Two Pinocchios for the Fact Checker

Michael Dobbs continues to disappoint as the Washington Post's Fact Checker. In his new column he refuses to correct the mistake he made when he wrongly said that the judge had found "nine significant errors" in An Inconvenient Truth. Instead, Dobbs writes:

Contrary to Kreider's assertion, the judge did talk about "errors" in the Gore movie, and did not always put quotation marks around the word error, as some readers maintained. See points 18 and 19 in his judgment available in full here.

This is misleading. The judge put quotes around "error" 19 times. If he considered all nine of the points of contention to be errors, why go to all that trouble? In point 19, judge Burton does use the word "error" without quatation marks, but look at the context:

However, as will be seen, some of the errors, or departures from the mainstream, by Mr Gore in AIT in the course of his dynamic exposition, do arise in the context of alarmism and exaggeration in support of his political thesis.

The judge is not saying that the nine points are errors, but that the nine points are either errors or departures from the mainstream.

Dobbs was wrong when he claimed that the judge had found "nine significant errors" and he has now refused to correct his mistake. That's at least two pinocchios for his own column if you use his own rating system.

Brian Schmidt has more.

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What is really confusing is when Dobbs writes, "I am unimpressed by ad hominem attacks of the kind that Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider engaged in."

So when Kreider discloses that a critic of Gore's movie is getting money from the oil and gas industry then that is an "ad hominem attack?"

I guess if someone in the Washington Post reports that a defender of President Bush is also a White House attorney, then that is also ad hominem?

Where do they find people like Dobbs?

this is currently the last entry in the comment section on the Post site:

Since the organization I work for is mentioned regarding the fate of polar bears, I wish to add some information to this debate. According to the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), it should be noted that the information regarding the claim made in "An inconvenient truth" about drowning polar bears is not coming directly from IUCN. Nevertheless, we are aware and concerned that polar bears are likely to be forced into water more often and forced to cover greater distances to reach a refuge (land or sea ice). When in open water far from land or sea ice, the bears are vulnerable to wind events precisely because the ice has changed at a remarkable rate, which can be attributed in part to climate change. Increased open water due to sea ice retraction results in larger waves due to increased fetch (a greater area for waves to develop). Polar bears are not at risk from high winds if they are on solid sea ice. They are at increased risk from such storms because their habitat is being severely altered. Without getting into the details of the judgement, from a scientific point of view, we feel that the link between the impact of climate change on the polar bears' habitat and recorded drowning is reasonable. The main risk factor identified for the long-term conservation of polar bears is climate warming.

Mario Lague
Head of Global Communications
World Conservation Union (IUCN)
Gland, Switzerland

Posted by: Mario Lague | November 2, 2007 06:20 AM

i d say, Gore: -1 Pinocchio, Dobbs +2 Pinoccihos..

and special thanks to the comment, that mentions that Gore and Bush now have the same number of Pinocchios...

If Dobbs ever does one of the Q&A online sessions that the Post has, someone should leave a comment here letting us know. Maybe we can force a response out of him about his mistakes.

I clicked through to look at points 18 & 19 of the judge's decision and I don't see either error or "error" in point 18. That's just not acceptable from a fact checker. I guess he is a "fact checker".

By Another PS (not verified) on 03 Nov 2007 #permalink

Given his hostility to Gore, maybe he's a "fat checker".

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 03 Nov 2007 #permalink

Hmmm...I'm just curious here...

According to the plot for the Inconvenient story, there is 100% total concensus by all rational thinking beings that global warming exists, that it is nearly all caused by human activity, that it will lead to the destruction of the planet as we know it unless draconian methods are imposed, including the elimination of capitalism and a totalitarian intrusion into the lives of, well, everyone (excepting its major proponents), and that there is exactly a total of zero, nada, zilch, none, no evidence whatsoever to the contrary.

Seems to me that in this case the term "departure from the mainstream" is more damning than "error" to the case for Global Warming. In fact, much worse. An "error" can be a mistake, an oversight, but a deliberate "departure" smacks of dishonesty, especially when it is falsely claimed to be a concensus, irrefutable and undisputable.