Spotting the Spin in the Fact Check
Perhaps you’ve noticed the newspaper fad, in recent months, of printing “fact checks” that purport to offer readers a balanced and objective assessment of the spin surrounding various issues. I stopped bothering with them after the first couple, when it occurred to me that the articles are mainly useful for bloggers still interested in spotting media bias. In a recent example concerning the healthcare legislation, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar strives to explain how both sides are spinning the issue. The problem is that his fact checking of the opposition doesn’t really present actual myths or the facts that debunk them.
The first “myth,” for example is that “Obama has put the nation on a slippery slope toward socialism.” The “fact” is that the nation has been on that slope for a while and still has farther to go until it reaches bottom. I don’t know of anybody, on the right, who disagrees, so it appears that Alonso-Zaldivar has debunked a strawman.
When he gets to the question of abortion, it’s not at all clear that the reporter has done any research about the actual arguments being made:
You will be forced to pay for other people’s abortions.
Only if you join a health insurance plan that covers abortion. In that case, the costs of paying for abortions would be spread over all the enrollees in the plan—no differently from how other medical procedures are handled, except a policyholder would have to write a separate check for it.
Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University, said people who don’t want to pay for abortion could simply pick a plan that doesn’t offer it.
There would definitely be a demand for such plans, and not just from people with moral objections. Single men and older women would have no reason to pay an extra premium for abortion coverage.
The point isn’t that the government will force us to join healthcare programs that offer abortion. The point is that the government will be subsidizing, with our money, the premiums of people who do.
However one feels about abortion or healthcare or socialism, it remains necessary to adjust for the medium through which one acquires news. Spin is chronic and addictive.
Except on Anchor Rising, of course, where all of our facts and conclusions are entirely objective.