Over the last several days, many progressive writers have taken issue with Facebook declaring a ThinkProgress article to be false and have been highly critical of Facebook allowing The Weekly Standard to be on its fact-checking panel.
ThinkProgress’s article, written by Ian Millhiser, was titled “Brett Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade last week and almost no one noticed.” Because Kavanaugh did not say that, the headline (and therefore the premise of the article itself) was a lie. The only truth one may find in Millhiser’s headline is that “no one noticed” because it did not happen.
ThinkProgress was beyond pissed, as you might imagine, and several of its writers took great offense, calling it “beyond @#$%ed up” while non-TP journalists were quick to also denounce the social media giant.
You see, The Weekly Standard is a conservative outlet (sorry, Trump fans!), and it is therefore biased. No, seriously. That’s their argument in defense of ThinkProgress.
Well, conservatives are not the only ones to say “But the Standard was correct.” A piece by Will Saletan at Slate has also said the fact-checking was legit.
These writers have done a lot of good work. But in this case, they’re mistaken. This is a matter of fact, not ideology. On Facebook, headlines are far more visible and widely read than articles are. The headline on the ThinkProgress article was false. Kavanaugh didn’t say he would kill Roe. And the Standard was right to point this out.
He also does a good job of essentially tearing down Millhiser’s argument that the headline was correct, and I suggest you read the whole thing to see how extensive it is. But, just as impressive as the refutation by someone ideologically aligned with ThinkProgress is, it is the column’s closing that is just as important to liberal and conservative readers and writers.
If progressives insist that anyone who challenges them is “non-reality-based”—and that the Weekly Standard’s name on a fact check “tells you all you need to know about how messed up Facebook’s notion of ‘fact-checking’ is”—they’ll seal themselves off in a bubble of mutual affirmation. David Roberts, a Vox blogger, made the key point in a tweet about Millhiser’s article. “A society can’t survive long without shared epistemic authorities and standards,” Roberts wrote. He was echoing Millhiser’s attack on the Standard. But in this case, it’s the Standard that is upholding shared epistemic rules. Said means said.
The Standard often gets things wrong. So does everybody else. We’re all fallible, but we can fact-check one another. In any industry where one group predominates—whites in the corporate elite, men in the entertainment business, liberals in the media—we need scrutiny from people who don’t share the prevailing biases. That’s why the Weekly Standard is on Facebook’s fact-checking panel. And it is doing its job.
It is natural that there are things I could argue with Saletan, Slate, ThinkProgress, and any other liberal writer or outlet. We are ideologically opposed. However, it should also be natural that we admit when someone is correct, no matter whether or not we agree on ideas or public policy.
The fact of the matter is that both sides do live in a bubble, and rarely do they go outside of their bubble these days in order to see what the other side is really saying. Sometimes, someone says something outrageous, and it confirms our beliefs (one way or another) and we get further entrenched in our own safe spaces.
But, we should be spending time outside of our bubble. We should follow people we disagree with on Twitter, and we should engage (not argue or insult, mind you) with them on ideas. We should be willing to admit when the other side is correct.
We should also be fact-checking ourselves constantly. To hold fast to our assertions when they are wrong doesn’t help anyone. It only hurts your credibility and incentivizes the people who would use you to tear down your entire side.