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What fact checkers get wrong They pretend to be objective — while peddling progressive politics

Is this a demonstration or a riot? Credit: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Is this a demonstration or a riot? Credit: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


November 12, 2021   5 mins

Another big week for the ever-swelling fact-checking industry. Last Monday, on Twitter, the term PoopyPantsBiden was trending. A rumour had circulated that on a visit to the Vatican, Joe Biden had a bathroom emergency, which ended in a visit to A&E. America’s fleet of fact checkers stepped in. Not true, they said. No evidence.

Only hours later, some Twitter wag superimposed a map of the Mediterranean over the continental United States, and got 10,000 retweets after adding the caption: “Scientists say this map represents the US in 30 years if we don’t reverse climate change.” Happily, Reuters Fact Check were on hand to point out that this was inaccurate.

Today a new breed of media prefects are waiting to weigh in on whether the President shat himself, or whether the Adriatic will drown the population of Cincinnati. Fact-checking sites have exploded: from PolitiFact to News Guard to the European Journalism Training Association’s EU Fact Check. But as ever with bodge jobs, they are a solution to the problems created by the last bodge job.

Fifteen years ago, in a kinder gentler age of the libertarian internet, a few amateur sleuths over at Snopes would bust urban myths about disappearing hitchhikers or In The Air Tonight. They didn’t “check facts” so much as deliver zingy reports on the genesis of rumours. But more and more, the fact check has become the epistemic peg around which everything else is expected to pivot.

Social media giants, as the Facebook leaks revealed, are very aware that they’ve built a world that thrives on cheap talk and rumour. They know they can’t put that genie back in the bottle without dismantling their entire business model. So in a world that requires politicians to puff their cheeks and fume about how something must be done, the giants have taken to paying for fact checks. These are the tithes they pay, the indulgences they gain. Chucking some change at fact-checking is very cost effective way of buying up the most facile tier of public opinion, and keeping the regulators from the door that bit longer.

Take the British fact-checking company, Full Fact. In 2019, it was paid £1.1 million by Facebook, and £206,500 by Google, a sum that has allowed them to take on a staff that would be the envy of many of the newsrooms they pass verdicts on. It is only a small irony that, after reducing reporters to desk-bound re-writers by stripping newspapers of their funding model, Big Tech is paying to have some of their reporting fibre reinserted, by recruiting a new breed of professional to back leap in afterwards.

Full Fact says that its funding doesn’t compromise its integrity. But the fact that the boilerplate California progressives over at Facebook and Google chose to fund them in the first place obviously does. How could they not make decisions based on keeping the giants on side? The Intercept journalist and professional gadfly Glenn Greenwald picked up on this principal-agent problem only a few weeks ago, tweeting that:

Greenwald was picking up on comments from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden about NewsGuard. As the two dissidents point out, as well as Big Tech there is Big NGO: overly moneyed world changers such as Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation, and George Soros’ Open Society group, give conspicuously. It’s hard to imagine anyone in their NGO echelons arguing for, say, “closed borders” or “foreign aid reductions”. And it is just as hard to imagine the fact-checkers they have funded actively aiming to check a certain kind of fact that is values-aligned.

During the summer of George Floyd, for instance, fact checkers raced to the scene of facts that supported the BLM cause. For instance, they dismantled “a bar graph showing ‘murder of blacks and whites in the US, 2013’ broken down by the races of the perpetrators”, as Reuters Fact Check described one anti-BLM meme. “While the graph itself is accurate, the way it is presented is misleading,” they then concluded. Some might have said the same thing about the way they headlined the piece: “Misleading bar graph presents distorted interpretation of black and white murder rates.”

But even beyond how the tech giants select their checkers, who funds them, or what that funding model incentivises, there will always remain a simple question of irreducibility. At what point does the eternal human mist of subjectivity, data and language ever actually congeal into one perfect cube called a “fact”?

Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams, both professors at Cornell University, lay out some of this in Scientific American. Confronted with a crowd bearing placards, they noted, experimental evidence suggests that those of a certain political bent will see a mob; those of another will see a rights struggle.

This experimental evidence closely correlated with the real-world evidence last year, during the BLM Summer: while 69% of Republicans considered the videotaped demonstrations in Portland, Kenosha and New York to be riots, only 30% of Democrats did. When Keynes said “When the facts change, I change my mind”, he forgot to add that when the mind changes, the facts go with it.

The litany of comedy fact checks is long. “After about five years, approximately half of [German] refugees are employed” is rated by EU Fact Check as “mostly true,” even though 51% are unemployed — and even of the employed, only 68% are actually in full time work. The reason for the rating is apparently that the timeline of the study doesn’t exactly coincide with the length of the claim. “Does the timeline of events on Jan. 6 prove Trump could not have incited the attack?” CNN’s Fact Check asks this week. “This is misleading,” it happily concludes.

And the full weight of systemic and cognitive bias on display is evident in one immortal zinger that came from Associated Press’s Fact Check Unit a year ago:

“President Donald Trump claimed accomplishments he didn’t earn on the pandemic, energy and veterans at a Republican convention finale that also heard Black Lives Matter baselessly accused of coordinating violent protests across the country.” 

Often, the outcome simply depends on the framing. If asked to “prove” something “false”, the conditions will be very different from if you are asked to “prove” it to be “true.” Many will unconsciously adjust the settings to match the outcome preferred.

A hundred years ago, Ludwig Wittgenstein eviscerated the “logical positivist” philosophical movement, which wanted to create an algebra of human meanings. He showed how there was no single way of coding a statement so that it could be parsed as “true” or “false” that didn’t in turn leave it subject to huge error bars of ambiguity. If only someone had passed the message onto the fact checking industry, it might have saved everyone some time.

If there’s no such thing as objectivity, there’s still impartiality. And fact checkers can’t even manage that. They were meant to bring back the rigour that had been throttled out of journalism. Instead, they’re most comprised of sweaty 23-year-olds in graduate jobs rummaging through the usual partisan sources, then comparing them with the often progressive-partisan fact mills of Wikipedia then spitting out the appropriate Woozle. No wonder many have intuited that a red flag from a fact checker actually denotes “things that might be true but are unsayable in the present climate”.

One solution proposed by the Cornell duo of Williams and Ceci involves leaning into that polarised political climate. Rather than having a single set of fact checkers, you should have two rival teams, recruited precisely for their ideological differences. But even here, the authors are quite gloomy in their prognosis. We shouldn’t imagine that this will get us to the “truth”, they warn. But it will at least reveal the underlying human biases that might be skewing our perception of it.

That might turn out to be a more useful function than they realise. The problem that confronts all of us is to neither lapse into cynicism about the existence of facts, nor slip into hubris about our ability to see them. In order to do that, we need to treat fact-checkers not as arbiters, but as just another branch of the media-political system that it seeks to impose its writ upon. Perhaps sensing that the game is up — or merely sensing that they have to expand to fit the donor funds on offer — fact checking orgs have increasingly begun to write what are essentially articles. In other words, they’re ripe to be red flagged, ripped apart or rinsed by others.


Gavin Haynes is a journalist and former editor-at-large at Vice.

@gavhaynes

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Peter Francis
Peter Francis
2 years ago

Many thanks to Gavin Haynes for a great article. More like this, please! I have become increasingly suspicious about the fact-checking industry, mainly because of the kinds of assertions that they avoid checking. They avoid a check whenever the result might detract from the “news narrative” promoted by the liberal elite.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

And this is why every day I read multiple sources of various political bents, some of which I disagree with, as no reporter can avoid being a wee bit partial; and if I see something that seems odd or pivotal to an argument, I’ll go and check it from a decent independent source – government stats; history books.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

that’s great but who has time for it? there’s so much out there now.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Kat L

I’m retired this year, so now I have the great pleasure of being able to read these news sources for several hours every morning – expect to die of a burst blood vessel soon though.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
2 years ago

