One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

In pseudo-defense of fact-checking

I don’t agree with the conclusion, the tenor, or even many of the premises in James Taranto’s Wall Street Journal op-ed decrying fact-checking as “opinion journalism or criticism, masquerading as straight news,” but I do think he has a point that much of what describes itself as “fact-checking” is often motivated by a terribly partisan bent.  This snippet, for example, from the liberal ThinkProgress‘s live-blogging of last night’s debate, seems entirely unnecessary:

10:13: McCain misquoted his “hero” Teddy Roosevelt tonight, quoting him as saying, “Walk — Talk softly and carry a big stick. The exact quote is: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

This, however, seems like a vitally important fact-check to me:

10:29: It’s worth noting that if Iran attacked Israel, there would be no need to wait for a UN Security Council resolution even according to the UN Charter before responding. Article 51 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter enshrines the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.”

This is an example in which both candidates, as well as, not insignificantly, the moderator, did not challenge a faulty precept — that responding to an Iranian attack on Israel would require “waiting” for UN Security Council approval.

In journalism, of course, the stakes are higher, and, despite Taranto’s attempted linguistic contortions of the phrase “out of context” (approximately: “every quotation is ‘out of context,’ because that’s the point of a quotation), the media should have a responsibility to clarify the facts if they are going to report on a distortive McCain attack ad.

October 8, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. […] I suppose NPR could have been relating the story correctly — with an odd absence of injecting fact-checking into the story — and that it was in fact the Hofstra students who were misinformed, but […]

    Pingback by NPR is as bad as Fox News « Boondoggle | October 15, 2008 | Reply

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