“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the state to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” — Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister
“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” — Abraham Lincoln
“There is nothing as powerful as the truth and often nothing as strange.” — Daniel Webster
We are in the season where a lot of people will play fast and loose with the facts.
Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker,” was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal yesterday morning talking about his work and his column in the paper. The interview is archived on the C-SPAN website if you want to check it out. He mentioned some other fact-checking organizations, setting us off on a little search for some others.
As we listen to our national politicians charging and counter-charging opponents with everything but being adult bed-wetters, it’s a good idea to check these sites which devote staff time to learning what the target of criticism really said, did, or advocated and whether a criticized government program is really as bad as the person seeking office wants you to think it it.
Kessler works for a newspaper that some people think tilts toward the liberal side and bases his ratings of the truth with Pinocchios. Pinocchio, of course, is the puppet who yearned to be a real boy and whose nose grew longer with each lie he told. Kessler gives the “King of Bain” anti-Romney video getting a lot play in South Carolina right now with four pinocchios. He provides an in-depth analysis of that video. His site also checks Rick Santorum’s claim that he “wrote the welfare reform bill,” President Obama’s claim that the nation’s defense budget is larger than the military budgets of the next ten (or is it 14?) countries combined, Newt Gingrich’s claim that Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on the abortion issue, Romney’s claim that he helped create 100,000 new jobs, and others including stuff candidates have said in debates.
The Media Research Center, backed by conservative columnist Brent Bozell, also investigates doesn’t just critique political statements and claims, it critiques the media generally.
The Tampa Bay (Florida) Times runs Politifact column that rates campaign statements, commercials, videos, and so forth on a scale that runges from True to Mostly True to varying degrees to false and “pants on fire.” as in the old children’s chant, “Liar,Liar, Pants on Fire.” One of the “Pants on Fire” criticisms is President Obama’s claim that’Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich all say they would cut foreign aid to Israel–and every other country–to zero.,” Gingrich’s claims that Romney “runs away from Ronald Reagan” is rated “mostly false. Politifact also looks at claims by PACs and Super PACs. Politifact also maintains an Obameter that charts how he’s doing with his campaign promises (108 kept, 19 broken, 34 compromised, 83 stalled, 257 “in the works” and three not yet rated. The fact that Politifact counted more than FIVE HUNDRED campaign promises raised our eyebrows a little, we confess.
The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania has FactCheck.org, which recently published “The Whoppers of 2011,” finding both political parties guilty of “whoppers” including the Republican claim that the Health Care Law was a job killer, the Democrats’ claims that Republicans would “end Medicare,” Republican claims that raising taxes on high-income people would kill jobs, and President’s claims that his dying mother almost was denied health care insurance because her cancer was considered a preexisting condition. And there are more.
The Annenberg folks also issue a stern warning about chain emails. “Lies spread like viruses through carelessly forwarded email messages that were also copied and pasted on personal blogs and social media.” And that brings us to:
Snopes, the first site we check when we get an email from somebody who thinks we won’t be a good American or a good Christian or a good something if we don/t immediately send it on to someone else or better to 20 someones else. We got an email from a friend last week purportedly showing the new A/F 37 stealth fighter plane preparing for a test takeoff from an aircraft carrier. No such bird, says Snopes. It’s pictures from a movie shot a few years ago. Snopes also looks at a lot of other topics.
Some folks think Snopes is too liberal. If you’re in that category, try TruthorFiction.com that claims to cover almost every email hoax you will get.
There’s also Hoax-Slayer.com that also goes after email hoaxes, spam, and internet scams.
You might have some others that you trust to give you the straight poop especially in political years.
On more Missouri-specific political issues, we’ve known newspapers in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia to run articles or columns or features analyzing state campaign comments and commercials. We’ll try to keep an eye out for those articles and pass them along in this spot.
Citizenship requires some effort. For those willing to make that effort, these are some of the places to go to help voters form their own opinions based on something other than what is said by those who will say almost anything.