Balance through looking at both sides
The way I figure out bias, is by reading both sides views of something, and then comparing their facts and complaint, sampling each of them (fact checking them), or fact checking their fact-checking, and you can get a good idea of how biased they are.
I tended to follow Newsbusters (MRC) and MediaMatters (same organization) or ThinkProgress and MediaMatters (different organizations) for about a month, comparing their complaints and weighting their arguments for severity of infraction and accuracy. MRC/Newsbusters certain gets a little whiney at times and does the lies of omission (or clipped edits) in parts to prove their point a bit too much. But they do it a tiny fraction of the other side, and have about 4 times the content, 3 times the support for their points, and much more validity if you know the topics than the latter two combined. That gives you a picture.
When you look at Politifact, the picture becomes pretty clear -- they're very partisan, sometimes wrong, and when they are wrong they behave badly by either:
- (a) not fixing errors that are known falsehoods, letting the disinformation remain
- (b) correcting the errors without admission of their mistake (just fixing the article without noting that this was a retraction)
- (c) pretending the earlier errors didn't exist in later articles
- (d) attacking those that point out the errors
None of which instills confidence in their professionalism, or quest to speak truth to power (as they're the power). On top of that, you have the other two common ways of bias:
- Selection bias
- Standards bias (double standard)
Below I offer examples of each of them (and more).
This is too easy, as there are websites dedicated to debunking the bias in fake unbiased places like Politifact. Like the popular:
- Examples of that bias are here: http://www.politifactbias.com/p/research.html
But in the end, if you go through that site, they decimate Politifact facade of not being partisan hacks. If you read any examples of their known falsehoods, or long winded lawyering of issues they don't want to admit are true (because they make a Republican look good), or make excuses for why they soft-pedaled a Democrat who was obviously wrong, then you kind of get the idea. Assuming you're not too partisan to be self-blinded to it.
|Types of Bias|
There are many forms of bias when doing studies or trying to analyze data. When Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers, or the filters we put on what's real, it helps to keep a few of those in mind, like: #Selection Bias (what they pick), #Oversampling Bias (picking the same thing over, or minute variants), #Standards Bias (not holding both sides to the same standard), and so on. If you can show that a site has any of these biases, then you discredit their claims of impartiality or objectivity. If you can show they do all of these, then you wreck their credibility... at least for those who aren't biased themselves. Anyone that refutes that this evidence matters, proves that they are not to be taken seriously (as objective). more...
The simplest example of standards bias is the following example of Politifact's anti-Republican bias:
But there are many examples like that.
MSNBC's Ed Schultz makes an exaggerated claim that's off by at least 33% (and more like 50%) -- and it's "half true". Conservative talk show host Larry Elders is off by less than 25%, and he's "Mostly False".
When Ted Cruz cited a well researched and well known claim that ["most violent criminals are democrats", PolitiFact loses their nut, and picked nits about how the study cited | "didn't differentiate between violent criminals and all criminals", as if that's going to really change the outcome. PolitiFact whined about correlation is not causation, but Cruz's point wasn't that voting democrat will make you a felon, his point was that the reason the DNC is soft on crime, is because violent felons are more of their base. (They are). Then PolitiFact didn't research any of the dozens of other papers, as there have been many, in many states about how felons vote, or what racial/cultural and socio-economic demographic they are (and how those demographics vote) -- and declared something that was completely true, as "mostly false".
For Trump's top 5 lies, like Large Scale Voter Fraud, Not supporting Iraq War, or Obama's birth certificate, they not only use selection bias on what they check (or choosing how it was phrased to make it look worse), and judge it by a harsher standard than Hillary, but they check the same lie 5, 6 and 7 times each. For bigger lies by Hillary like "was named after Sir Edmund Hillary", "Landed Under Sniper fire in Bosnia", or "Did not send classified info in emails", they checked the same lie, 0, 0 and 2 times (the latter having one true and one false).
Then there's how many times you get checked at all (a form of selection bias) -- for example Marco Rubio was fact-checked as many times before he took office than long-time senator and erstwhile Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been checked in his entire career. Ted Cruz was checked more than any Democrat Senator, and Paul Ryan was fact-checked nearly 2:1 as often as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was. Michelle Bachmann was checked about as much as vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine.
Then when scoring who lies most, it's obviously the Republicans, right?
- Federalist: How PolitiFact Slants Its Truth Ratings Against Republicans
Here are a few examples of their mistakes: 20 items
Tom Feran as editor of Politifact Ohio caught doing multiple "Gobama!" and "evil conservatives" tweets. Sure, and Sean Hannity would make a non-partisan fact-checker as well:
Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact reported that (a) one of Kevin D. Williamson (of National Review) had made an erroneous claim (that ACA covered things like acupuncture and naturopathic medicine), because it did (b) that the reporter had tried to reach Kevin for comment, but was unable to get to him. (This reach out was by tweeting, instead of email or a phone call). Instead of owning their mistakes, they pretended the original claim was half true, but first straw-manning Kevin's claims.
I know of exactly one retraction PolitiFact has made. Back in 2014 John Kerry made the laughable claim that the Obama administration had helped broker a deal that successfully removed "100 percent" of chemical weapons from Syria, that they rated as "Mostly True". When 3 years later Syria used chemical weapons to kill up to 100 civilians, and human rights workers are pointing out Syria still has at least 12 chemical weapon production facilities, that claim isn't holding water. Of course, I expect there are hundreds or thousands of citations of that fact check, or other fact checks that were based on it for the last 3 years, which all made out the Obama/Kerry administration to be honest when they were lying, and anyone that questioned them was called a liar, when they were telling the truth.
My problem isn't just with the rampant bias, it's with the media that celebrates and quotes from PolitiFact freely when they're making obvious partisan mistakes (like the ones mentioned), but then rarely offers retractions or corrections when PolitiFact is eating crow. If you don't remember widespread discussions on talk shows and the news about PolitiFact's failures, or they still get cited as a reputable source for non-partisan fact checking, or anyone uses them as a "fact check" site, then it proves my point.
Just wander the Hillary Clinton many scandals, scams, or gasslightings, and see how PolitiFact handles them. They seem more like a DNC PAC, than objective journalism, both on issues they touch, and how they handle them. (Especially when you contrast them with how they handle unsupported claims against Trump). (People whine that makes me a Trump supporter, but I just care about using the same yardstick):
- Hillary Clinton: Lootergate (2001)
- Hillary Clinton: Healthcare Reform debacle
- "Fact Checking" her book and being unable to find any lies
Remember, PolitiFact was given the Pulitzer Prize for exceptional dishonesty and lack of objectivity in Journalism -- which reflects more on how politically embarrassing Pulitzer has become, than any honorific deserved by PolitiFact, just because it's the most widely quoted "Fact Checkers" popular among the left leaning media. And it's not just PolitiFact (though they're the focus of this article), the AP, FactCheck, and the other sources are just as bad, or worse. But again, that doesn't prove PolitiFact's journalistic standards, it just proves the medias bias.
Examples of Bias