We see it every day. The framing of a story, that tells readers and viewers how to interpret events, is deliberately shaped so that the story conforms to the media outlet’s worldview.
The proud boast of liberal media used to be
“ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT”
which has now become 
“ONLY PRINT THE NEWS THAT FITS”
Most readers won’t mind if an opinion piece is overtly coming down on one side of an argument – that is what Opinion pages are there for. But what is troubling is the lack of objectivity in supposedly factual reporting.
Of course it is the duty of a journalist, editor and publisher to choose words carefully and ensure they report factually but who judges where the line between a newspaper’s narrative (that often borders on propaganda) and fake news should be drawn?
When I read a story in the Guardian, or Telegraph or Times – any reputable newspaper- I am reasonably confident that the basic “facts” of the story are accurate – but that often only gives me a fraction of the picture. The rest of it is supplied through the narrative, the framing of the message – it is that which tells a reader how to interpret the ‘facts’. With a shift in narrative the facts of a story can be presented in a radically different light.
The Guardian and BBC, along with every other newspaper and news outlet in this country, presents facts and statistics that back up the narrative they wish to promote. They also fail to report those facts and stats that might counter the narrative they wish to promote.
Are these deliberate falsehoods, ‘fake news’? You could argue that either way, but journalists know only too well that there are two sides (at the very least) to most stories and they choose to present the side that most closely fits their own world view, or the world view of their newspaper or indeed the world view of their readers.
Every day the same event, the same speech, the same policy initiative can be covered by the Guardian and by the Telegraph, with the “factual” points of the story presented, but it is in the framing of that presentation, in what details a journalist (or Editor) chooses to include or omit, that the narrative takes shape. The same information can be employed to tell two different stories that can be diametrically opposed to one another. Thus readers of those two different stories – based on the same facts but presented within a different narrative -can come away with an understanding that is 180 degrees out from one another. You could argue that isn’t ‘fake’ news because there are no absolute untruths involved – but if the same facts can be employed by either side of the argument to bolster their own version of the truth and undermine the other side’s version of the truth then how is it different?
Publications like the NYT, who profess to be most opposed to ‘fake news’, continuously turn out to have been the era’s biggest purveyors of the very thing they complain of.
The NY Times, much like the BBC or Guardian, has a lens through which they see the world – and every day and in every way they find things matching their preconceived world-view. Any stories that might challenge that view are either not reported or are written up in a way that they bear little relation to the ‘truth’ as reported elsewhere.
I read several news sources a day and try to pick my way through the inherent biases of each to try and find the truths of a story and form my own opinion. But even that doesn’t get you to objective “Truth” because, of course I myself read those stories with a subjective eye, how could I not? We all have our own in-built bias towards what fits our world view.
Paul Mason claimed in the Guardian that, “The clearest difference between the liberal-democratic newspapers – including this one – and those of the right is that the former have no overarching narrative,” I think he may well genuinely believe that. Which is rather terrifying.
The Guardian’s circulation is paltry, yet its influence is enormous and pernicious. The Guardian has an “on-air” wing in the shape of the BBC. It is also required reading for the legions of metropolitan fauxialists who manage practically every quango and institution in the country. Not to mention that it is the go-to news source for the vast majority of the teaching profession.
So although circulation figures are ever dwindling, it informs the worldview of a great many people who influence the agenda and shape the country’s -and our children’s – future. The Britain-hating, race-baiting, class-envy, history-revisionist, woke, pc leftist clap-trap that we all complain about across these pages, is in large part down to the Guardian’s peculiar framing of reality, which is imbibed by readers who influence and skew the national discourse.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

I am using the phrase ‘clap-trap’ so often these days.

jill dowling
jill dowling
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

You have said this far better than I ever could, but I totally agree with you re the BBC and The Guardian. I am surrounded by teachers and civil servants in my neighbourhood who literally live their lives according to The Guardian. As a result, they are frightened of everything yet arrogant and dogmatic in their views.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  jill dowling

it’s the same here in the USA with NPR.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
2 years ago
Reply to  Kat L

I know perfectly nice and congenial people who get all their news from NPR and know absolutely nothing.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

In my experience, they don’t even get the basic facts right, even when they have them provided on a plate. There is very little purely factual reporting in the press these days. Everything has to have an ‘angle’. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story, as they say.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

As a former Guardian reader I would have to disagree when you say “I am reasonably confident that the basic “facts” of the story are accurate”. I used to think that, but over the last few years I noticed that theyvwere KNOWINGLY misreporting events.

