September 13, 2018

Weekly Standard Fact-Checks ThinkProgress Article

On Sunday, ThinkProgress published an article titled, “Brett Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade last week and almost no one noticed.”

The Weekly Standard conducted a fact check on the article which argued that the headline is inaccurate, though it offered to change the rating if the headline is fixed. “While ThinkProgress engages in an argument to suggest how Kavanaugh might vote in a Roe v. Wade redo, the article does not provide evidence that ‘Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade’... TWS Fact Check could not find an instance where Kavanaugh ‘stated he’d overturn #Roe.’” The Weekly Standard, Twitter

ThinkProgress defended the headline, stating, “According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the verb ‘say’ or ‘said’ can mean to ‘indicate,’ ‘show,’ or ‘communicate’an idea. Our argument is that [Kavanaugh] indicated, showed, or communicated his intention to overrule Roe.” ThinkProgress

The Weekly Standard is one of Facebook’s five fact-checkers alongside the Associated Press, Politifact, Snopes, and Factcheck.org. Facebook requires its fact-checkers to be accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network. Labeling an article ‘false’ on Facebook on average reduces future views by over 80 percent. Poynter, Facebook

See past issues

From the Left

The left is divided.

“As was entirely predictable, The Weekly Standard is using its new authority as a Facebook fact-checker to label liberal arguments ‘false’... It might be more accurate to say that the article is debatable: One could believe in good faith that it makes its case or that it doesn’t."

New Republic

“The Weekly Standard may disagree with its headline, but it is simply wrong to call it ‘a verifiable lie’ when it rests on a nuanced and subjective legal argument... Millhiser’s headline is exaggerated, but captures the essence of Kavanaugh’s words—or at least, the author’s own informed interpretation of them. It’s a far cry from fake news."

Slate

“The Weekly Standard has a history of placing right-wing ideology before accurate reporting... It ran an article in 2017 labeling climate science ‘Dadaist Science’... No left-leaning outlet has this special ability to ‘fact check’ other writers’ work... [This is] a perfect example of how Facebook is catering to conservatives."

ThinkProgress

Counterpoints:

“If an article is basically factually correct, but has a headline that is basically factually wrong, fact-checkers ought to take action — or what else are they for? Some people think the ‘false label’ ought to be reserved only for moonbat headlines about the Pope being a lizard person, but it’s hard for me to see how that meaningfully improves our news ecosystem.”

The Verge

Last week, PolitiFact reported that “[Kavanaugh] ‘raised a few eyebrows’ when he ‘called birth control pills abortion-inducing drugs.’ Days later, PolitiFact conceded that it had ‘repeated uncritically a Democratic talking point’ and that Kavanaugh had actually been quoting a party in the case. I don’t see any of my colleagues on the left calling for PolitiFact to be removed from Facebook’s panel...

"The headline on the ThinkProgress article was false. Kavanaugh didn’t say he would kill Roe. And the Standard was right to point this out.”

Slate

“The real lesson here... is that Facebook has no idea how to handle the fact that a massive percentage of political discourse takes place on its platform, and the solutions it’s testing are creating new and dangerous problems. The debate over Kavanaugh illustrates that our public discourse is in the hands of people who have no idea how to manage it responsibly.”

Vox

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

The right believes the fact-check was justified.

From the Right

The right believes the fact-check was justified.

This piece was “an example of precisely the false, clickbaity headlines that the social media giant is trying to do away with... when you have to go to the dictionary to back up your claim someone ‘said’ something, you've lost the argument." Worth noting: “the Weekly Standard... has also performed several fact-checks of false claims from Donald Trump and other conservatives."

Free Beacon

“The Weekly Standard has a ‘conservative ideological bent.’ However, the other sites, particularly Politifact, also have an ideological bent... just one that ThinkProgress would agree with. These sites treat statements from Democrats with kid gloves."

Newsbusters

Dated but relevant: Many argue that Politifact is harder on statements from conservatives. In one example, it rated identical statements as “mostly true” when said by a Democrat (Jim Webb), but only “half true” when said by a Republican (Rand Paul). The rating was later changed to be consistent, but all of the analysis remained the same.

Furthermore, “during the 2012 election season, PolitiFact assigned Mitt Romney 19 ‘Pants on Fire’ ratings. For comparison, for every single Democrat combined from 2007-2016 the ‘Pants on Fire’ rating was only assigned 25 times. This seems to indicate Romney wasn’t just a liar, but an insane, raving liar, spewing malicious deceit at every possible opportunity.”

The Federalist

Some note, “now that left-leaning sources are being fact-checked, leftists are suddenly becoming worried about the threat of online censorship... [it is dangerous] when a select group are given the role of arbiters of truth across Facebook and other digital public squares."

Breitbart

“ThinkProgress is a project of the left-wing Center for American Progress, which was founded by John Podesta, who served as President Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff and as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman. I can think of no better tribute to the legacy of CAP’s political patron saints than for ThinkProgress to go after a fair fact-check with an attack that includes an absurd parsing of the true definition of a word and allegations of a vast right-wing conspiracy."

Washington Examiner

“If Joe Biden can win his way through the primaries, he’s almost lab-engineered to beat Trump. He doesn’t cause Republican panic, he has the potential to connect with white working-class voters in a way that Hillary couldn’t in 2016, and he has a potential to connect better with black voters than Hillary did… if Biden emerges from [this] crucible, Trump will face a very different challenge than he faced in 2016.”
David French, National Review

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

According to Alexios Mantzarlis, Director of Poynter's International Fact-Checking Network, “The real problem is not ‘Is Facebook censoring progressives’ but ‘Should Facebook ask fact-checking partners to flag stories based on headlines?’ and ‘How Literally?’ We know a lot of fakes travel off of a headline alone. Not acting on those opens a pretty big loophole.”

Twitter

A libertarian's take

“The fans who avidly followed the men’s tournament certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s hard to argue that each of them had a moral obligation to be exactly as interested in women’s soccer. Even if we could stop them from watching the men more than the women, should we?…

“It’s tempting to answer that the fan choices aren’t innocent, they’re sexist. But since we can’t peek into their hearts, to say that definitively, we’d have to assume that men’s greater speed, strength and endurance definitely make nodifference to the sport’s quality. Fair enough, but then why do fans prefer to watch Megan Rapinoe play instead of the sedentary elderly who could presumably use some exercise? Alternatively, maybe pay should be equalized precisely because biology is unfair. But that seems to be an argument for curbing the pay of all top-level athletes, who have to hit the genetic lottery just to get on the field. It might be easier to focus on the distributions across society at large, rather than every individual industry, especially when fundamental biology is in play.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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