Politifact long ago gave up any claim to being non-partisan, at least among people who pay attention. Fact-checking Politi”fact” is itself a target-rich environment for fact-checkers and “progressive” dogma-untanglers.
This year, they were kind of sly about it – the “winner” was “the “online smear machine” that attempted to “take down Parkland students.”
They’re referring mostly to Alex Jones’ reprehensible claims that the Parkland massacre was a setup and that the kids are “crisis actors”, and the small but vocal social media crowd that echoed the claim.
Of course, this brings up a logical problem, and a condundrum
First the logical problem, as David Harsanyi points out in Federalist: –
Although I know of numerous Twitter accounts that have accused gun-rights advocates of being “terrorists,” many of them featuring blue checkmarks, I can’t recall a single conservative in Congress, anyone in the National Rifle Association, or any other mainstream right-wing group accusing the Parkland kids of being “crisis actors.” I do recall a single article on RedState questioning David Hogg’s actions the day of the mass shooting, which was quickly corrected and apologized for.
Yet PolitiFact spends much of its time detailing the Parkland kids’ cause by highlighting their political opponents who have nothing to do with the smear, implicitly linking them to the “Lie of the Year.” The piece is framed in a way that intimates that anyone contesting the Parkland kids’ political cause is now in league with the online mob – and Russian bots!
By the way, even if we allow that kids who experience this tragedy should dictate the contours of a policy debate, it is worth noting that there are “Parkland kids” who hold diverging opinions regarding the Second Amendment and arming teachers. They are largely ignored by the media.
It’s not the kids’ fault that they find themselves the focus of ugliness on social media. It’s the fault of those who attack them and the adults who exploit them for political causes. Young people should be given some leeway in their activism, even if they say ridiculous things—and David Hogg and other leaders of the March for Our Lives movement often say things that aren’t even in the proximity of the truth. There is no need for ad hominemattacks. But the “Parkland kids” were also given a massive stage on which to offer their uncontested emotionalism to drive the debate. Kids or not, Americans have every right to challenge their contentions.
And Politifact using Jones as the figurehead of this criticism is a strawman that tries to paint all criticism of Hogg and company as the same breed of crazy. And yet Hogg and the rest of the kids that’ve been propped up with liberal plutocrat money deserve criticism; they are little petty tyrants in the making, and they are serial liars to boot.
Now the conundrum; without Politifact to tell people who Alex Jones was and what he was claiming, would anyone outside the alt-“right” fever swamp have ever heard of him?
The “online smear machine” is an amorphous and ugly entity that isn’t confined to any ideology and spares virtually no one in the public eye. But any way you look at it, imbuing it with an importance it doesn’t deserve isn’t doing public discourse any favors. Even if it makes conservatives look bad.
And finally – given that almost nobody in this country hears about Alex Jones except when the media expresses its high dudgeon over him, are his antics really “the biggest lie” of the year? Or even the biggest lie about the Parkland massacre?
It’s debatable, in fact, that it was even the most significant lie disseminated about the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High. The sheriff of Broward County, after all, was featured at the widely covered CNN anti-gun rally where he misled the nation about the failures, cowardice, and incompetence that allowed the shooting to occur. And the sheriff of Broward County isn’t some random Twitter troll.
Further evidence that the mainstream media needs to be distrusted but verified – and then, especially on hot-button topics like this, almost invariably distrusted some more.