Monday, October 24, 2011

PolitiFact and the fact check smear

In 2010, Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact designated the "government takeover of healthcare" line as its "Lie of the Year" award winner for 2009. 

The fact check outfit received considerable push back on the designation, including an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that helped its author win a Pulitzer Prize of his own.

From James Rago's editorial:
Evidently, it doesn't count as a government takeover unless the means of production are confiscated. "The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors," the editors write, and while "it's true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurers," they'll still be nominally private too.
In fact—if we may use that term without PolitiFact's seal of approval—at the heart of ObamaCare is a vast expansion of federal control over how U.S. health care is financed, and thus delivered. The regulations that PolitiFact waves off are designed to convert insurers into government contractors in the business of fulfilling political demands, with enormous implications for the future of U.S. medicine. All citizens will be required to pay into this system, regardless of their individual needs or preferences. Sounds like a government takeover to us.
Unfortunately, Rago's assessment of PolitiFact's argument is entirely fair.  PolitiFact argued that without government ownership of the means of production PPACA could not qualify as a government takeover.

This past year when PolitiFact received challenges to its rating of a claim by comedian Jon Stewart, PolitiFact responded with a special story defending its reasoning from the attacks.

The "government takeover" controversy has received no parallel treatment by PolitiFact.

Sure, we got the mailbag reaction story with its traditional failure to address criticism.  But the closest thing to a response from PolitiFact was a short story simply acknowledging the fact that the "Lie of the Year" choice had received a good amount of published criticism.

Over time, PolitiFact has gone from acknowledging the controversy to regularly doling out lousy Truth-O-Meter ratings to Republicans who dare to call ObamaCare a "government takeover."
In Christie's case, PolitiFact New Jersey took it a step further.  Acknowledgment of the controversy has morphed into the assertion that the "government takeover" phrase is proved wrong:
By referring to the national reform as "a government takeover of health care," Christie was repeating a claim that’s been debunked numerous times by various news organizations.
Goodbye, controversy!  Down the memory hole with you!

Instead of fact checking, this puts PolitiFact in the role of myth making.  Specifically, promoting as fact the myth that "government takeover" cannot legitimately refer to the government assuming a dominant role over the delivery of health care.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of Rago, and his talent is beyond dispute. That being said I'm disturbed by his repeated defense of Perry's vaccine mandate. For a man who so thoroughly flays the notion of government intervention into healthcare being constitutional, he passionately defends the Perry mandate as if it were a reasonable intrusion into the lives of schoolgirls and parents. Rago couches his defense of Perry in a "public safety" or "public health" stance, but that doesn't fly. If HPV were communicable through airborne transmission or even casual contact, I might agree with him. As it is, his position seems silly in light of his otherwise strong defense of individual rights.

    His writing is superb, but his consistency leaves much to be desired.


Please remain on topic and keep coarse language to an absolute minimum. Comments in a language other than English will be assumed off topic.