Here you go: Politifact .
At Amherst, I hear politically-tinged debates going on every day. Lately, with the Republican Primary race in a brief hiatus until the 28th, campus has been gripped by the argument that the AAS doesn’t represent the student body vs. the student body doesn’t care about the AAS. There have been public and occasionally-harsh-tongued letters and articles published in The Student, and even an innocently posted meme on Facebook drew criticism. All this bickering and fact-checking has driven me back to Politifact.
Politifact, possibly the best thing to emerge from Florida since my girlfriend, Josh Beckett in 2005, and Gatorade, was started by the Tampa Bay Times in 2007 and has since become nationally known and relied on by multiple news organizations. In 2009 it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for its work during the 2008 presidential campaign and has continued to provide stalwart (usually – but when they don’t, they fact-check themselves) information on politicians and statements from both sides of the aisle.
It’s a pet peeve of mine when somebody makes statements that are founded in nothing but the density of their own grey matter or distorts facts to represent a favored opinion. Coupled with people who regurgitate half-knowledge they have gleaned from a headline or skim of the first lines of an article, these people drive me crazy. I prefer to stay mum unless I know that I know precisely what I am talking about – now that (almost) everyone carries the Internet in a pocket, it’s really easy to be humiliated after something said is revealed to be nonsense. But actually knowing things takes so much work, I used to whine. This hiccup has stalled me in endeavors ranging from conversations to my thesis (for which I have tried to read the entire collection of Frost Library).
The people behind Politifact are amazing. I swear they all wear Superman (or Woman) suits under their work outfits and dash off whenever they sense a potentially iffy statement uttered somewhere. They have built their website around the simple but clever rating system ranging from True to Pants on Fire! and also have a handy flip-flop meter so everyone can see where all the Republican candidates stood on the issues before they started vomiting partially-digested promises all over the nation. My favorite section, for a while, was their Obamameter – a personal fact checker for the head honcho, which actually gives him 9 pages worth of kept promises and only 4 unkept, which goes to show me how much of a pessimistic idealist I am. I ought to give the man more credit.
Hopefully most people here know about Politifact. But does anyone use it? I offer it to the student body as a convenient conversation starter – look at a few Politifact checks while you brush your teeth and come to breakfast armed with the latest buzz to impress your friends and cow your enemies! Think twice before you cheer Rick Santorum’s statements concerning euthanasia in the Netherlands (I have no words – here’s the video: Santorum’s not wearing a bracelet! Get him, Dutch people! ) Above all, get your facts straight and go forth with your head high and spread truth and justice.
Title image courtesy of the Rockford Register.