According to fact-checking website Politifact.com, Fox News is only truthful in its reporting 11 percent of the time. This is probably not news to you.
MSNBC clocks in at just 11 percent “truthful” as well. However according to the website, MSNBC’s “mostly true” numbers (24 percent) dwarf Fox’s (12 percent). As far as out-and-out lies (including Politifact.com’s designation of “mostly false”), both news organizations are tied with a combined 59 percent, though Fox’s outright falsehoods were found to be more prevalent at a 38 percent clip versus MSNBC’s 22 percent. According to the website, these ratings only take into account statements made by Fox and MSNBC on-air personalities and “their pundit guests” and “do not include statements made on air by politicians or paid spokespeople.” I guess if they did, the truthfulness numbers would be too small to quantify.
If you think this is a condemnation of Fox, you’re wrong. I mean, Fox has always been guilty of false advertising for sure, but maybe they’re like a right-wing version of The Onion, and we just never really got the joke. Like, all these years they’ve been playing a character and we totally bought it hook, line and sinker. Sort of like Andy Kaufman’s death. (I know you’re alive, Andy. I want to believe.) Maybe one day, Brit Hume is going to come on the air sporting an Obama “Hope” T-shirt and glasses from Warby Parker, waving a rainbow flag, and be all, “Oh man, we got you guys so good.”
This also isn’t an endorsement of MSNBC. I think if you’re just barely edging out Fox in a battle for truthfulness, you’ve got nothing to be proud of. I mean, does anyone really watch MSNBC? If you’re a liberal and you’re not getting your news from NPR or the The New York Times or something, I can only assume you’re just a poseur. You’re probably just trying to pick up a few useful tidbits you can incorporate into your pickup lines at an upcoming farm-to-fork festival or craft brew tasting. I can spot you from a mile away, bro. You’re not fooling anyone.
This isn’t even to say that I fully trust these statistics posted by Politifact.com. The first thing I roll my eyes at is their truthfulness meter. It’s broken into the following categories: True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and (for serious) Pants on Fire. To be sure, the truth can be subjective, which I guess is indicative of this classification system, in which four of the six indicate there is some shred of truth to even the most brow-raising claim. But, like, a shred of truth doesn’t make something true. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken any logic classes, but if I say something like, “All birds have wings, and all dragons have wings; therefore, all dragons are birds,” doesn’t that make the whole statement false? Dragons obviously aren’t birds. They live in mountains and hoard treasure. Birds just make nests with sticks and stuff. I’m not trying to demean our bird readership. I’m just stating facts.
Facts are different than truth, I guess, because those are things that are undeniable. We can’t deny that we are the third planet from the sun. That’s been proven as fact. There has also been 44 Presidents of the United States, so far. We have historical evidence that backs that up. Facts usually help you determine what’s true, but they won’t always lead you in that direction. For example, it’s a fact that all birds have wings, even penguins, and it’s true that all dragons have wings, at least as far as the Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings/Dungeons and Dragons-style creatures. However, extrapolating a truth from those facts that all dragons are birds is a very dangerous thing. Like, you wouldn’t want to call a dragon a bird to its face because you’d probably get a cone of fire all up in your grill, assuming it was a fire-breathing dragon you were talking to. Not all dragons breathe fire, but that’s a story for another column.
Politifact.com has compiled data that provides evidence that MSNBC and Fox are a bunch of no-good liars. Depending on where you sit on the political fence, you might feel inclined to gloat, or become defensive, or maybe just shrug it off, because really, who gives a shit what Politifact has to say? I only just heard about the website because a friend of mine on Facebook posted a link to the article to point out that Fox News spreads lies most of the time masqueraded as news, which wasn’t really news to me.
So do the facts here lead us to the truth that Fox and MSNBC are liars? Yeah … um. Yeah, I guess they kind of do. I mean, if you take Politifact.com’s stats as gospel, then you really can’t end up at any other conclusion. These news networks are misleading the public in order to sell ads to generate revenue to pay for the infusions of virgin blood that keep Bill O’Reilly alive (OK, I made that last part up, but keep in mind that statement, according to Politifact, would rate as “Mostly True”). But I’m just going to throw this out there, maybe if the viewing public stuck to news outlets that simply presented facts and news and didn’t try to stitch these facts into some kind of “truth,” then all that ad revenue would dry up; and therefore, so would Bill O’Reilly. That’s none of my business though.