Let me give a simple example.

When reporting on a protst they’d say “hundreds of right wing activists …” when anyone who was present (which The Guardian journalists were) would know that the crowd was of political ideologies and was many tens of thousands.

If a journalist is willing to spin that kind of thing (which are easy to check by anyone who has access to youtube videos of the event) then it would be a stretch to think that they would not put a spin on everything so as to fit The Guardian’s agenda.

We all know The Guardian is left-leaning, and that’s fine, but there’s a big difference between having a left-leaning view of the world and actually altering the facts to suit that ideological leaning.

Ian Cooper
Ian Cooper
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Good article

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Cooper
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

It has become even worse than you describe with ‘activist’ journalists at the NYT and the Guardian deciding what content can be published and eliminating journalists who don’t follow their woke dogma.
Thus we have feminists and moderates who previously have written for these publications as their politician home decamping to centre right newspapers or, in the USA, forging very successful careers with subreddit publications.

Sean Penley
Sean Penley
2 years ago

This is the kind of article I signed up for! Does it support conservatives or liberals? You have to read it and then decide, then decide if your decision is really what it said

N T
N T
2 years ago
Reply to  Sean Penley

+1
As a Colonist, I deeply resent that Unherd is from the old world.

Last edited 2 years ago by N T
Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago

The BBC has a special kind of fact checker. ‘You’ve heard the story, now we’ll tell you what to think.’

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

the original inspiration for the Ministry of Truth, the BBC, will go you one better, than Fact checks they have upgraded to Reality check. Not content with telling you their facts their just going to tell you how you should be perceiving reality.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

Ha Ha. Exactly.

Andrew Sweeney
Andrew Sweeney
2 years ago

I think a better name for fact checker would be narrative steward.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Sweeney

Excellent.
A “Narrative Steward” to curate ‘our’ truth.
God help us all!

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Sweeney

All narrative stewards aspire for promotion to the rank of Story Guardian. In turn, the more ambitious Story Guardians yearn to one day to be admitted to the Epistemological Priesthood. Only the bravest and the best are chosen, but no-one quite knows what the admission criteria are. Once admitted though, many become disillusioned and dissatisfied – it’s just not what it’s all cracked up to be, you get very little autonomy, one little misstep and you’re cancelled – and the work-life balance is just appalling. All the free food and booze just makes you feel bloated and hungover; the easy sex is fleetingly fun, but it just leaves you feeling empty and meaningless; and you can’t live in more than one house at once. It’s not possible to leave – apostates receive far harsher treatment than mere heretics. And within the Epistemological Priesthood there are many internecine rivalries. But more than that, there’s the constant, nagging, and increasingly hard-to-ignore semi-conscious knowledge that what started out as little under-researched but vaguely well-intentioned piece of micro-hatred for the BBC News website has become a lifelong dependency and addiction to professional lying. Newly ordained priests soon realise, to their horror, that no-one is really in charge, not even the Archbishop of Mass Delusion himself. In fact, he’s the most self-deluded of them all, completely off his rocker and incapable of stringing a sentence together. They know that there’s something underneath, a Great Beast with an insatiable appetite that must be fed – but just don’t you open that trapdoor. Everyone kind of knows that it is all going to collapse, not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but one day it will and that day could be soon. For this Great Beast, like all those which came before it and which will follow it, has an insatiable appetite. It will gorge itself to death, and take its keepers down with it when it dies.

