Context Makes Opinions of Facts
Perhaps the most helpful aspect of the Providence Journal’s PolitiFact feature is the significant degree to which it illustrates how even basic discussions of facts become deeply muddled in subjective context. As I’ve previously pointed out, when Democrat David Cicilline makes a statement about Republican John Loughlin’s position on Social Security that is substantively a misrepresentation, context gets him a rating of “half true,” while a substantively true statement on Loughlin’s part — that Social Security is structured like a Ponzi scheme — becomes snagged in “false” because such schemes are scams, while Social Security is operated by our benevolent government.
Now, reporter Cynthia Needham is back to leveraging the PolitiFact brand to assist Cicilline’s campaign for Congress. Under scrutiny is his statement that “John Loughlin voted to let people accused of domestic violence keep their guns.” Needham explains why she went with only a “mostly true” rating, as follows:
The problem with the Cicilline advertisement’s claim is that it incorrectly says the bill applies to those “accused of domestic violence.” A restraining order is actually a civil document that can be obtained without accusing the subject of a specific crime. …
Nowhere does the 2005 bill suggest one must be accused of a crime to have the statute apply.
That’s not just the minor adjustment that Needham’s rating suggests. That’s hugely significant in the context of Cicilline’s claim that Loughlin is “extreme.” In the Democrat’s spin, Loughlin specifically voted to allow people accused of a particular violent crime keep guns. One must note, of course, that accusation isn’t supposed to be guilt, in our system of justice, but that discussion isn’t necessary, because Cicilline’s claim is simply not true. Loughlin voted against a broad confiscatory law because it was broad and confiscatory.
It’s not a crime, to be sure, but Needham’s habitual judgment of facts could be called context abuse. Wouldn’t it be interesting if some of PolitiFact’s other contributors were to test their Truth-O-Meter on her?