Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Mailbag: "Do you even check your own facts?"

Readers weigh in on some of our recent Truth-O-Meter rulings.
Readers weigh in on some of our recent Truth-O-Meter rulings.

Readers we didn't know we had questioned our analysis of a claim by Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC while others suggested we could have taken a deeper look at a statement by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio.

After we rated False a claim by Smith about the U.S. costs of online piracy and counterfeiting, a reader suggested another wrinkle: "Trying to calculate the losses due to infringement runs into a problem where a company's losses are counted against the total U.S. economy, but the money never actually leaves the economy. Every dollar NOT spent on songs, for example, is spent elsewhere in the economy. If it's fair for those studies to count entertainment industry jobs lost due to infringement, shouldn't it be fair to count retail jobs gained by people spending money in the economy?"

Another commented: "There is one key factor in the economic cost of piracy that perhaps tilts Smith's claim into Pants-on-Fire territory. If someone decides to download an illegal copy instead of paying $20 for the DVD, the entertainment industry would like us to think that the money disappeared. This is wrong. The $20 will be used for something. Thus, if he uses the $20 to order a couple of pizzas, the money has moved from the entertainment industry to the restaurant industry and the U.S. economy has lost nothing at all. Based on this simple economic principle (opportunity cost), it can easily be argued that copyright infringement costs the economy nothing at all."

Numerous readers blew their whistles on our rating Mostly False a claim by O’Donnell that critics called the original GI Bill "welfare." Many pointed out that one congressman likened the prospect to the British dole.

A sampling:

"Folks, do you even check your own facts? Almost every example you provide uses terms that are synonymous with ‘welfare’ in the English language. In the United Kingdom, Unemployment Benefit has been known by the slang term 'the dole' since WW I. … Now we need fact checkers to check the fact checkers. *Sigh.*"

Another: "If someone said tomorrow that the sky is very cerulean, would you debunk them because the sky is blue? More to the point, would you say Sen. (Joseph) McCarthy didn't call people ‘commies’ if he never used the contraction or only used the terms ‘red’ or ‘pinko’? Did the car companies get a ‘bailou,t’ or would that be False because the administration used the word ‘loan’ or ‘guarantee’? I really can't imagine relying on your website for fact checking any more. You are shooting yourself in the foot."

And: "I have steadily lost faith in your judgment. I can no longer rely on anything you say, because I have to do my own fact-checking to make sure you're right. So, I might as well look it up myself. Clean up your act please."

Spring cleaning? We’re for it. Please keep the emails coming, you hear? And remember, we’re on Facebook — where anyone can comment — and Twitter.