toxic bigotries. 

Hence you get old people in NZ still switching on “the telly” at 6pm to watch OneNews, or perhaps that exciting newcomer, ThreeNews, or perhaps Radio NZ, imagining that somehow the reporters and anchors are still in the mould of Philip Sherry or Dougal Stevenson. They’re not; they’re Left-Wing operatives with bylines, sometimes outright Labour or Green operatives with bylines.

The article goes into some detail on how these fabulous “new” fact checkers have operated in the Age of Trump, or on Chinese Lung Rot (the lab-leak “conspiracy theory” to the fore) or the Hunter Biden laptop saga. Needless to say they all bent the same way (“and all the errors lie in the exact same direction“), just like their MSM partners.

The result is a familiar yet peculiar double game: If an article points out that a network of bureaucratic and educational activists are inculcating the notion that math is racist, that claim is right-wing hysteria. But when a journalist determines that crack pipes are innocuous, that is fact-checking.

You can read the gruesome details behind those stories at the link: the one about the British Medical Journal getting pasted by Lead Stories, one of Facebook’s IFCN fact checking network, is particularly nasty. Their appeals were dismissed and although the article doesn’t mention it BMJ finally launched a specific article as a counter-attack that tore apart the non-medical morons at Lead Stories, forcing them to finally backtrack. As an example of the sleazy way these people work:

In its “fact-check,” Lead Stories draws attention to the fact that Jackson’s Twitter account “agreed with anti-vaccine activist and COVID misinformation-spreader Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s criticism of Sesame Street‘s storyline in which Big Bird encourages kids to get a COVID-19 vaccine.” That’s just the kind of ad hominem, hard to follow, logic-chopping argument that would get laughed out of the room at a high school debate camp but has become the final word on real matters of public health.

Actually I don’t think it would get laughed out of a high school debate camp nowadays: that type of argument is standard now from Social Media to the MSM to politics.

But I appreciated one story in particular from the Tablet article because even though it was a minor piece of nastiness the outcome is telling. Talia Lavin, a fact-checker at the famous New Yorker magazine, was so stupid and ignorant that she mistook a disabled Marine veteran’s tattoo used by his Afghan unit to be a Nazi tattoo and blasted this across her well-followed Twitter account. This caused him a few problems (to say the least) as a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent until ICE (and a few others) corrected her. She got canned for it but…

Lavin resigned from The New Yorker. “I just feel like I made a small mistake and it’s destroyed my life,” she said at the time.

Hardly. Lavin’s mistake became a public audition that launched her career as a new-style “fact-checker” and “expert” on extremism. Weeks after leaving The New Yorker, she was hired by Media Matters as a “researcher on far-right extremism.” In less than a year she had signed a book deal.

I believe this is called failing up. It’s a feature of The Establishment, both new and old.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 26, 2022 at 12:28 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Thank you for another interesting post.


    March 26, 2022 at 5:34 pm

    • Thanks Kevn. We used to have some guy – “Gerald” I think his name was – who loved his fact-checkers and was always throwing them at my posts.

      No sign of him recently.

      Tom Hunter

      March 26, 2022 at 7:00 pm

  2. TH: Fortunately we’ve still got this guy!

    I have to admit I laughed out loud at this because I was just about to empty our Trash for the first time in weeks when I spotted it.

    Besides it’s useful to have no one trying to suggest Obama wasn’t born in Kenya or that Ted Cruz’s dad may not have killed Kennedy. Or that the 2020 election wasn’t rigged, or that Covid vaccines don’t give you AIDS. That’s why you seek to undermine fact checkers. Basically you’re a cunt.

    Yeah, baby!

    Judge Holden

    March 26, 2022 at 7:00 pm

  3. Also worth reading, Why Do You know That?

    Tom Hunter

    March 26, 2022 at 9:53 pm

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