People who follow political coverage know about the tradition of the fact check. That’s when a political figure makes a dubious claim and pro journalists dig into it, trying to determine if it can be rated true, false, half true, etc.
But there’s also the fact chuck. Yes. That’s when a political figure makes a dubious claim and the journalists look at it, shrug, and find other people who claim the opposite is true. (Because that’s being fair, right?) Then they chuck the whole problem at us, as if to say: We have no idea who’s right, but here’s what they’re saying. We can’t figure it out, maybe you can!
Do I have an example to nail down the concept of the fact chuck? Well, of course. I’m a pro at this. Yesterday the AP saw fit to report this story: Arpaio: Obama birth record ‘definitely fraudulent’. You know the drill:
Investigators for an Arizona sheriff’s volunteer posse have declared that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is definitely fraudulent.
Members of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s posse said in March that there was probable cause that Obama’s long-form birth certificate released by the White House in April 2011 was a computer-generated forgery.
Now, Arpaio says investigators are positive it’s fraudulent.
So that happened. Then the AP finds people who are equally positive that the fraudulent charges are fraudulent:
President Obama was born in Honolulu and his birth certificate is valid,” Joshua A. Wisch, a special assistant to Hawaii’s attorney general, said in a statement. “Regarding the latest allegations from a sheriff in Arizona, they are untrue, misinformed, and misconstrue Hawaii law.”
Wisch also said that “not only are Hawaii’s vital records some of the best managed, but they also have some of the strongest restrictions on access to prevent identity theft and fraud.”
Now that we’re nice and balanced, it’s time for the chuck!
Obama released a copy of his long-form birth certificate in an attempt to quell citizenship questions.
Courts have rebuffed lawsuits over the issue.
End of story. Thanks, AP. Now we know that some people are positive the birth certificate is a total fraud, and other people are positive it’s totally not. And we know that this is AP journalism: in July, 2012. We have no idea who’s right. You figure it out!
Now that you have seen the fact chuck demonstrated, won’t you bring other examples to my attention? Much obliged.
Hat tip, Lars Olsson.