Thursday, August 09, 2012

Factchecking the Factchecker's Factcheckers

While looking for the Romney quote in my previous post, I stumbled upon this Grading PolitiFact: Characterizing Mitt Romney's characterization of Obama from a blog called Politifact Bias.  That's right.  It's a website devoted to proving that PolitiFact is biased against conservatives.

Their proof?  First off, PolitiFact says that Obama and Romney have been fighting over whether Obama's "You didn't build that" line was an insult to entrepreneurs.  But as PolitiFact Bias points out, "That issue is somewhat settled when entrepreneurs perceive an insult.  Romney wins that point."

Yep.  This is a settled issue because some entrepreneurs perceived that they were being insulted.  Does this apply to other classes of people, too?  When Al Sharpton says he's insulted by something, do conservatives typically apologize for the insult?  I don't quite remember that happening.  In fact, I'm pretty sure they believe that all outrage against them for being rude is a badge of honor, and not only proves that they didn't insult anyone but that the insult was entirely deserved.

Either way, according to PolitiFact Bias, because some entrepreneurs claim to feel insulted by Obama's sentence, that means PolitiFact is biased for not admitting that Obama insulted entrepreneurs.

Strawmen for Me, Not for Thee

But that's not all the proof they have.  The real proof is that they believe PolitiFact is distorting Romney's attack on Obama; and are therefore factchecking the wrong claim.

As PB points out, Romney was merely attacking Obama for saying that the government does everything.  But Romney wasn't saying that Obama said entrepreneurs did everything.  You see?  They're basically attacking Romney for a strawman they created.

As PolitiFact Bias says:
The argument is that Obama credits the government too much, not that he doesn't credit entrepreneurs at all. Yet the latter is what PolitiFact suggests in its graphic.
Unfortunately, PolitiFact Bias didn't bother quoting anything Romney said, so let's just check the tape.  Here's a speech he gave at a campaign event on July 19:
When the president said that if you've got a business, you didn't build it, come here and talk to Brian and you'll learn that, in fact, he did build this business. Someone else isn't responsible for what he did here. He's the one that took the risk. He's the one that built this enterprise. He's the one responsible for helping get these people these jobs. And then the people who work here, they're also responsible for helping build this business. They came together and did it together. This is not the result of government.
Hmm, this was in the news almost two weeks before PB wrote their piece, and in it, Romney clearly references Obama's line as being a very literal interpretation.  It specifically juxtapositions Obama's supposed theory that the government is responsible for success, versus his claim that these are the people who built the business.  And he says at the end, "this is not the result of government."

So he not only is attacking Obama for supposedly claiming that the government is responsible for building the business, but goes even further by saying that the business's success is not the result of government.  In other words, Romney did exactly what PolitiFact Bias said Romney didn't do.  Does this mean that once they realize their mistake, they'll go back and apologize to PolitiFact while condemning Romney for misleading people?  I'll be holding my breath for that one.

And I really would like to hear more of that magical business.  Presumably they built all the roads that go to their suppliers and customers, as well as the roads that aid their suppliers and customers, educated their own workforce, created their own internet, and built their own equipment.  How else to explain how their success can't also be attributed to a successful government?

Time Travel Taxation

So their first point was a non-event and their second one was entirely flubbed; surely they've got a third point that might finally stick, right?  Well, maybe not so much.

Their third point is that PolitiFact claims that Obama was taken out of context.  And their proof of that is to take a few other other things Obama said out of context, put nefarious interpretations on them, and then completely ignore everything else he said.

Like this:
Obama was extolling the importance of the government role in allowing business to prosper.  He did so in the context of beneficiary businesses "giving back" as if it wasn't the taxes of businesses that helped pay for the infrastructure in the first place.  And the words he used diminish the role of individual effort ("Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there").
Uhm, what?  The infrastructure that existed before the business was started was paid for with taxes from the business that didn't exist yet?  How is that possible?  Has the IRS figured out how to tax people with time travel?  More likely, this idiot isn't understanding Obama's point at all.  In their minds, the government is some giant leech that sucks all the goodness from the real people like them, and they never do make the connection between what the government is and what it does.

And that's an important distinction.  Because yes, it's ridiculous to claim that we should be "giving back" to the government if we're the ones who made it in the first place.  But...if the government gave us this infrastructure in the first place, then it certainly would be entrepreneurs giving back to the rest of us.  In their universe, the chicken spontaneously created itself through its own hard work and is now offended that the farmer wants some eggs.

And please note how he thinks it's an insult to individuals for Obama to refer to hardworking people.  Uhm, aren't people individuals, too?  And more importantly, all Obama said was that these people didn't do it on their own.  Over and over he said that.  So while PolitiFact Bias repeatedly attacked PolitiFact for saying that they took Romney's attack out of context, they themselves did the same thing.

They claim that Obama's mistake was giving too much credit to the government, but then insist that individuals and entrepreneurs are being insulted if they're forced to share credit with those who helped them.  Simply amazing.

Context of Our Own

But wait, there's still more proof of PolitiFact's bias: PolitiFact believed Obama when he summarized his own message.

As Obama said:
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.
Now generally speaking, when someone says what their point is, it's assumed that this is, in fact, the point of what they're saying.  And Obama's point here couldn't be any more clear, we succeed because of our individual initiative and also because we do things together.

And yet...that's also the point PolitiFact Bias was making a few times, could they have read that and still believe that Obama was attacking individual initiative?  Easy, by saying it didn't count because it didn't fit the context they believe he had.  Seriously.

They claim that it's ok to ignore Obama's summary,
...because the summary is ambiguous.  The summary provides no justification for successful businesses "giving back."  That concept comes out as Obama essentially tells entrepreneurs that they were lucky (others worked just as hard) and owe a big honkin' portion of their success to Our Glorious Government.  And the government, Obama says, is ready to take its rightful cut.
That's right.  They ignored Obama's own summary because it didn't fit, and decided to write one of their own.  And that's more proof that PolitiFact is biased because it took the context of Obama's speech from the speech itself, and not from the fevered imaginations of the typical conservative.  Shame on them.

And based upon all of these points, both the writer and editor of PolitiFact Bias gave PoliticFact a grade of F for their article.  And yet I can tell from the super-secret double-decoder ring context that these guys don't disapprove of Obama at all, and really just pop a boner at the thought of Obama spanking them for being naughty.  And for that, I'll give them both A's.

No comments: