PolitiFact and the scam of neutral expertiseBy Glenn Greenwald
Dec. 06, 2011
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The fact-checking site PolitiFact serves a valuable purpose when it actually performs its stated function: to “help you find the truth in American politics” by “fact-check[Ăng] statements” from political and media figures. But it undermines its own credibility when it purports to resolve subjective disputes of political opinion under the guise of objective expertise. That’s precisely what it did yesterday in this incredibly sloppy and often factually false analysis of Ron Paul’s condemnation of the new AUMF and detention authorities embedded in the pending Levin/McCain bill. What matters here more than PolitiFact‘s obvious, specific errors is the reason they were led to such error: namely, reliance on supposedly neutral, ideology-free “experts” who are anything but that.
PolitiFact rated as “mostly false” Paul’s argument that the new explicit standards in Levin/McCain defining the scope of the War on Terror are so vague and broad that they allow virtually anyone to be targeted by the President with force or detention; to support his claim, Paul cited the fact that, under this new language, the President is explicitly authorized to use force not only against members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban (as the original 2001 AUMF provided), but also against anyone who “substantially supports” those groups or “associated forces.” As Paul put it in his supposedly false statement: “It’s (now) anybody associated with (those) organizations, which means almost anybody can be loosely associated — so that makes all Americans vulnerable.”