Fact checking in the hot tub time machine

The always accurate and never disputed people at Wikipedia tell us that “fact checking” has been around since the early 20th century. “By the 1930s a fact checking department became a symbol of establishment among publications.” Even with the number of outrageous abuses of the practice in recent months, it still seemed to be a much needed service, simply in need of a new generation of honest practitioners. Sadly, the week of the 2012 Republican National Convention may have sounded the final death knell for this venerable concept.

And the straw that broke the camel’s back was the day the Washington Post decided to fact check a speech by Mitt Romney more than 12 hours before the speech was even given.

Previewing the ‘facts’ in Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech

The details of Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night are not known, but he’s been road-testing various claims about President Obama’s record for months. Here are five dubious assertions that he frequently makes on the campaign trail or in his campaign advertisements.

Does anyone see something of a disconnect between the title of this piece and the first paragraph?

(Republicans, no worries! We will also do this exercise for Obama next week.)

Oh, yes. We’ll be waiting here with incredible anticipation. I’m sure it will be just as accurate as the list of already worn out stories which followed that lead-in.

For a bit more on the current state of the dark arts of fact checking, check in with Jon Cassidy of Human Events who poses a question to Politifact. Does the GOP tell nine times more lies than the Left? Really?

If a Republican schools commissioner says an annual standardized test takes “less than 1 percent of the instructional time,” and the actual figure is between 0.26 percent and 0.90 percent of annual class time, a serious fact-checker wouldn’t make a different claim and check that instead. But that’s precisely how PolitiFact found the Republican commissioner’s statement False.

If a conservative advocacy group runs an ad saying Obamacare could cost “up to $2 trillion,” an honest fact-checker would look up the government’s own estimate and see that, indeed, the Congressional Budget Office puts the cost at $1.76 trillion for just the first few years.

PolitiFact is not that honest fact-checker. And these aren’t isolated cases. Once widely regarded as a unique, rigorous and reasonably independent investigator of political claims, PolitiFact now declares conservatives wrong three times more often than liberals. More pointedly, the journalism organization concludes that conservatives have flat out lied nine times more often than liberals.

If you were a fact-checker yourself, you might reasonably conclude that PolitiFact is biased — that it favors liberals over conservatives. But PolitiFact continues to assert its impartiality.

This is a long article and really gets down in the weeds, but the math is there. If you’ve got some time to kill, peruse the list and judge for yourself. This really exposes what’s going on under the covers.

Or maybe I’m just lying. You know how we are.