In the wake of the New York Times whispering in print on page A-20 that the Hunter Biden laptop emails were authentic, the "fact checking"/censorship complex is in need of scrutiny. Jacob Siegel of Tablet Magazine wrote up a tart piece titled "Invasion of the Fact-Checkers" that explored how private media power and the Democrats engage in shutting down narratives they don't like.
Shortly after the first reports of the laptop, The New York Times's Kevin Roose modestly acknowledged the role that misinformation journalists like him had played in pressuring tech companies to take “more and faster action to prevent false or misleading information from spreading … in order to prevent a repeat of 2016’s debacle.”
And it worked! Only it turns out, as The New York Times now acknowledges, that the original reporting silenced by the fact-checkers was accurate.
Siegel accurately described just how flexible the Accuracy Police can be:
A matter settled this month with a single link and a few hand-picked quotes in favor of Truthful Federal Bureaucrat X or Noble Ruling Party Flesh Puppet Y can easily be resettled a few months later with different links if the political winds shift, by revising the record of the past without ever acknowledging errors of judgment or fact.
This exact scenario has played out dozens of times just in the two years since the pandemic started. Remember back in May 2020, when Donald Trump said he was “confident” vaccines would be available by the end of the year? NBC fact-checked that claim and determined that “experts say he needs a ‘miracle’ to be right.” That October, when Trump said a vaccine was imminent, an organization called Science Feedback, one of Facebook’s official fact-checking partners, declared that “widespread Covid-19 vaccination is not expected before mid-2021.”
In reality, the vaccine rollout began two months later, in December 2020. Since then, the U.S. fact-checking complex has spent inordinate amounts of time and energy linking “Trump,” “Trump supporters,” “regions of the country that supported Donald Trump,” and, of course, the beloved “anti-vaxxers” as the cause of lower-than-hoped-for vaccine uptake, as the vaccine migrated from being a symbol of Trump’s clownish grandiosity and fibs to symbolizing the wisdom of his opponents, defenders of The Science.
We have a special loathing for "fact checkers" who disparage predictions about the future (like when a vaccine will be available) as if it was a "fact" that can be "checked."
Siegel accuses the fact-checkers of being an adjunct of the Democrats and an enforcer of unpopular notions of Wokeness: "Another driving force behind the growth of the fact-checking complex is the necessity of enforcing loyalty to progressive ideas that can’t survive on their own." Exhibit A was the Fact Cops descending on the Washington Free Beacon for revealing the government was going to fund "safe" crack pipes.
My point here is that the convergence of government power with fact-checking is neither a conspiracy nor an accident. A 2018 report from the Columbia Journalism Review offered “lessons for platform-publisher collaborations as Facebook and news outlets team to fight misinformation.” It also offered a warning:
“If Facebook creates entirely new, immensely powerful, and utterly private fact-checking partnerships with ostensibly public-spirited news organizations, it becomes virtually impossible to know in whose interests and according to which dynamics our public communication systems are operating.”