One really does have to pity them.

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Really enjoyed that!

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Sweeney

Or curators. As Obama suggested.

Peter Steven
Peter Steven
2 years ago

A timely and interesting article. Over the past 18 months I have lost confidence in the BBC’s reporting about Covid and come to rely on other sources, such as Professor Tim Spector of Zoe/ KCH and the YouTube channel of John Campbell, a teacher of nurses. It so happens that the latter was fact checked yesterday, after followers posted a video on Facebook commenting on certain pharmacological similarities between Pfizer’s new anti Covid drug and Ivermectin.
In response, Dr Campbell posted this video about Facebook’s Factcheckers, which (alarmingly, I think) indicates that most of them are journalists with no claimed scientific or medical background.

https://youtu.be/ObTAOvgd_JE

Whatever the rights and wrongs about repurposing Ivermectin (and Dr Campbell has always made clear that any human taking a drug in a dosage prescribed for an animal would be extremely stupid!) employing journalists to write copy telling medics to shut up about disputed science seems a strange way to make progress.

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter Steven
Michael Richardson
Michael Richardson
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Steven

Full Disclosure: Former Guardianista. Sorry. If redemption a possibility?
The whole Covid thing has brought me to the position that I no longer trust anything I read, in the sense that I do not categorise it as “true” or “untrue”. I know a lot of people hate on the expression “do you own research” but I think that is the only way to go.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago

Here here. Not enough people are doing their own research at all. There are amazing resources such as The High Wire around, and theybprovide links to everything they report, which is terrific.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago

Amazing that Google does not index SubStack. The number of writers (Alex Berenson among them) who carefully research aspects of the pandemic is remarkable. They quote scientific papers allowing the reader to see for themselves the research. The Covid party line often fails as evidence mounts to refute ‘expert’ opinion.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Steven

I used to like John Campbell, but he often seems to be many months behind the curve, even though he likes to give the impression he is at the cutting edge.

Also, it is childish for anyone to talk about a drug used as extensively as Ivermectin (billions of doses plus Nobel prize) and have to mention horse dewormer. Why anyone in the medical profession would want to discredit, even in a minor way, any valid medication that could help I really don’t understand.

And it took him months to even acknowledge the tens of thosands of reported adverse reactions to the vaccines and the thousands of deaths. He is clearly a big pharma fan boy, which is a shame as what need now are good, honest, fair-minded people who will report the facts and not their spin on the facts.

That said, he seems like a nice guy, but alas, he has gone through the NHS brainashing programme and so seems far more into the ‘pill for every ill’ school of medicine than the ‘lets maximise natural health first and only rely on toxic chemicals if we need to’. Truth is, there is a LOT more mney in the former.

Stephen Magee
Stephen Magee
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

What is Campbell of doctor of? I was unimpressed by his first tranche of “reports” which seemed to largely reflect the prevailing orthodoxy. Recently, he has started questioning some aspects of that orthodoxy, but I’m not convinced by his methodology.

Helen Moorhouse
Helen Moorhouse
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

I increasingly think that Tim Spector has a large team of researchers for whom he relies on Pfizar or other pharmaceutical pay-outs to fund. He never veers from the message that we all need to get the vaccine as soon as possible.
John Campbell is one of the first to raise the issue of failure to aspirate when giving the vaccine as the likely mechanism by which so many adverse reactions are happening. That raising this link is treated as a conspiracy theory should concern all of us.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

If I see the words “fact checker”, I stop reading because I assume I’m going to be lied to.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Thanks: a classy piece and classic candid genre that UnHerd produces. I have totally given up on the BBC fact checker for all the reasons given.
Sadly the volume of internet information has made me suspicious of everything I read unless the author has demonstrated provenance in their genuine intention to inform. I’m always looking for an agenda behind the ‘facts’. It’s a bit like someone having to declare a vested interest whenever they take on a role. If a writer can’t be a neutral mediator with the information then they should at least reveal their bias – that might promote more honesty.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

I’m convinced no media is allowed to present an unbiased viewpoint. Each outlet appeals to their narrow base so confirmation bias remains strong. The newly restored Newsweek magazine despite leaning left has decided to present articles that defy their intrinsic bias. Whether that persits is unknown but is refreshing. Perhaps, like Unherd, some are discovering a marketplace for viewpoints.

