When It Comes To Bernie Sanders, America's Fact-Checkers Suddenly A Bunch Of Existentialists
Cheer up! Humanity isn't extinct!

The fact checkers at the Associated Press, Washington Post, and FactCheck Dot Org, apparently driven mad by the stress of all Donald Trump's lies, turned both sides of their attention Wednesday to Tuesday's Democratic debate, and they did find some actual errors and exaggerations: Julián Castro flubbed some unemployment data, Tom Steyer got wage growth wrong, and Joe Biden said "Syria," not Turkey, had fired on withdrawing US troops. And in an unusual error, Kamala Harris actually understated the number of assault weapons in circulation in the USA -- she said it was five million, but the gun industry estimates it's 16 million.

But they also indulged in some hellacious nitpicking in their zeal to show that Democrats are somehow just as slippery as Republicans -- and as usual, it was a perfectly true and reasonable statement by Bernie Sanders that got them itching. Let's get our fine-toothed steel comb out and pick those nits right back! (Ew.)

First off, WaPo's fact check team returned to a favorite nitpick on Bernie Sanders, insisting he exaggerated the number of bankruptcies caused by medical debt. Sanders says it's about 500,000 a year, but WaPo isn't happy about the methodology because the study was published in an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health, so how can you trust that? Plus, that number is true, but it includes all survey respondents who listed medical bill as a "factor" in their bankruptcy, so the number where medical debt was the SOLE, or even primary cause was lower, making Bernie a big ol' fibber. (The study's author countered that Sanders cited him correctly, and that the study's estimate may actually be low.) This time around, neither WaPo nor FactCheck mentions that detail.

FactCheck also insists Sanders exaggerated the number of Americans who were "uninsured or underinsured" because the source he cited, a Commonwealth Fund study, included 19.3 million people who had insurance at the time of the study, but had been underinsured the previous year. My god, is there no end to Bernie's Trumpian twisting of the truth? (Yeah, sure, he should get it right, but come on, this is no "I defeated ISIS.")

But the real prizewinning nitpick has to be one perpetrated by both FactCheck and the AP -- worse, the AP even listed it first, as if it were the biggest factcrime of the debate. Shame on Bernie Sanders for referring to "the existential threat of climate change," which wasn't even brought up in any of the moderators' questions. That's a great big lie, you see, because while scientists project that if we don't eliminate greenhouse gases, millions may eventually die due to climate change. Also, large areas of the planet -- especially in poor, crowded equatorial countries -- may become so hot that daytime summer temperatures could be deadly, and heavily populated coastal areas will be inundated. Both will lead to massive international migration, disruption, and war. Oh, yes, and then there's the likely damage to worldwide agriculture as growing cycles are disrupted and droughts become more frequent.

But nobody's predicting human extinction. Extinction of lots of species vital to the food chain, sure, but as with nuclear war, some portion of humanity should survive. How many megadeaths are we comfortable with?

Mostly, the complaint seems to be nitpicking about loose usage. Here's FactCheck's gripe:

"Existential" has become a popular word among Democrats to describe the danger that climate change poses. As we've written in our coverage of a previous debate, it's not entirely clear what politicians mean when they use the word. But if taken literally to mean the end of humanity, the descriptor is incorrect.

Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann told us previously in an email that the idea that humans would go extinct because of climate change "simply cannot be defended scientifically."

Aww, Mann, now the fact feckers are going to have to go after the professor himself, because look what HE said about Donald Trump!


So cheer up, everyone: Even if we do nothing and the worst-case scenarios are borne out, it will merely be catastrophic, not the end of humanity. Fine, fine, let's just call climate an existential challenge to civilization as we know it. The planet can certainly stand to shed a few billion people, and as the Great Leader reminds us, people outside US America have plenty of sand to fight over.

But let's also close on a hopeful note: Science Daily reports on a new study showing that even now, the overall cost of switching to clean energy quickly enough to stop the very worst projections would be less than the cost of damage caused by doing nothing. That seems like it might be a good investment! And while we don't have to "save humanity," it would sure as hell save a lot of humans.

[WaPo / AP / FactCheck / Science Daily / Pacific Standard]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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