Distributed Fact-Checking

You already know that tonight’s debate between Bush and Kerry (9:00-10:30pm EDT) could be important to the outcome of the election. Note that I don’t say “will be important” — I think there’s a reasonable chance that it will just be another forum for the recitation of familiar lines from campaign speeches, having little effect on the race.

Regardless, I think there’s scope for us to take advantage of the fact that one thing that blogs are particularly good at is getting lots of people thinking about a problem from lots of different angles. It’s like distributed computing for policy issues.

Several other blogs (e.g. Atrios, Kos) will be harnessing the power of the blog-reading population to do some “distributed fact-checking” on Bush and Kerry’s statements. Given the rapidly rising prominence of political blogs in the media, I wouldn’t be surprised if much of the formal media will actually rely on blogs (to an extent yet to be determined) to do the fact-checking work for them.

In fact, Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post has explicitly asked blogs to post their best fact-checking finds after the debate. He’ll be checking them and writing about them in tomorrow’s column.

Here at Angry Bear I think we should try to do our part. Naturally, I think we have a comparative advantage in fact-checking statements related to the economy, most of which will be in later debates. (Tonight’s debate is supposed to be all about foreign policy.) Speaking for myself, at least, I know I’m much more likely to catch untrue or misleading statements about the economy than about anything else.

Nevertheless, I’m going to put up a post before the debate to which all Angry Bear readers should feel free to contribute their own fact-checking results. Who knows, maybe they’ll end up talking about international economics a bit… At any rate, late tonight or early Friday morning one of us will put together a post including the highlights of what we’ve collectively found.

Consider this a dry run for the domestic policy debate, where I’m sure that we’ll be able to shed some serious light on the candidates’ statements.