Pundits Soon to Face the Wrath of PolitiFact


A regular reader warns me to watch my back:

PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website of the Tampa Bay Times, will soon launch PunditFact, a site dedicated to checking claims by pundits, columnists, bloggers and the hosts and guests of talk shows.

Luckily, I’m not important enough to catch the attention of these guys, so I can probably continue to lie with impunity. For example, did you know that a recent study concluded that PolitiFact made a substantial contribution to increased political polarization? It was very clever. The researchers used Mechanical Turk to recruit a dozen college students who read an article about Obamacare. Half the students then read a PolitiFact column that fact-checked an Obama speech and the other half read a column that —

Just kidding! There was no such study. Seriously, how could PolitiFact contribute to polarization when we all know that conservatives don’t care about facts in the first place? As the chart on the right shows —

Kidding again! There’s no chart. But I wish there were. It would be interesting to know whether fact-checking operations actually have any impact whatsoever on public opinion. Based on my own zero percent track record of ever changing anyone’s mind, I’d guess not. But a study would be great. Especially if it had a colorful chart to go along with it.

Anyway. Here’s what I’m really curious about: How will PunditFact go about deciding which pundits to check? Given that they’re including radio and TV talkers and guests in their net, I’d guess that they’ll have something like a thousand outright lies to check every day. I’m talking about things that aren’t even close calls and that are heard or read by audiences numbering in the millions. So which ones actually get their attention? That’s easily the most important decision they’ll make, since the actual process of demonstrating the lies is sort of like shooting fish in a barrel. You might as well just hire a few dozen interns for that part of the job.

But I’ll bet they won’t tell us. Nobody ever does.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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