It is intellectual dishonesty that says that attacking the source of the facts is the same as addressing the facts. There are certain ideologues who dismiss the fact-checking done by FactCheck.org and Politifact.com for no other reason than the fact-checking conclusions reached by those respected organizations do not mesh with the partisan “facts” their confirmation bias has accepted. Rather than address the actual points raised by FactCheck.org and Politifact in order to see if the fact-checking is accurate, they would rather ignore the organizations with a blanket dismissal than challenge their own biases and prejudices.

FactCheck.org is A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, a fact which is stated prominently on the title of their website. They are not hiding their association. The Annenberg Public Policy Center is located at the University of Pennsylvania. From their “About Us” page:

“APPC’s work has informed the policy debates around campaign finance, children’s television, internet privacy, tobacco advertising and the tone of discourse in Washington. Scholars at the Policy Center have offered guidance to journalists covering difficult stories, including terrorist threats, suicide, and mental health. The Center’s discussions of key public policy issues have brought together industry representatives, advocates, government officials, and the scholarly community. Its research has examined what messages work best to reduce the spread of HIV and drug use, how to improve candidate discourse and specific strategies for parents to use to monitor their children’s media exposure. APPC has developed materials to help educators and schools do a better job of teaching youth about civic responsibility, democracy, and the Constitution.”

Sounds sinister.

The Annenberg Foundation is a philanthropic organization that helps “advance the public well being through improved communications.” Several organizations were founded with grants from the Annenberg Foundation, including:

  • Annenberg Learner
  • The Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at the Eisenhower Medical Center
  • The Annenberg Center for Communication at the University of Southern California
  • Annenberg Institute for School Reform
  • Annenberg Challenge
  • The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania

The ideologues who shy away from a discussion of the facts will try to paint Walter Annenberg as someone who was anti-American. Walter Annenberg took on McCarthyism during the 1950s, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Reagan and the Linus Pauling Medal for Humanitarianism, and established the Annenberg Challenge in 1993, which was a five-year $500 million gift to public education–the largest ever of its kind. While he was not beloved while living and even hated in some circles, tying the organizations that received money from the Annenberg Foundation to the man himself is being disingenuous.

Politifact.com is a project of the St Petersburg (FL) Times. Their reporters examine statements made by prominent politicians, pundits, and organizations and check for veracity. One of its major features is the so-called Obamameter, which keeps track of the campaign promises President Obama made in 2008. They rank statements made by their Truth-o-Meter, which breaks down the statements by True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, False, and Pants-on-Fire

A fact which has apparently led to the website’s dismissal by certain ideologues is Politifact’s winning of a 2009 Pulitzer Prize for its fact-checking of political statements made during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. From the Pulitzer Prize website:

“Awarded to the St. Petersburg Times Staff for “PolitiFact,” its fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign that used probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters. (Moved by the Board to the National Reporting category.)”

The Pulitzer Prize has 14 categories under Journalism for its prize, covering the many aspects of journalism here in the U.S. and internationally. Apparently, because people who lean to the left sometimes win a Pulitzer Prize for doing a job that is worthy of recognition, that’s enough cause to dismiss the fact-checking veracity of Politifact.

If you are in a discussion with other people and you make a statement, you should be prepared to offer a source for the “facts” you cite. If you cannot source your cites, then you cannot assert them as “facts.” If someone else cites facts that are sourced and corroborated, then they stand as facts until they are countered with actual sourced facts of your own. Anything less than sourced facts is just your opinion and not a substitute in a discussion.

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