Fact-Checking in a Post-Factual World
I travel in somewhat wonky circles these days. People I talk politics with have usually read at least the headliner blogs of choice for their particular political slant, and in a few cases even the non-partisan news aggregator sites like Wisconsin’s Wheeler Report (a daily link farm of political news in the state).
As a result I occasionally have to remind myself sternly that none of this information matters electorally.
We are quite frankly living in a post-factual political world. It does not matter what the jobs report says, it does not matter what happened under Obama and what happened under Bush or under Romney as governor; it does not matter how much oil we are or aren’t drilling right at this particular second.
The campaigns you see on TV are going to be about talking points with no grounding in fact.
“The economy got worse under Obama.” Well, no, it didn’t, not by any sane measurement. It’s not going gangbusters, but it’s better than it was at the start of 2009, and saying anything else is false. But that won’t change that narrative, or the massive slice of the population that believes it’s true.
“The Affordable Care Act provides real universal coverage for the first time in American history.” Well, no, it doesn’t. At the very best it’s a band-aid on our hemorrhaging health care costs, and sustaining an ultimately unsustainable way of running the business to boot. But that, too, won’t change the narrative, or the wide swath of the voting public that takes it as gospel.
It is unquestionable that Mitt Romney is worse about this (or better about it, if we take post-factual campaigning as the new political model in which you sink or swim, in which case he is Michel fucking Phelps). The loveably, deludeably, fact-faithful liberals at MaddowBlog have been running a “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity” series for months now, which you’re welcome to check out if you want to get a better sense of scale for just how often his campaign puts out things that are proveably false. It is a little startling if you’re not familiar.
But that’s not really the point.
It doesn’t matter how many Pinocchios or Pants on Fire Mitt Romney gets, and it doesn’t matter how many times clever people like the staff of The Rachel Maddow Show point them out. No one’s reading that crap. They’re reading
ROMNEY: ECONOMY WILL CONTINUE TO GET WORSE UNDER OBAMA
and either nodding their heads or frothing at the mouth. And that’s the period, end of story, no further fact-checking thank you please.
Politifact and FactCheck and all their various imitators were a good idea. But ultimately, they’re an MMORPG for people who want to roleplay as journalists, and just like any MMO, no one outside the game cares about your high score.
Welcome to post-factual campaigning.