Defining “facts”

By Zach Brown – Opinion Editor |

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

Traditionally: “Who watches the watchmen?”

-Juvenal, Satires

Much has been and will be said about the “factual accuracy” of the candidates’ remarks during this election’s debates. While the candidates, party chairs and other politicians will claim that their candidate is the most correct, these people are, surprisingly, not the ones to worry about. Instead, the so-called Fact Checkers, who the Weekly Standard has called a “discredit to the journalism profession,” need more scrutiny than would appear.

What determines a “fact,” or rather, a “non-fact”? In the October 3 Presidential Debate in Denver, FactCheck.org noted “[President] Obama again touted his ‘$4 trillion’ deficit reduction plan, which includes $1 trillion from winding down wars that are coming to an end in any event.” Is there a problem with that statement? What is so wrong with Mr. Obama including the proposed reduction of military efforts in his tally of deficit reduction? It seems that the nonpartisan, nonprofit FactCheck did not correct a fact, but added one of their own.

The same applies with Governor Romney. Politifact.com rated Mr. Romney’s claim that his health-care plan would cover people with pre-existing conditions as “Mostly False” because Romney, at the debate, omitted that those people had to have been continuously insured. Here, it seems that Poltifact is not only adding information, but also casting judgment upon information. That is not fact checking; that is opinion writing.

Bias taints the public’s information. Skewed numbers from the mouth of a politician is expected. When the members of the media, especially organizations touting “facts,” spin the “facts,” they break the unspoken bond of trust between reporter and receiver.  This is neither expected, nor forgivable.

Responsibility for what the “facts” are then rests on the public.

Question the Fourth Estate. Doing so allows for better understanding and hones the ability to detect individual bias.

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