Once upon a time there used to be a fact-checking website that most of its users trusted more than they would a gospel.
At first, it was a hobby: its founder would look at sundry urban legends, and either confirm or deny them.
Since the Internet was still in its diapers at the time, the site founder’s job wouldn’t be as tasking as it is now.
In any case, this site would help spark all kinds of other so-called fact-checkers, growing all the way to forming what is now known a worldwide fact-checkers association. It would work, apparently, along the line of the many professional colleges, setting up standards and making sure everybody adheres to them.
What happens if, in view of that self-appointed association, somebody breaks its rules (whatever they may be at the moment), is not publicly known.
Judging by the behaviour of other such would-be professional associations, it seems to be better these days not to know. Our adrenaline supplies are not endless.
Anyhow, this particular fact-checking group has been growing so steadily, it has managed to outgrow itself.
First, their simple fact-checking would become somehow a little tainted, and then came the final step: this group decided it was smart enough to start what one would call proactive fact-checking. They would still answer questions, but how, they would have a group of their own reporters. These people would go and check out whatever would hit their fancy, especially if they thought they could catch someone with their pants down.
A smart plan, if done professionally.
Except: one of their first (and trumpeted) forays into the field of active fact-checking was to send a reporter to Sweden to check on frequent news regarding the danger the Tre Kronor (Three Crowns) country was in. Sweden employed an open-door policy set to let in illegal immigrants, mostly from the Middle East and Northern Africa, without any special background checking. That policy, stories from most reliable sources indicated, was close to backfiring.
Money wasted. The reports that started appearing on that fact-checking site’s pages could have been written by simply translating from the Swedish language the official Swedish social-democratic government’s propaganda material.
Since not many in North America, the main user of this particular site, cared about Sweden either way, not many cared to double-check.
So, the inertia continued: when in doubt, check it out on a fact-checking site, and since this one has been around perhaps the longest, why not keep coming back?
Gone are the days when individual reporters in individual media outlets would make sure that no editor catches them in overlooking a detail here or a quote there.
Relying on somebody else, even if one is aware they might be biased now and then, can end up in embarrassment.
For example: this particular, preferably unnamed fact-checking-turned-reporting site, came up with a brilliant idea: during the broadcast of a televised debate between the two 2020 U.S. presidential candidates, it would be checking their facts on the spot.
The authors called the outcome an unvarnished success.
Except that it was NOT.
Former president Barack Hussein Obama’s administration allegedly “got caught ‘spying’ on his successor Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.” The intrepid fact-checking site said this accusation was “mostly false.”
The materials have been flowing all around them for months, with documented proof available at least for several days, and yet, their bias showed in full colours.
They also said that Democratic Party’s candidate Joe Biden was not all for defunding police. This was ingenious, cunning and sly all at once. This statement conveniently ignored simple logic: facts can often be more important than words. Joe Biden never refused the demand that law enforcement be defunded. That kind of silence is too close for comfort to agreeing with it.
So, what’s the moral of it all?
Simple: trust what you see with your own eyes, hear with your own ears, touch with your own hands, and smell with your own nose.
And don’t let anyone do these important things for you. Even the old Romans knew this rule: de omnibus dubitandum est, meaning: doubt everything.
And, especially, doubt fact-checkers with innocent and honest-looking faces.