Just in time, conservatives in politics and the media (a much smaller tribe) have begun to push back against the "fact checking" outfits within media operations. These self-appointed judges assert objectivity when they often merely render opinions on the statements of political candidates. Last night on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation's "The National" news program, for example, a feature described all the "lies" that both U.S. parties are telling about each other. An example was the "lie" of Republicans that President Obama was alluding to businessmen's achievements when he declared "You didn't build that." It's just assumed that "fact checkers" are objective oracles. (As a side note, the CBC would be hard pressed to broadbrush its own country's political parties as "liars"; not quite that way. What the CBC does very well to seek out the DC and NY liberal media for its cues on covering U.S. politics.)
The proposition that President Obama never meant to minimize the role of entrepreneurs just happens to be the Democratic Party line, of course. But it doesn't wash. Even in context--or especially in context, as Charles Krauthammer has said--the President's meaning was plain. It would make no sense in reference only to infrastructure. (When you watch the Obama speech and hear his passion, he sure doesn't seem to be talking only about infrastructure!) Moreover, it is the same pitch that was pioneered by Mr. Obama's friend and ally, Elizabeth Warren. It's the new "progressive" way of trying to rob entrepreneurs and businessmen of their moral authority and to justify whatever regulatory controls and taxes the Elizabeth Warrens of the world may want to impose on them.
Don't agree with me, Mr. "fact checker"? Well, you are entitled to your opinion. But it's not your fact.
Now we have media purporting to be shocked that politicians, having had their ads or speeches criticized as factually untrue, still persist in the same errors. Well, in some cases, the media might have a point. If a candidate says the sun rises in the West, not the East, he should be corrected and accept the correction. But it is presumptuous to assert that just because someone at a newspaper is called a "fact checker" he knows more about a subject that the person whose facts he claims to correct. (James Tarranto has a terrific on-line account of the whole issue.)
It's the new disguise for media bias, rendered all the more insidious by the explicit claim of objectivity. It also is another attempt to seize power from both political parties by pretending to adjudicate literal truth in politics. A comparable idea was advanced by supposed good government types in Washington State a few years ago. They wanted the state Public Disclosure Commission to investigate and fine candidates whose campaign ads contained untruths, and to help stop the airing of false ads. Happily, the PDC had better sense and declined the responsibility. Just tying some candidate up in court with a spurious but fulsome charge of lying was becoming a great weapon to deploy in the tight closing days of a campaign. It was another case of "reform" being turned inside out and throttling, rather than assuring, democracy.
Who watches the watchmen themselves? It's a question that goes back at least to ancient Rome ("Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?") Who checks the facts of the fact checkers?
Another old quote I love is that of Disraeli: "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics." But statistics are gospel truth itself compared to fact checking conducted by the interested media. What vainglory! How pompous!
By all means, editors and broadcasters, write editorials and rail on talk TV against what you regard as lies. But spare us the "news"! It's your own reputations that are most on the line here.