How Many Facts Can a Fact-checker Check?
When our kids were little I used to ask the famous question — “How many chucks could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” After that, I would answer my own question by saying, “3000”, which always got a cheap laugh from my adoring pre-schoolers.
That spoonerism makes a little more sense than today’s question: “How many facts could a fact-checker check if a fact-checker could check facts?” In this case, my answer is, “All of them or perhaps none of them.
A case in point is an official Georgia fact-check concerning Jovan Pulitzer, the man who made the infamous claim that Georgia’s voting system had been hacked during the Trump-Biden election. Needless to say, Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, tried to wipe all the political egg on his face by taking a swipe at Pulitzer.
The anatomy of suspect fact-checkers begins with the title of their supposed setting things straight” article. This object lesson is titled:
FACT CHECK: GEORGIA SENATE MASQUERADES FAILED TREASURE HUNTER AS HACKER AND ELECTION SECURITY EXPERT.
What follows is a debunking of Pultizer by identifying him as a “ failed treasure hunter” and “supposed” historical expert due to his appearance on Discovery’s “The Curse of Oak Island.” Exerting its fact-checking prowess the writer points to a well-known failure of Pultizer called “Cue Cat.”
But this where fact-checking reaches a fork in the road that strays from truth to ad-hominem attack on Pultizer’s testimony before a Georgia Senate committee meeting. Is the fact check right about these claims? Yes. But. apparently, the facts stop at the ones that back one’s claims.
Yes, Cue Cat was a bust. To quote Raffensperger, or more likely some aide who was a little too full of himself or herself:
The device attracted $185 million in investment before becoming “an anathema of the tech industry and a cautionary tale for investors.” In 2006, it was listed as one of the “25 worst tech products of all time” by PC World magazine.
By that standard, it is a worthy fact check to say that Thomas Edison, Nicola Tesla, and Leonardo da Vinci all should be deligated to the fact-checker hall of shame. All of those men had some pretty spectacular misfires. Edison once kept a warehouse that contained all of his failed inventions to remind him that for every 10,000 failures he had at least one success.
So back to Pulitzer, his claims hacking Georgia’s voting system, and that state’s push to discredit him. The same article fails to mention Pultizer’s five pages of patents or pending patents listed at Justia Patents. That includes his patent for the QR scanning platform that’s on 12 billion devices.
What’s the moral of this story? How many facts can a fact-checker check? As many as he or she wants to, to prove their point. Once that’s accomplished, hit enter, turn off the computer, and congratulate yourself. Your task of writing about what you don’t know as though you do know is done.
Or, as Dandy Don Meredith used to sing on Monday Night Football: