Kevin D. Williamson: Exposing Intellectual Dishonesty Among the ‘Fact-Checkers’

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Politifact and Me

National Review‘s Kevin D. Williamson Responds to Polifact

Kevin D. Williamsonkevin-williamson writes: Politifact, which is published under the flag of the Tampa Bay Times, the chief executive of which, Paul Tash, is the chairman of the Poynter Institute, a member of the Pulitzer prize committee, and a disgrace to his trade, recently decided to “fact-check” my colleague Jonah Goldberg, but it was really fact-checking me, as Jonah was citing a claim in a column of mine.

The claim is a straightforward one: That under the so-called Affordable Care Act, the federal government will recognize and subsidize a great deal of hokum, things like naturopathic medicine and acupuncture that have no scientific basis, that have been clinically shown to be useless or worse, and that are rooted in rank mysticism, from the “qi” energy that acupuncturists claim to manipulate—and which does not, technically speaking, exist—to the “innate intelligence” underpinning chiropractic theory—which does not, in fact, exist, either. As endless peer-reviewed scientific studies document, this stuff is pure quackery, but it is, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the focused exertions of former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin—one of those Democrats who really love science we’re always hearing about—it is hokum with increasing official status.

[Kevin D. Williamson’s book  “The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome”  is available at Amazon]

Senator Harkin successfully campaigned for ACA provisions that would forbid “discrimination” against any practitioner of purported healing arts who is licensed. Many states, California prominent among them (quelle surprise!) license practitioners of superstitious hokum, including naturopathic “doctors” and acupuncturists.

[read the full text here, at National Review Online]

[follow Kevin D.Williamson on Twitter]

There are many reasons for this: One is that superstitious hokum is extraordinarily popular, and the state desires to keep an eye on its practitioners; a second is that California is, as advertised, full of lunatics and the entrepreneurs who service their lunacy; the third is that reasons Nos. 1 and 2 combine to generate revenue for the state, which will—in what must be the most perfect example of progressivism in practice—yank your license to practice medically null but voguish Eastern mysticism in the state of California for failure to pay your crushing California taxes. I once encountered a Whole Foods with a yoga studio inside it, and thought that if one could only get Chris Hayes to broadcast from there (there’s still time, Chris!) it would have constituted a turducken of lifestyle liberalism upon which there would be no improving, but losing your California acupuncturist’s license to the Sacramento taxman surely surpasses that.

If you are wondering where the fact-checking comes in for all of that, you’re going to keep wondering. Politifact doubly embarrassed itself on the issue, first with the risibly sloppy and shockingly (if you don’t know very many reporters) lazy reporting habits of Louis Jacobson, who wrote that neither Jonah nor I had “returned inquiries,” by which he means to say responded to them. He tried to contact Jonah by sending a single email to a rarely used public account, and me he tried to contact—if you can call it that—by tweeting that he was fact-checking something. I do not follow him on Twitter, having been contentedly unaware of his existence, and I do not follow Politifact, for that matter. I am not sure that what Jacobson did constituted an “inquiry” at all, but I am sure that it does not constitute “inquiries.”

“This is one of those ‘context’ things that people who do not wish to admit the truth like to talk about. The point is that you could be sure that if similar concessions were made to pseudoscientific hokum less popular among Democrats–intelligent design, for example, or various kinds of gay-conversion therapies–the response would be loud, long, and heavy on the theme of Republicans’ hating and distrusting science.”

When I pointed this out—and noted that National Review is in the telephone directory and has been since the Eisenhower administration, that we employ an energetic young man to answer the telephones, that my email address is obtainable from the web site, that National Review retains the services of various publicists and whatnot for the purpose of connecting its writers with media figures, etc.—“pick up the goddamned telephone,” in short—Jacobson responded in an odd way: by sending the same email again to Jonah the next morning, long after the piece had been published. His editor, the feckless, gormless, and in any intelligent world unemployable Angie Holan, noting the general mockery and merriment that my complaints about Politifact’s practices produced on Twitter and elsewhere, very quickly found a way to get in touch with me—turns out that it’s not that hard!—and asked for a telephone conversation, which I declined, having nothing to say to the intellectually dishonest, the cretinous, or the servile, except in those cases in which I am matched with such on cable-news panels. (Hello, Sally.)

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Politifact later apologized for Jacobson’s reportorial slobbery—though not for the fact that he lied about it; “inquiries,” indeed—but stood by its rating of the piece in question: “half true.”

Why half? Read the rest of this entry »


Cartoonists Take Up The Pen in Support of Murdered Charlie Hebdo Colleagues

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Copies of the French satirical weekly “Charlie Hebdo” are seen in their Paris newsroom February 9, 2006. The publication reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in its February 8, 2006 edition and published one of its own on its front page, angering Muslim groups at the time. Reuters

Political cartoonists from around the world reacted with grief and words of support on Twitter after several of their French colleagues at the political satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo were shot and killed in an apparent terrorist attack in Paris on Wednesday. Here are the words and drawings of a few of them:

David Pope, political cartoonist for Australia’s The Canberra Times:

Pat Bagley, editorial cartoonist for The Salt Lake Tribune in Utah:

Nate Beeler, editorial cartoonist for The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio:

Mark Fiore, Pulitzer-prize winning political animator, whose work appears on the San Francisco Chronicle website and elsewhere:

Lalo Alcaraz, cartoonist behind “La Cucaracha,” a syndicated political cartoon strip:

Ann Telnaes, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for The Washington Post:

Joep Bertrams, cartoonist in Amsterdam, the Netherlands:

Gary Varvel, editorial cartoonist for The Indianapolis Star in Indiana:

Satish Acharya, editorial cartoonist in Kundapur, India:

YGreck, cartoonist in Québec, Canada:

Graeme MacKay, editorial cartoonist for the Hamilton Spectator in Ontario, Canada:

Newsweek