We are in the early days of the Internet as a political medium and hopefully it will co-evolve along with our society and education system.
Last June, Donald Trump began calling Hillary Clinton "lying, crooked Hillary" and established a Web site of the same name. Leaving Trump's coarseness aside, is the allegation fair? (His coarseness calls for a separate post).
Politifact is a fact-checking Web site run by a Florida newspaper. They rate political statements on a six-level scale ranging from True to Pants on fire:
True – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.They justify their ratings with reasoned, sourced analysis and have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize. (You can read the details on the rating rubric here).
Mostly true – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.
Half true – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.
Mostly false – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.
False – The statement is not accurate.
Pants on fire – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.
The following are summaries of the Politifact ratings of statements by President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. (Click the image to enlarge it).
I retrieved the September ratings from Politifact this morning and retrieved the January ratings using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.
I guess all politicians lie, but few, if any, lie as frequently as lying, crooked Donald. (The "crooked" part calls for yet another post on his business dealings).
The Internet has changed political campaigns just as newspapers, radio and television did. Candidate's statements are archived and Politifact and others can analyze them, but the Internet also enables the dissemination of lies like this faked image of Hillary Clinton and Osama bin Laden, which can be found on many Web sites:
(To be fair, a lot of democrats shared a fake image showing President Bush holding a picture book upside down at the time he was informed of the 9/11 attacks).
The Internet also increases the odds that we will see lies we might "like." As Eli Pariser points out in his book The Filter Bubble, ad-driven sites like Facebook have an incentive to send us things we agree with to keep us on their sites longer.
The Internet enables us to easily create and disseminate lies and it also enables us to discover and expose them, but does that matter? Has the Internet brought us to what William Davies calls the age of post-truth politics? After all, Politifact shows that over half of Donald Trump's statements are lies, yet millions of Americans are willing to vote for him. While Hillary Clinton and President Obama lie less than Trump, they also have millions of supporters who are ignorant of or indifferent to their lies.
That is discouraging, but remember that we are in the early days of the Internet as a political medium and it may co-evolve along with our society and education system to bring us something better. For perspective, check out this early use of television in a political campaign: