Hemant Mehta defends Snopes against distractions:
It's been a rough PR week for the people behind fact-checking website Snopes.com. There was a nasty piece against the site's founders and staffers at the Daily Mail and an article drawing attention to those attacks at the New York Times.
Ignore the distractions for a moment. The only question that matters is whether Snopes is reliable. Does it do a good job of setting the record straight on urban legends and (actual) fake news?
Mehta admits to having "no interest in the personal lives of the couple that founded the site:"
The people who accuse Snopes, or PolitiFact, or any other similar site of being biased -- often conservatives unhappy to have their pet conspiracy theories debunked by people who know better -- have no understanding of how fact-checking works. [...]
The personal lives of the people behind it are irrelevant, and anyone who brings that subject up as a reason to discredit the site are simply trying to distract you.
Don't fall for it.
Salon points out that all news is fake news in the Right's war on truth. "Conservatives," writes digby, "are launching an attack on the concept of reality itself"--one that's been brewing since the Reagan Era:
Conservatives learned to challenge the media's alleged liberal bias as a tactic to make reporters leery of any news that reflected negatively on conservatives. It was very effective. By the time right-wing talk radio came along and later Fox News, with its pretensions of being "fair and balanced," conservatives had convinced millions of people that their version of reality was the truth and that mainstream media and major newspapers were all catering to the liberals.
"The right-wing media complex," she writes, "is all-in on this:"
According to the Times, everyone from Laura Ingraham to Erick Erickson to Donald Trump himself is labeling anything they disagree with, including the fact-check sites like Snopes or Factcheck.org, as "fake news." Millions of people have been conditioned to believe their claims for years, which means polarization is only likely to get worse. If Americans can't even agree which facts are real, it's hard to see how we're going to be able to govern ourselves.
Michael Shermer offers some hope by explaining how to convince someone when facts fail:
Have you ever noticed that when you present people with facts that are contrary to their deepest held beliefs they always change their minds? Me neither. In fact, people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them. The reason is related to the worldview perceived to be under threat by the conflicting data.
He lists Creationists, anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers climate-change deniers, and birthers as instances of this tendency:
In these examples, proponents' deepest held worldviews were perceived to be threatened by skeptics, making facts the enemy to be slayed. This power of belief over evidence is the result of two factors: cognitive dissonance and the backfire effect.
For another example, we can consider the question what does the science say about torture's efficacy?
The US president-elect Donald Trump has on several occasions insisted that torture is a good idea and that procedures such as water-boarding are not "tough enough" when dealing with terrorist groups like Islamic State.
"The view is clearly morally and ethically questionable," the piece continues:
Torture has a long history, and despite being prohibited worldwide (in 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations inserted the prohibition against torture in the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the use of torture appears to be increasing worldwide.
"The evidence that torture works appears to be anecdotal [and] the available science simply does not support the argument that torture is effective." Sadly, the Right's anti-objectivity efforts have been quite effective. Sometimes I'm not sure which campaign is more dangerous.
TPM's Josh Marshall expresses skepticism, calling fake news "the bright, shiny object of the post-2016 election America:"
I think there's a legitimate question about how much many people actually 'believe' what we call 'fake news'. In many cases, 'fake news', the latest manufactured outrage, functions as a kind of ideational pornography, ideas and claims that excite people's political feelings, desires and fears and create feelings of connection with kindred political spirits.
NYT's look at conservatives' Bizarro world mentions that Breitbart News "dismissed reports on the intelligence assessment as "left-wing fake news:"
Rush Limbaugh has diagnosed a more fundamental problem. "The fake news is the everyday news" in the mainstream media, he said on his radio show recently. "They just make it up."
The piece notes that "top Republicans and even Mr. Trump himself, incredulous about suggestions that fake stories may have helped swing the election, have appropriated the term and turned it against any news they see as hostile to their agenda:"
In defining "fake news" so broadly and seeking to dilute its meaning, they are capitalizing on the declining credibility of all purveyors of information, one product of the country's increasing political polarization. And conservatives, seeing an opening to undermine the mainstream media, a longtime foe, are more than happy to dig the hole deeper.