Riichard Landes
Riichard Landes
2 years ago

so did biden poop himself or not?

Fermented Agave
Fermented Agave
2 years ago

Nah, I’m sure Joe had a riveting, intellectually stimulating and deeply religious 45 minutes conversation with the Pope.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

Theologically, they’re on about the same level. The Jesuits ain’t what they used to be.

Last edited 2 years ago by Francis MacGabhann
Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
2 years ago

He did a prolongued fart – not sure if there was a follow-through.

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  Katy Hibbert

LOL

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
2 years ago

Depends.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago

More excellence in journalism. How true is this, “When Keynes said “When the facts change, I change my mind”, he forgot to add that when the mind changes, the facts go with it.”

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

An interesting article on a tricky area. 
During the hight of the COVID pandemic there were regular political updates from Downing Street that were effectively fact checked by journalists asking questions. Unfortunately, I found the process infuriating as the questions tended to be tendentious versions of the truth trotted out. 
The repeated assertions that the UK had the highest number of deaths in Europe at a particular time while no doubt true in a factual sense lacked any proper context to determine whether it was true in any meaningful sense. In other words the per population figure was seldom given by the journalists nor was any sensible analysis of the many factors that might have affected UK figures compared to other countries. The constant barrage of the “fact” that the UK had the highest death rate undoubtedly distorted policy decisions. The problem is that analysing the huge range of factors going in to comparing death rates is a complex and in itself a controversial exercise.
I always enjoyed the Radio 4 program More or Less that looked into the statistics behind various popular assertions. I never felt they distorted their analysis by any preconceived political agenda, whereas the fact checkers of the internet as described here are bound to be partial and distorting of the true facts by their selection of the facts to be checked.
Journalism properly conducted can be the only fact checking available but how often can it be truly neutral? Checking without some political bias creeping in is not easy.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

The fact-checker idea subtly infers that ‘there is a truth’ when often there are multiple viewpoints weighed by different judgements and spun for different reasons deliberately omitting counter-points. What’s often needed is not a fact-check, but a cross-check to see what is being hidden and why.

Fermented Agave
Fermented Agave
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Wouldn’t that be investigative journalism?

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

Or just journalism a handful of years ago…

David B
David B
2 years ago

Glenn Greenwald has not worked for the Intercept for over a year now, and suggesting his informed critiques are in any way associated with or typical of that shadow-of-its-former-self webzine is misleading. This is my contribution to the factchecking and framing oversight group!

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  David B

He fled to independence in Substack and Rumble. His former creation left to wallow in it’s internal biased funding.

Helen Moorhouse
Helen Moorhouse
2 years ago

John Campbell has been posting videos on YouTube for the duration of the pandemic looking at evidence for diagnosis, treatment and prevention. They are widely watched. He has 1.3M subscribers. Just recently he has started to deviate from the official line by refusing to back down on the efficacy of Ivermectin and also highlighting the danger of receiving the covid vaccines intravenously – a risk which can be avoided by a simple procedure that is not being practised. This week he did a comparison between Ivermectin and Pfizar’s new drug to treat Covid. For one thing Ivermectin costs 5p per pill while the other costs £350. This has clearly got the wind up Pfizar because they imposed a ‘fact check’ on top of the YouTube version for anyone who was about to watch it. Last night John Campbell fact-checked the Fact Checkers. All were journalists, no doubt young, inexperienced and ripe to be corrected – which John Campbell duly does.

