"Re-Fact": A Word That Just Might Set Us Free
So-called "Fact-checkers" posture as if their opinion is the final word. They claim unwarranted special value of their opinion on issues, but their articles are still opinion blog articles.
Over the past two years, I have had the occasion to be targeted by articles in self-acclaimed “fact-checking” websites. In this article, I review some of gaffs made by so-called “fact-checkers” and offer a new word to the English language that can be used to provide a return volley to scale down the undue influence attributed to an article merely because it appears on a website with the descriptor “Fact Check”.
So-called fact check articles are written but authors who, more often than not, represent their determination of their position on a topic as somehow superior, or more correct, on a particular matter. The authors of so-called “fact-check” articles are often credentialed, but the letters behind their name do not automatically protect them, or the reader, from logic errors or lapses in judgement.
Some examples of opinion blog websites that position themselves as somehow being capable of issuing a correct final verdict on just about any topic they care to write about includes
AP Fact Check
AFP Fact Check
Washington Post Fact Check
Wikipedia lists a larger number, and those in use outside the United States.
What Makes a Fact Check Website Special?
According to Wikipedia,
“This list of fact-checking websites includes websites that provide fact-checking services about both political and non-political subjects.
The Reporters' Lab at Duke University maintains a database of fact-checking organizations that is managed by Mark Stencel and Bill Adair. The database tracks more than 100 non-partisan organizations around the world. The Lab's inclusion criteria are based on whether the organization
examines all parties and sides;
examines discrete claims and reaches conclusions;
tracks political promises;
is transparent about sources and methods;
and whether its primary mission is news and information.”
These are laudable criteria, however, direct personal experience in communicating with some of the authors who publish in these so-called “Fact Check” opinion blog websites has been revealing.
First, anyone can throw up a website, buy a domain, and include “Fact Check” in the title. Anyone can write an article and label it “Fact Check”. I’ve done it, mostly to demonstrate that anyone can do it.
Of course, fact-chekkerz disclosing their funding/affiliation might seem to imbue objectivity, but the mere act of disclosure does not dispense with the conflict of interest that comes with the funding.
Whether a given website “examines all sides” of an issue varies from article to article, and so far, no fact check website has been vetted, article by article, and claim by claim.
Transparency about sources of methods is also a laudable attribute, however, in my experience, when some of these opinion blog websites are sent information correcting their errors, they update their attributes with notation of changes, and fail to attribute the change to those contacting them.
The public should know that so-called fact checking is primarily a political exercise, used to attack politicians’ claims about issues, and whether the intent of these websites is to participate in politics or not does not prevent them from being, primarily, political tools.
Look, for example, at the results of a Google Trends search on “Fact” check. The is a cycle of interest in fact-checking in the United States that occurs every four years:
By choice, I am likely one of the least partisan people I know. I am equally likely to be critical of politicians regardless of what party they are affiliated with. That has been a conscious decision since 2015. But I don’t pretend that my articles and research will not have political consequences, and in fairness, the same could be said about so-called Fact-Check websites. But I don’t conflate my opinion with fact.
Nevertheless, the bias inherent in certain articles and websites on specific topics - vaccine safety, for example - often betrays either a lack of knowledge (failure to dig deep enough into an issue), or a desire of a fact-check website to remain palatable - and that makes them position articles, not ultimate, objective arbiters of truth.
So-called “Independent” Fact-Checker are often cited by Facebook and Twitter as a rational for their decision to label or remove a post. In their zeal to fight against so-called “misinformation”, these social media sites have neglected to perform due diligence on the claim of “independence” of fact-checkers. US Rep. Thomas Massie revealed earlier this year that FactCheck.org, for example, is funded by Johnson & Johnson, and by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which owns $20Bln in J&J stock in vaccine manufacturers.
FactCheck.org cannot therefore be considered to be independent, objective arbiter of facts. Russell Brand addressed this point in September:
Reality, not opinion, dictates truth, and our ability to know the truth depends on whether we as a society use the right tools to obtain and place proper weight on evidence.
We have an entire area of human enterprise that allows us to do this: Science. By “Science”, I don’t mean the for-profit activities touted by the Pharma/CDC/FDA/NIH cartel as “Science”. By definition, Science has no agenda, and the cartel is about as far removed from Science as the marketing department at Merck. As I described in 2015 (Cures vs. Profits), they do “Science-Like Activities”.
In spite of conflicts of interest, when confronted with being dead wrong, opinion blogs masquerading as having a monopoly on veracity also then have the gall to inform those informing them of their errors/mistakes/biases by readers are sometimes informed that the reader can “appeal” to their opinion website editors - again, positioning themselves as having special, private knowledge that allows them to determine the match or mismatch between statements made during public discourse, and reality.
So, I offer to the English-speaking world a new word that can be used to describe rebuttals against so-called “Fact Check” opinion blog articles. The word I propose, “Re-fact”, will, I hope, prove useful in a number of ways.
First, let’s set out some definitions:
verb (used with object)
to refute or challenge opinion misrepresented as fact
the act of refuting opinion misrepresented as fact
Usage in context as a verb:
“Did you see that the article by Dr. Lyons-Weiler was "Fact-Checked"?”
“Yes, I did - but it has been refacted.”
Usage in context as a noun:
“I’ll send you my refaction”.
(Similarly, when someone claims that something was “debunked”, we could report, after providing counter-evidence, that the fact/claim/hypothesis has been “rebunked”, but I like “refacted” better.)
Here’s a post I made to Facebook on January 13 after AFP.com changed their article - including the title - but never told their readership.
Ironically, upon visiting this post today, I received a notice that I was not allowed to post that, because it went against Facebook’s “Community Standards”.
Many times, I’ll post a new peer-reviewed study that advances knowledge - and because it goes against the final reality imposed by fact-checkers, the new study gets flagged!
Facebook needs to be transparent and actually involve the community in establishing community standards.
Society needs science, not marketing. And the public needs to think and do their own research. Don’t rely on conflicted blog sites that publish opinion blog articles.
WHO IS FACT-CHECKING THE “FACT-CHECKERS”? OH WAIT, THAT’S MY JOB (jameslyonsweiler.com)
Fact Checking the ‘Fact Checkers’ on Natural Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 (jeremyhammond.com)
SCIENTIST STUNNED: XXXXX XXXXXXX RESEARCHER ADMITS HE DOES NOT KNOW ABOUT KEY VACCINE SAFETY FINDING. AFP.COM FLOPS IN FACT-CHECKING THE 21% (jameslyonsweiler.com)