fact checking the fact checkers

It was Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, I believe, who first articulated that “you are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Moynihan was a unique statesman; long before the present days of polarized partisanship, the New York Democrat also served in various advisory positions to Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, and Ford.

Unfortunately, no less, we often ignore facts. Sometimes they are inconvenient in the binary conclusions we’re tempted to cling to…

This person is all bad… this one is all good…

This party is all bad…

This church is all bad…

And then we compartmentalize the facts in such a way that we never have to wrestle with how they contradict some of our opinions. As has been said here in various ways in multiple days, to conclude that this, the past, or another administration is all healthy, competent and full of integrity — or not — is probably to have misconstrued the facts. Oh, how I wish our government was consistently known for both its integrity and competence. Compassion and financial prudence, too.

Allow us, therefore, to simply provide a tool today from a fact checking perspective. For example, did you know that fact checkers also have known bias? … and that influences the presentation of their conclusions?

Snopes, NPR, Politifact — they each lean left. Breibart, National Review — they lean right.

Understand that bias does not necessarily reflect accuracy nor credibility; bias instead plays itself out in the fact checking world by what or who the checker chooses to cover and how subjective analysis is included.

Writes AllSides, one of the Intramuralist’s favorite, recommended, respectful news sources: 

“Fact check websites like Snopes and Politifact reveal their bias numerous ways. Often, fact checkers will analyze information for the reader and draw a conclusion about the meaning of the facts, which is subjective in nature. Other times, they’ll display bias based on what facts they choose to downplay or to highlight. They also show bias based on story choice — for example, primarily fact checking left-wing politicians, or only fact checking right-wing claims.”

Based on reader feedback, notice AllSides interpretation of fact checkers here:

(To be clear, the above is different that charts we have previously posted; this simply addresses those who claim to check facts. The Intramuralist checks The Dispatch and RealClearPolitics daily.)

I wonder what it would do to the depth and respect level of our conversation — and to the humility we extend to one another — if we recognized the bias even embedded in the so-called “facts.” What would it change?

Would our conversations be better?

Would we make more progress?

If we realized our opinion was emboldened because of bias, would it soften the brash tenacity with which we oft feel compelled to speak? … especially on social media?

Many thanks, Sen. Moynihan.

No doubt we each still have more to learn.