I’m old enough to remember when “news” didn’t need to be “fact checked.” Reporters would report what candidates or elected officials said, check the record, and type. An example might be “I paid all my taxes,” candidate X said, although County property tax records show X was delinquent in paying those taxes from 2002 through 2006.” I’ve been a reporter and it just wasn’t that hard.
But this “fact-checking” fad seems to want to be a “purer” form of reporting the news. Politifact in particular wants to dig into the tiniest detail, parse every claim, diagram every sentence and boil away all context to distill out “the truth.” Consider the utter condescension for the people who still read news that attitude conveys. Politifact thinks you’re not smart enough to detect when a politician might be optimizing facts for his or her benefit. (Here’s a hint: ALWAYS. It’s what they do.)
Politifact put a recent claim -that Georgia has the lowest taxes per capita of any state in the union- from one of Governor Deal’s campaign flyers under their microscope, and came up with “a Mostly False” rating. That link’s behind the paywall, so click it if you can, but the gist of the “fact-checking” was while Georgia does indeed have the lowest taxes per capita of any state in the union, Deal can’t claim “credit” for that. If that’s the new standard in truth, then Governor Deal’s off the hook for the traffic jam caused by Snowpocalypse I and Georgia’s ranking in education. Those problems are on the Governors who preceded him, right?
Of course not. Governors get just as much credit or blame for stuff they inherit from predecessors as they do for their own accomplishments.
And Georgia DOES have the lowest taxes per capita of any state in the union. I know this because Politifact rated the same claim as “Mostly True” -when State Senator Jason Carter made it.
Quibble about “context” all you want, but the bottom line is this: When State Senator Jason Carter says Georgia has the lowest per-capita tax rates of any state in the union, it’s true and it’s bad. When Governor Nathan Deal says Georgia has the lowest tax rates of any state in the union, it’s mostly false.
And that tells you more about Politifact than it does about either candidate.