I shared a meme on Facebook the other day. It wasn't mine, but I sympathized with it. Those of my friends who “liked” or shared it saw how Facebook, courtesy of its "fact-checker," Politifact, labeled it: "False information."
It suggested that if 500 National Guard troops had been deployed last August when mostly white rioters torched a Black business district in Kenosha, Wisconsin immediately following the Jacob Blake police shooting, we might never have had the Rittenhouse murder trial. You know, "what if?"
Politifact, a biased, often discredited, and dubious "fact check" organization employed by Facebook censors, deemed it false. Here's Politifact's justification, as it were:
"A Facebook post says, '500 National Guardsmen being called to Kenosha ahead of the Rittenhouse verdict. Had they done this in the first place, there wouldn’t have been a trial.'
"The claim implies that the National Guard was not present in Kenosha when Rittenhouse shot three people, two of them fatally.
"The National Guard was activated and arrived in Kenosha on Aug. 24, 2020. The Rittenhouse shooting happened the following day, Aug. 25, 2020.
"We rate this claim False."
I rate Politifact's assertion as "Pants on Fire."
Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) did deploy National Guard troops the night after the rioting began. But only 125 of them, and, apparently, not in active support of law enforcement. They provided support for other emergency responders (fire, EMT, etc.). As more troops were deployed later in the week, the violence subsided, but after the tragic deaths on August 25th. Here is just one source, with many eyewitness accounts.
Anyone who has seen footage of the August 2020 Kenosha riots will be hard-pressed to find any of the 125 National Guardsmen engaged in support of overwhelmed law enforcement, at least on their first two days of violent and destructive rioting. That changed after the Governor finally stepped up his response, under pressure from the Trump White House.
I still sympathize with the meme. It is neither inaccurate nor false. Could 500 National Guard troops, more quickly deployed in full support of law enforcement, quelled last summer’s Kenosha riots? Rittenhouse might have never become a household name. A convicted child sex predator - excuse me, "minor-attracted person," might still be alive. We will never know.
As more than 1,000 National Guard troops were finally deployed after the Rittenhouse incident, the violence subsided. The damage was done.
It is not the only time Politifact has been wrong about the Rittenhouse tragedy. They also claimed as "false" that Rittenhouse illegally possessed his weapon in Kenosha. The Judge in the trial proved them wrong when he dismissed the charge after a reading of state law. Too bad Politifact didn't do its homework.
And these are not the only times that Politifact has been wrong or biased.
There's a website devoted to them, going back many years.
I don't mind admitting when I'm wrong. But we should not stand by when so-called fact-checkers take liberties with free speech. Facebook's censors need to find or build a more credible fact-check operation. I'm happy to help.