PolitiFact’s Tweet Patrol

Michael MooreThis is a good example of a fact check from PolitiFact: “Michael Moore [s]ays during George W. Bush’s administration ‘we were losing millions of jobs per month,’ while under Barack Obama we have ‘three years of gaining hundreds of thousands of jobs per month.'”

Their verdict, “False: Tweet, later corrected, exaggerated in both directions.”

The problems I have with this are numerous. First: a tweet? Really? That’s what you’re wasting your time on? Okay. Whatever.

Second, wasn’t it clear Moore was exaggerating? Anyone with the slightest familiarity with the numbers knows we don’t lose millions of jobs per month. I took his statement to mean lots of jobs. Technically, it is wrong. Is the overall idea wrong? No really: we lost jobs under Bush, we gained them under Obama. Is this a good economic argument? No. Do you really turn to Michael Moore for serious economic analysis? Regardless, PolitiFact isn’t at all interested in whether it is fair to compare the two administrations in this way.

Third, PolitiFact takes issue with the claim that under Obama we have been gaining hundreds of thousands of jobs per month. In fact, there were only 132,000 jobs created on average. They claim that the plural “hundreds” required at least 200,000. I’m not sure about the grammar here, but even if true this is an odd nit to pick. I mean, if there had been 200,0001 jobs created, it would have been true? That’s the difference between true and false? This is entirely typical of the organization and it is not at all partisan. I often see them calling conservatives out for very minor details or odd definitions. Such behavior makes them all the more useless.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, Moore corrected the tweet 5 hours later (before being told he was wrong by PolitiFact):

Thx for tweets on job loss – worst month w/Bush was 800K+ jobs lost, most months since ’10 have had 100K+ jobs gained http://mmflint.me/QbEkPM.

So who cares? And that gets to the main problem with PolitiFact or any of the other fact checking groups: they are too afraid of being called partisan to do their jobs properly. If both sides lie equally, what is the point anyway? And their assumption is always that they do lie equally, regardless of the facts.

But given that there is a lot more misinformation on the right than the left, what are they to do? They can’t just say that! They have to find the balance that they define to be there. So they make a big deal out of nothing on the left, and make nothing out of a big deal on the right. Hence, “Michael Moore was wrong in a tweet!”


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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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