Fact checking is exhausting, thankless work. We all hate the person who replies, “Well, ackshually…” I regret to inform you I’m about to be that person.
I was recently put in the position of defending Sarah Palin. Goddamn it. Full disclosure: I had never heard of Palin before McCain chose her as his running mate. At first glance, I liked her. Depending on the issue, I’m either conservative or libertarian (small L) and she seemed sane. Then she kept talking and two major problems continuously beat us over the head: One was that she provided cannon fodder for SNL and we mostly lost track of what she said vs what Tina Fey said. The other was our media environment rewards outrageous statements and behavior so there’s pressure to continue outdoing oneself. And Sarah did.
During a casual conversation about geopolitics and economic warfare, I was told Sarah Palin claimed she could see Russia from her front yard. I knew that claim was incorrect but I couldn’t recall the exact details. I simply had a vague awareness that 99.9% of Americans misremember the circumstances. I was told I was wrong so I grabbed my phone for a fact check. It turns out Sarah Palin made a statement which was factually accurate and Tina Fey made the statement everyone remembers during an SNL skit.
I read an article about container traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach the other day that claimed “All those cargoes are then loaded onto tractor-trailers…” I realize I’m picking nits but a large volume of containers received at LA/Long Beach leave via rail. I know this because I have worked in international logistics and it’s annoying when people who are supposed to do their research write such stupid, provably wrong things. Like, you’re the reporter; Why am I doing your fucking job?
So that’s the thing. People have jobs (if they’re lucky) and lives (again, if they’re lucky). As a reporter, YOUR ONE JOB is to report facts. So maybe just do that, okay? We have neither the time nor the mental energy to fact check your work. I was raised at a newspaper and then worked at one in my younger years. So yes, I understand deadlines. I also understand that reporters don’t necessarily write their own headlines and sometimes editors don’t even review articles/op-eds before they run. I also realize lots of people are lazy procrastinators…myself included.
Side note: When I was in eighth grade, I had the misfortune of breaking/chipping/dislocating a finger when my mother was literally putting the newspaper together. That was before automagical layouts and it was a weekly paper that came out on Fridays. This meant every Thursday was hell day. So do you know what she said when I called and told her I needed her to take me to the doctor? She said, “Do you know what day it is?” I told her I did. She then asked, “Are you sure it’s broken?” I looked down at the deformity resembling a pitchfork and told her I was sure. God, she was pissed when she picked me up at practice. After my doctor reduced the dislocation, she dropped my ass off at home and GOT BACK TO WORK.
So a deadline is no excuse for careless fact errors.
I realize I’m an asshole. I used to proofread the classifieds with a red pen on my lunch break. This was in the late 90s before all the proofreaders were eliminated from budgets. If I end up in Hell, the construct will be me in a room full of paper with misspelled words and apostrophe catastrophes without a pen or other means of correcting the errors. There will be a chyron running “Your in hell” on a continuous loop.
Can we not create a meme generator that fixes the you’re/your problem? We can pluck particles off an asteroid flying in outer fucking space but products of our school system can’t comprehend contractions. We deserve everything that’s about to happen to us.
I realize I’m burying my lede a bit here but journalists have ruined their credibility by doing what they’re told by their bosses. Everything is clickbait to drive revenue and people need to eat. The most important story of our time seems boring on the surface but it could ruin all of our lives. It’s the economy, stupid. All of it. Trillions upon trillions of dollars missing from federal budgets, criminalization of innocent people trying to protect their money outside the system, illegal manipulation of markets, theft on a scale that is impossible for the brain to even visualize. Laws that are created and/or changed to benefit the people doing the stealing.
I’ve been thinking about the IRS enforcement agent who tried to convince me my career path should lead toward working for the federal government to investigate financial crimes. I’m one of those weirdos who loves to dive into a database and extract information. You hyperbolize about COVID deaths based on what you saw on Facebook and I wade through excess death stats. You say unemployment is up/down and I review BLS data collection/reporting methods. You say inflation is up/down and I remind you The Fed stopped releasing M3 data in 2006 and BLS continually changes CPI series making it extremely difficult for the average person to compare apples to apples. You tell me the government seized cash, weapons, ammunition, vehicles, and real estate without the person possessing those items being convicted of a crime and I wonder ON WHAT FUCKING GROUNDS. You tell me they wouldn’t have <blank> if they weren’t up to something and I wonder when the hell expecting the Bill of Rights to exist became so revolutionary. See what I did there?
Some politicians try for a bit to expose the grift. Then they stop. Same thing happens with reporters. Corporate and government whistleblowers. Are we supposed to believe there’s no “there” there? That’s an impossible thing to ask when we’re constantly seeing massive bank settlements and indictments of low-level employees. Does Corporate America really have so many rogue MENSA masterminds working for them just out there perpetuating organized crime without detection by management? I’ve written corporate internal controls and I’ve also tried to explain time off policies to employees. Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.
If that’s not your pet voter issue, then how about criminal justice reform? Are you not outraged that people suffering from mental illness and/or addiction are sitting in prison on a minor possession charge when the former Mexican Defense Minister was arrested in the US for essentially being a drug cartel operator and then we just let Mexico have him back? It’s the same story. Rules for thee but not for me. The world revolves around two things: Money and power. But muh War on Drugs!
This political three-ring circus we’ve been obsessed with for the past couple decades is a giant diversion. Remember the old saying: If you can’t spot the con, you’re the mark.