Barely True or Mostly False?
By Louis Jacobson
Published on Friday, July 22nd, 2011 at 10:59 a.m.
PolitiFact readers don't have much love for Barely True.
When we asked readers whether we should change our Barely True rating to Mostly False, we got overwhelming support.
Of the more than 850 people who took the time to e-mail us, at least 95 percent were in favor of Mostly False. And we've seen similar support from hundreds of posts on Facebook and Twitter.
We'll be announcing our decision in a week or so; in the meantime, here's some of the feedback.
In favor of changing the ruling to Mostly False
"Changing Barely True to Mostly False is a no-brainer, and I'm surprised you even think it requires this kind of public input. Just DO IT already, so I don't have to cringe every time you rate an item Barely True when it is almost totally false."
"When I was a kid, if my mom had caught me telling a ‘Barely True’ statement to her, she would have judged it ‘False’ and I would have been in big trouble. Small elements of truth should not be given credit over the general deception presented. Please change that."
"YES. YES. A thousand times YES. This was one of the first things that went through my mind when I found your site a couple of years ago. Saying that something is Barely True means that it IS true. Many falsehoods contain elements of truth. That makes for more effective falsehoods but doesn’t change the fact that it IS a falsehood."
"I say thank ‘Barely True’ for its service and send it off to a cushy retirement."
"If I barely made it home... I made it home. If the team barely made their winning goal before the end of the bell... they won the game. If I barely finished on time... I finished on time. If we barely made it out alive... we made it out alive. There is not one case I can think of where ‘barely’ is used to denote anything false. … So I am fully in the 'retire Barely True' camp."
"Yeah! I would love you to change to 'Mostly False.' There are a number of times I've bristled at the Barely True rating because the subject was so Barely True it was a joke. 'Mostly False' takes the spinners out of the mix -- well, maybe."
"In this political climate of spin, I agree that 'Mostly False' may help reduce the possibility of using your excellent fact-finding tool to intentionally mislead."
"I would dance about and sing your praises if you made that change."
In favor of keeping Barely True
"It's the Truth-O-Meter, not the False-O-Meter. So it makes sense that the measurement is in degrees of truth. … say keep it the way it is. Oh, and keep up the good work."
"I love your Truth-O-Meter exactly the way it is. I think that one of the key things it conveys is that politicians and pundits rarely tell outright lies. They put their own spin on everything, but flat-out lying just doesn't happen as much as some people think it does. Calling the notch above False 'Barely True' reinforces the notion that though the statement is, in fact, mostly false, it has a grain of truth to it that might explain the error or spin."
"I understand the reason behind the change, but I like keeping things on the brighter side. There's enough negativity in politics without changing the truth-o-meter to a more negative tone. Let's stick with the glass is slightly full, rather than mostly empty!"
In favor of keeping both ratings
"Why not keep Barely True and just add on Mostly False? You could then use the former for statements that are not factually incorrect, but are misleading or incomplete; and the latter for statements that include both true and false statements, the majority of which fall into the false category."
How about renaming Half True?
A number of readers liked the idea of symmetry -- ratings based on "True" above the halfway mark, and ratings based on "False" below the halfway mark. In fact, some wanted to push the symmetry notion further.
"This change is long overdue. However, if you follow your own logic, you must then change the middle label from ‘Half True’ to ‘Half True/Half False.’ Think about it before you continue what was an obvious mistake from the beginning."
Suggestions of other names we could use for the Barely True category
"How about ‘Grain of Truth’"?
"I would like to see a rating that calls out the intent to distort the truth. Something like ,’Almost a Lie’ or ‘Pants Smoking’ -- not quite on fire, but darn close!"
"Barely True should be changed to ‘Misleading.’ The problem with many of the Politifact ratings is that there is often a tension between statements that are true in a very literal sense, but that leave readers (or listeners) with a misunderstanding of the underlying situation. Creating a rating of ‘Misleading’ would allow more statements to be properly categorized because it recognizes this tension."
"The meter is based on the word ‘true.’ So I would suggest changing to ‘Mostly Untrue.’"
"You guys are ridiculous. If it gets to Mostly False, then it’s False. Are you trying for a little pregnant?"
"I think it would be fantastic to change Barely True to ‘Almost Bull----’ just for one day. I know it’s a pejorative, but it would be awesome."
You can’t satisfy everyone
"Just change it and stop trying to bring more attention to your website by writing about it. Why ask us in the end of your article to put in our two cents if you have already been getting numerous complaints against the rating? I think you already made up your mind to change it and now you're just stalling for more attention. The idiots who named a rating Barely True should be fired anyway."
"Seriously? You're wasting time with this? This is the sort of hair-splitting and double-speak that you're supposed to catch politicians doing."
"How about Barely True when it concerns liberals and Mostly False when it applies to conservatives? That would be in line with your current slanted approach."
Thanks (Mostly Thanks?) for weighing in.
Researchers: Bill Adair
We want to hear your suggestions and comments. Email the Texas Truth-O-Meter with feedback and with claims you'd like to see checked. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.