Lies, Damn Lies, And Fact Checking

Jeff Bezos’s newspaper is weaponizing fact checking to slander Bernie Sanders and defend GOP tax cuts that enrich billionaires and Amazon. Democracy dies in darkness.

By David Sirota and Andrew Perez and cross-posted from Daily Poster.

Jeff Bezos this week announced that he is stepping down from his job running Amazon in order to focus more on his other assets, including the Washington Post. Less than 24 hours later, his newspaper’s chief “fact checker” Glenn Kessler published a screed attacking Bezos’s highest-profile political opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, for mentioning that Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law benefited rich people and large corporations.

This might seem like a simple example of a pundit knowing exactly who pays his salary, but in this case, the pundit in question has his own axe to grind. Kessler is the scion of a fossil fuel baron, which means he has an interest in defending tax cuts that were a particularly big financial windfall for oil companies, including the one linked to his family, according to Kessler’s own newspaper.

At a time when Americans’ trust in media has plummeted, Kessler is a perfect illustration of how the cottage industry of fact checking has turned itself into a system of Orwellian misinformation — one that uses fact-o-meters and Pinocchios to insist that war is peace and ignorance is strength. 

Rather than clarifying reality, fact checking is routinely used to hide the truth and shield the powerful from accountability — it has helped politicians hide their votes to cut Social Security; let health care industry lobbyists distort statistics about medical bankruptcies and Medicare for All; and abetted Wall Street’s efforts to downplay bank bailouts. 

Now, comes the crescendo: The newspaper owned by a man worth $180 billion is deploying fact checking to try to revise the entire history of the tax cuts that enriched his retail conglomerate. And what a coincidence — the revision is happening just as the tax policy may be revisited by a new Democratic president. 

Not surprisingly, this particular broadside is being directed at Sanders, arguably the most prominent critic of Bezos and Amazon in all of American politics. He introduced legislation to shame the company for its labor practices, he successfully pressured the company to raise its workers’ wages and has championed legislation to tax billionaires. 

Bezos’s company has responded by attacking the Vermont senator — and now his newspaper is trying to reinforce those attacks under the deceptive guise of fact checking, all as it warns readers on every story that democracy dies in darkness

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