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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We live in a Stephen Colbert world
Posted by Jill | 5:07 AM
Jon Stewart, as we saw with his spot-on Glenn Beck parody a few weeks ago, still shows us sometimes that he's the guy who started it all. But when it comes to the quick sound bite that encapsulates the absurdity of modern life, no one does it better than Stephen Colbert. From the coining of the appallingly accurate "Truthiness to describe the Republican One Percent Doctrine described by Ron Suskind in his book about Dick Cheney to the gobbledygook words that surround Colbert in his show's opening credits, to the now-infamous and immortal White House Correspondents Dinner performance, it's Colbert who in his wingnut persona really captures the zeitgeist of a nation that elected a black president and then promptly started going completely mad.

It was at that White House Correspondents' Dinner that Colbert noted that "facts have a well-known liberal bias." It was meant as a joke, but it seems that there are those in the media (and not just at Fox News) who believe it.

It seems that now that there is a Democrat in the White House, ABC's show This Week, formerly anchored by George Stephanopoulos and soon to be anchored by Christiane Amanpour, has decided to hire Politifast to fact-check its guests:
The program is promoting an arrangement with the Web site PolitiFact.com whereby its editors apply its “Truth-O-Meter” — true, half true, false, “pants on fire!” — to the administration officials and lawmakers who are interviewed.

The fact checking, which started Sunday, stands in stark contrast to the he-said, she-said nature of most television chatfests, even though PolitiFact’s work takes place well after the facts and possible falsehoods are first uttered on TV. Both the Web site and ABC said that the checking is just an experiment, but it is already drawing attention online as a small measure of accountability for politicians and television interviewers.

Jake Tapper, the interim anchor of “This Week,” informed viewers of the fact checking at the end of the program on Sunday. “I’m supposed to be the first line of defense,” he said in an interview here at the Newseum, where the program is produced. “But this is an acknowledgment that immediate fact checking is often not as easy as it sounds.”


“In a perfect world it would be like ‘Pop-Up Video’ on VH1,” Mr. Tapper said. “Senator so-and-so says the sky is red. Woop! The sky is blue. But generally speaking, the things that are worth fact checking are rarely that starkly, patently false.” He also noted that the research takes time. So he recruited Bill Adair, the editor of PolitiFact, whom he first met in 2007 at a forum about the rise of media fact checking. A project of The St. Petersburg Times, PolitiFact won a Pulitzer Prize last year for national reporting. PolitiFact says it exists to “help you find the truth in politics.”

In a telephone interview on Sunday Mr. Adair said: “The media in general has shied away from fact checking to a large extent because of fears that we’d be called biased, and also because I think it’s hard journalism.

“It’s a lot easier to give the on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand kind of journalism and leave it to readers to sort it out. But that isn’t good enough these days. The information age has made things so chaotic, I think it’s our obligation in the mainstream media to help people sort out what’s true and what’s not.”

Go back and read those last two paragraphs again; about how the media has stayed away from FACT checking because demanding that guests on these show not just pull bullshit out of their asses is somehow biased. And what does he mean by "hard journalism"? Does he mean actual journalism that's based on reality, rather than Glenn Beck (as Keith Olbermann pointed out on last night's "Worst Persons" segment) deciding that it's Barack Obama, not George W. Bush, who said that "you're either with us or with the terrorists"? Or does he mean "Journalism is hard" -- in the Talking Barbie sense of the word?

That George W. Bush held innocents at Gitmo isn't a bias, it's a fact. That the people now threatening Democratic legislators are affiliated with teabag movements isn't an opinion, it's a demonstrable fact. Have we so completely lost sight of that facts are, have we so completely been tainted by Fox "Newsiness" that even journalists can no longer tell?

And let's not see comments, please, from the usual suspects, about how I have a lot of nerve talking about facts. I'm an essayist and an opinion writer. I don't report news, I pass on news and commentary with more commentary. I have never pretended to be otherwise, unlike the hosts and producers of the Sunday gasbag shows, who have allowed conservatives to lie with impunity for the last decade.


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Blogger jurassicpork said...
Jill, you'd be amazed at how many people have trolled my last post at my place to either hurl ad hominems or to actually rationalize murdering civilians and essentially offering nothing more substantial than, "Oh, well. That's war."

These people make me sick, especially the ones who tell us that we can't believe our lying eyes and insist that everything has to have context. Some things are readily demonstrable and not subject to interpretation.

And when I see how little progress I make and how few actual, thoughtful comments I get (witness how many comments it got on the crosspost here), I think more than ever about how nice it would be to just leave this thankless fucking business and leave it up to the more thick-skinned.

Piss on this blogging business. There are just too many stupid fucking people out there.

Blogger Nan said...
"Piss on this blogging business. There are just too many stupid fucking people out there."

No. No. No. Blogging is what keeps some of us sane by reminding us that although there are a whole lot of stupid people out there, not every person on the planet is an idiot.

Blogger molly said...
Jill, not only does the right lie outright but they also use the keep talking and don't let the liberal get a word in edgewise or shout them down approach to exchanging ideas. If you scream it enough times it becomes true. We have become a most uncivil society and the ones doing it are the republicans, tea-baggers, religious right and other right wingers.

Blogger Bob said...
Now, if a talk show guest said, "Great Salt Lake isn't salty," it might be treated as merely a difference of opinion. If the guest was offered a glass of Great Salt Lake brew to sip, the guest would say, "Let's just agree to disagree."

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"Journalism is hard" -- in the Talking Barbie sense of the word?
No, in the George W. Bush sense -- in the debates with Kerry, Bush said that "War is hard work" because he had to watch it on TV ! Kerry, of course, was too polite to mention that the hard work was being done by the soldiers, not the chicken-hawks in Washington!