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PolitiFact, Fearing a Right-Wing Backlash, Calls Democrats' 100% True Claim About the GOP Medicare Plan the "Lie of the Year"

PolitiFact clearly chose the claim to avoid charges that it holds a liberal or Democratic bias.

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The accurate claim that the Republicans had voted to end Medicare (as we know it) might not have even made the final five if not for Paul Ryan's intervention. Dave Weigel reported for Slate that Ryan, author of the GOP plan, sent an email to supporters urging them to stuff the ballot box. “Dear Friend,” read the email, “I need your vote."

Politifact, a non-partisan, fact-checking website, is now taking votes for the 2011 'Lie of the Year,' and one of the nominees is the Democrats’ "Pants on Fire" lie about Republicans voting to "end Medicare."

Help me fight the lies, falsehoods, and attacks of the Left by casting a vote to show the Democrat’s lie that Republicans voted to “end Medicare” is the worst political lie of 2011. Click here to cast your vote now at Politifact.

Even with that advantage, the Democrats' claim only came in at 3rd place, with 16 percent of the vote. That the stimulus created no jobs – one of the GOP's central arguments heading into this election year – led with 24 percent of the votes cast, followed by the nonsense about Planned Parenthood being little more than an abortion provider. 

It's so clear that Politifact went out of its way to find a “lie” told by Democrats that the American Prospect's Paul Waldman, a long-time media observer, actually called it two weeks ago. “Giving the 'Lie of the Year' award to Republicans three years in a row would just invite too much criticism from the right," he wrote, "and if there's one thing the right is good at, it's screaming at journalists about 'liberal bias.'"

So my bet is that they're going to go with the contention that Paul Ryan's budget plan "ends Medicare," which has the benefit of being an important assertion repeated many times, despite the fact that it's actually not a lie at all …

The irony here is that PolitiFact and projects like it exist precisely to combat mindless "he said, she said" journalism, the kind that quotes one side, then the other side, and asserts that the standard of "objectivity" has been met.

The most enduring conspiracy theory in America is that the institutions charged with offering some semblance of objective reality – the media, the academy, scientists – are hopelessly biased towards the left, if not outwardly hostile to “traditional American values.” The right has not only developed its own dedicated, ideological media to do battle with traditional news outlets, but also an activist network, built around well funded organizations like the Media Research Center and Accuracy in Media, that can direct conservative ire at reporters and editors whom they portray as showing insufficient deference to their perspective.

It's worked in the past, it worked on the editors of PolitiFact this year, and it will continue to pay dividends as long as "neutral" media outlets like PolitiFact give equal credence to the right's alternative reality.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America . Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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