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How a fact check works

01 Mar 2023 | OP ED Watch

At CDN we are feeling very chuffed because we were just “fact-checked” by a major legacy media outfit. As Oscar Wilde said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Even though USA Today predictably said we were spreading misinformation; the point of “fact checks” is to discredit anyone who questions left-wing dogma rather than to promote informed discussion. But it’s very instructive to read their actual complaint, which was that while we got our facts right in our video on sea level rise in Oslo, Norway, some commentators seemed confused and the possible implications were double-plus-ungood, thus rendering truth false to serve the revolution. Which led us to compose a reply, fact-checking the fact-check.

Dear Ms. Petersen, thank you for messaging us on Facebook before denouncing us. But if you really wanted to reach us and receive a timely response you should have gone to the “Contact” section of our website where we list our email but not our FB address. Now to the substance, such as it was, of your heckling us with “The claim: Post implies falling sea level in Norway shows global sea levels aren’t rising”.

Implies? You’re fact-checking the implication not the facts? Strange. Why not call it “implication check” or “Our opinion” instead of labeling it objective truth? We are responsible for what we have said, but not for what you are thinking.

As for “Some commenters suggested the situation in Oslo is evidence that global sea level rise isn’t really happening”, surely “random comment check” is not a feature of service to anyone. Indeed, there may well be commentators on USA News stories whose views do not meet generally accepted standards, but you are hardly responsible for them. And while we try to monitor comments and remove those that are absurd, offensive or both, as with Facebook messages there are so many that we do not always catch them immediately.

It’s especially odd that right before smearing us by association you would write “‘In this new feature from the Climate Discussion Nexus, we check claims of relentless sea level rise against actual data,’ reads the video’s caption. The video was viewed more than 3,000 times in a month.” Actually it was viewed more than 30,000 times, 27,000 on YouTube and 3,000 on Facebook. But why quibble over actual data?

Oh, right. Because you were performing a “fact-check” ritual casting out of the unclean. On which basis you write “The implied claim is wrong. While NOAA data does show the sea level in Oslo is falling relative to the land,” (which is the “actual data” in question, we note) “this is only because the land is rising. Sea levels are also rising in the area, just not as fast as the land. Global sea levels are rising, according to the NOAA.” Well, yes. And we never said, or implied, that they were not, so you got that one quite wrong. And facts are facts.

Or are they? As you note, Australian Associated Press also fact-checked us and, of course, labeled our claim “misleading”. Meaning that while it was true, it should not be or something Orwellian along those lines. As Bjorn Lomborg recently wrote, “Partisan ‘Fact Checkers’ Spread Climate-Change Misinformation/ I posted sound statistics on polar-bear populations, and Agence France-Presse called them ‘misleading.’” And indeed AAP says of us “Misleading – The claim is accurate in parts but information has also been presented incorrectly, out of context or omitted.”

We cannot help but be touched by all this attention, including their image of “Norwegians out enjoying the water on Oslo harbour” when presumably they should have been fleeing from it. But that AAP piece concedes that we got our facts right, that NOAA does report that sea level, aka what the water is doing relative to the land, is falling, as we said. AAP just say we should not have said it lest truth should lead people into error or, as they cutely put it, “choppy waters.”

Let’s venture into them anyway. We at CDN are adults capable of managing risk in the great adventure of seeking truth while employing appropriate mental as well as physical safety gear. So we understand perfectly well that sea level rise is a complex interaction between changes in the land and in the oceans, unlike alarmists who, for instance, keep saying the Maldives are going under which you might want to fact-check in your spare time. Thus the point of our series is to draw attention to the very different rates at which, the data reveal, “sea level rise” is happening in different places to start an informed debate including on this important aspect of the situation. And to point out that even where sea levels, as NOAA measures them, are rising, they are not doing so at a rate to worry any sane person.

Since both points are almost invariably left out of news stories that instead depict the oceans as rising uniformly and relentlessly, or worse present computer model projections of what they might do as if it were actual real-world data, we look forward to you fact-checking such items and correcting them. As we presume you will also correct any that imply that sea level rise is faster now than it has generally been during the Holocene, or is a new thing, since it was certainly faster between 20,000 and 6,000 years ago than it has been since or is now.

Including, alas, your own. Because in your fact-check-cum-opinion-rant, you talk to a scientist in Denmark who after explaining glacial isostatic adjustment, which is clearly a factor in Oslo and we never said it was not, nor did we imply that it was not, you quote this chap that “If the glacial isostatic adjustment is taken into account, sea levels are rising everywhere in Norway, including Oslo. This is due to man-made climate change.”

Oh really? We beg to differ, having done a fact-check of the old-fashioned sort that shows that sea levels have been rising since the end of the last glaciation and even before. In fact a readily available chart, for instance on Wikipedia, makes plain that sea level rise much faster than today’s began around 19kya, and was particularly rapid between 14 and 6 kya.

So how can it be that the current tepid increase is “due to man-made climate change” even though it is part of a continuous process more than 20,000 years old? Fact check that, if you will. Does your subject believe that, had humans not been producing CO2 since 1850, the sea-level rise that had been going on since before the Holocene began would suddenly and permanently have stopped in or around that year? Or was he just babbling dogma that you reprinted without any sort of journalistic skepticism? Our viewers want to know. Your readers might too.

P.S. We have done a series of these videos noting different rates of sea level rise in different places to draw attention to the complexity of the phenomenon. Your newspaper might do the same if not too busy with advocacy to engage in reporting. We realize that even Wikipedia says USA Today “has been shown to maintain a generally center-left audience” but facts are facts. Or at least they were last time we checked.

9 comments on “How a fact check works”

  1. This reply to Ms Peterson was quite possibly the most enjoyable read I've had in a very long time... Please don't fact check that though!

  2. I put all my faith in Joe Biden and AOC and without question and all experts agree that ... WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE NEXT WEEK!!!!!

  3. Well done! And please soldier on. Alarmists who “shoot the messenger” of well reasoned news they don’t like need to be called out over and over though I doubt there is a cure.

  4. Recent luminescence dating of quartz from terminal moraines in the Makenzie mountains indicate peak glacial advance occurred 21,500 years ago. Therefor, ocean level rise beginning at about 20,000 years ago fits quite nicely.

  5. I have read with much pleasure the letter sent to the 'fact checkerlady' I am leaving this comment to say ....Well done , CDN ! I hope you get this comment as at the moment I am in Comment Jail on You Tube....but they won't tell me what I said wrong or indicate which comment was offensive to their Community Standards. I try to stick to thd facts when commenting and perhaps that was the offensive bit.

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