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
2 years ago

The controversial issues are usually about opinions or conclusions based on assumed but unarticulated facts. Fact checking in this context is really about opinion approval or disapproval

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
2 years ago

News reporting is no longer objective or dispassionate, it is full of presumption and supposition. There is no context or critical analysis, the only thing that exists is maintaining the narrative.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

There’s an aspect of New Testament studies that might prove useful here: when trying to separate original accounts from later interpolations prefer those which do not suit later developments in Christian theology. Thus with the ‘fact checkers’: prefer those whose conclusions do not always fit the ‘liberal’ narrative, and who also check ‘facts’ put forward by ‘liberal’ establishment. But is there any such beast?

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Smith
Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
2 years ago

I remember the risible Radio 4 show: Brexit – a Guide for the Perplexed, which had various “fact” “checkers”. It was pure Remoaner propaganda.

Fermented Agave
Fermented Agave
2 years ago

Lovely article. Great recommendation for all of us in:
“No wonder many have intuited that a red flag from a fact checker actually denotes “things that might be true but are unsayable in the present climate”
Personally I start from the context that all “News” is actually “News-tainment”, until proven otherwise. I find best writing can be found with the Research Institutes.

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago

Perhaps the characterisation of Glenn Greenwald should be corrected. He founded The Intercept, but left it for his own Substack site when the editors he had hired violated his contract and not only wouldn’t print a piece about the content and import of Hunter Biden’s laptop, but — here’s the contractual violation — forbade him from publishing it elsewhere.

Virginia Durksen
Virginia Durksen
2 years ago

As with so many things, defining terms is essential. The word ‘fact’ has been debased of its actual meaning. The first property of a ‘fact’ is that it must be true in an objective sense. When objective truth is rejected and replaced as a personal belief or a subjective opinion, the word becomes meaningless.
The main premise of the neo-Marxist and postmodernist movement is to create a fake epistemology that rejects the age old definition of knowledge, as justifiable true belief, with well, nothing.
The rubber will hit the road when actions that are taken counter to objective reality, create object harm to the population at large. Then the truth of a fact will be writ large.

Patrick Fox
Patrick Fox
2 years ago

Very good article. I recently witnessed a form of real time fact-checking on french television and this is worrying. Mr Zemmour the «  not yet declared » presidential candidate was being interviewed and everyone and each of his statements or figures he gave were subject to realtime fact-checking which appeared on screen. Since then none of the other “ acceptable main stream » potential or declared candidates have been subjected to this exercise. So why only Zemmour? What ever you think of the guy this is a questionable practice which demonstrates the biased of medias.
It will be interesting to see if the french medias will subject Macron to this live exercise when he becomes officially candidate. I doubt it as fear of reprisals will be in the mind of all medias when he gets re-elected.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

There is a difference between observable facts and proposed causes. The size of a crowd, the number dead can be fact checked but in fact checking the cause it is difficult to isolate the causal steps.

Robert Afia
Robert Afia
2 years ago

Ayatollah Khomeini who was the moral compass of revolutionary Iran once said “don’t confuse me with the facts”.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

I have been trying to read this (from par. 9)
https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-fact-check-bar-graph-black-white-homi-idUSKBN23M2SX
But I am not sure I follow what the problem is with the headline.
(It is too early in the morning here for such heavy reading 😉 )

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrea X
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

The message that this report wants to convey is that blacks are disproportionately killed by the police compared to whites. But of course while no doubt true this does not convey the true underlying facts unless you know whether in fact this is simply because the police have more potentially dangerous interactions with blacks than whites. If there are proportionally more black criminals acting in a manner that police officers interpret as lethally threatening than criminal whites it would not be surprising if there were proportionally more black deaths. Context is all. Without a proper analysis the truth can be a lie.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

To me it appears they’re trying to game the availability heuristic.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I don’t see how you can conclude that from the way that statistics has been “fact-checked”.
(Also I would like to know who has downvoted my comment and WHY).

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Jeremy has done what everyone should do when reading any article that purports to use statistics – dig and delve around the edges to uncover more information to provide context for whatever is being displayed.
We all know that click bait is the name of the game right now so the real deal will ALWAYS be more complicated and nuanced than the information presented to us. As engaged citizens I would argue that it is our duty to put the effort in to yes … doing our own research.
Specifically for the Reuters fact checking article quoted the red flags that would trigger more research would be these 2 paras :
“Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate,” being “killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans.”
and
Nuzzo also cautioned that all these numbers were rough approximations for the sake of illustration, and that the reality is much more complicated than can be captured in either a single Facebook graph.
I thought the Reuters piece was excellent – they presented in detail the 2 different ways of presenting the same data and how that might lead to 2 different interpretations of what was going on.
Which interpretation you choose will depend of course on your own personal model of how you think the world currently operates.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

Quite. I thought too that the Reuters piece is good, hence my original question.
The headline reads: “Misleading bar graph presents distorted interpretation of black and white murder rates.”
So what would a better one be?

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

“Bar graph presents one simplified interpretation of the complex data around black and white murder rates”
…. but who on earth would bother to read any further ?

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

But that’s unfair. They were commenting on a graph that was doing the rounds on Twitter and the conclusion is that that graph is comparing apples with pears. On top of that the real life situation is complex, but none if that invalidates the headline.

Jim Davis
Jim Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The Washington Post reported that nineteen, that’s a 1 followed by a 9, unarmed black men were shot by the police in 2019. Far more whites are shot by the police than blacks and other minorities. Far more police are killed in the line of duty than blacks killed by police. In this case “no doubt true” is absolutely false. Unfortunately based on reports by the media, politicians and movements like BLM the average person thinks this number is in the hundreds or thousands. In addition, studies show that police are less likely to shoot a black suspect than a white suspect precisely because of this perception. Don’t believe me, look it up. It’s just a click or two away.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jim Davis
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim Davis

1 click away
The Washington Post’s database :
The Post said its team relies “primarily on news accounts, social media postings and police reports” in addition to its own reporting….This data does not include “deaths of people in police custody, fatal shootings by off-duty officers or non-shooting deaths.”
Mapping Police Violence, a crowdsourced database that includes deaths by vehicle, tasering or beating in addition to shootings, estimates 25 police killings of unarmed Black men in 2019.
Fatal Encounters have been attempting to create an impartial, comprehensive national database of people killed during interactions with police in the US since 2000 – still incomplete.

“Far more whites are shot by the police than blacks” – I would certainly hope so ! In 2020 according to Statista there were 250.56 million whites, 44.78 million of Black / African American ethnicity, 4.34 million of American Indian and Alaska Native ethnicity 20.17 million of Asian descent.
“blacks are disproportionately killed by the police compared to whites.” is absolutely true if the FBI base line data as quoted in the article is correct because it takes respective population sizes into account (see para. 9)

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago

Statistically those in poverty commit more crime and have more police encounters than the rich. Now look at which race has more people in poverty. Also examine which race has the most single parent households. The statistics do tell a story. Also ask why African immigrants, on average, are more successful than those born in the US. Some tough social issues to be solved should politicians wish to address them beyond throwing money at the issue.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
2 years ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Absolutely. But have you ever seen a MSM article that has bothered to drill down that deep and wide into the causes of violence in the US ?
Maybe there has been one in the Atlantic maybe ? Scientific American ? New Yorker ? a reputable Social Sciences Journal ? I would love to read one.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

The crime figures broken down by race certainly start telling the true story. The social issues underneath this are of course many and very interesting and the fact that many blacks in the US are now from single parent families was something I picked up a long time ago from Larry Elder – before I had heard of Larry Elder!
Going from there, we arrive at another interesting discussion…. Why are so many families single parent families. Certainly in many countries this is in many cases because government grants are given for children. And the single parent phenomenon is not confined to the US.

Mike Atkinson
Mike Atkinson
2 years ago

This is worth a look re Covid. There are lots of background interviews he has conducted to support this position.
https://odysee.com/@FlowerPower:b/Reiner-Fuellmich—Summary-of-findings-of-the-Corona-Investigative:2