In keeping with our suggestions about ways in which readers can determine how much credibility to assign to political writers, the first post on FakeCheck says more about the people producing that site than about the people they’re attacking.
Of course, because they lack the integrity to put their names on their attacks, we can only speculate about who “they” are. From online registration, we know that Tiverton 1st friend Michael Silvia is involved. Skimming the content on the Tiverton 1st Facebook page gives the strong impression that FakeCheck and Tiverton 1st have quite a bit of overlap. (Should we begin calling it “Tiverton False”?)
Most of the first post on FakeCheck is simple, hateful pose. The writer wants to tell the reader how to feel about somebody. Instead of facts, FakeCheck makes assertions about motives. The writer asserts that our “disdain for the Town of Tiverton and its residents is well documented,” but doesn’t bother to provide any links or statements about what that documentation is. This is the “everybody knows” trick and an attempt to sneak through a debate without ever having to argue anything.
FakeCheck asserts that Tiverton Fact Check is a way of getting revenge on people who’ve “exposed” a number of groups, but he or she never points to the evidence that exposed them… or even what they were exposed as. Worse, of the four groups listed, I’ve never even heard of one (Tiverton Taxpayers United), and the other is literally a charity, Tiverton Cares, that does nothing more than try to help people in our community.
(FakeCheck’s use of the word “exposed” is ironic, here, because Tiverton Cares just collected a fairly substantial amount of money and supplies for shipment to Liberia, where Tiverton resident Timothy Flanigan is working to reestablish medical facilities. The supplies are basic gear, like gloves and masks, to keep doctors and nurses from being exposed to Ebola.)
Out of everything in the FakeCheck post, this is the one thing that could be considered to be an actual attempt at a statement of fact, rather than mean-spirited opinion:
Justin Katz is paid by (and TivertonFactCheck is paid for) by outside special interests to attack our community.
FakeCheck’s statement is simply false. The writer never tells readers who pays me or how that counts as “outside special interests,” so I’ll fill in the blanks: I work for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which focuses on state-level policy. Its mission is to offer an alternative to the special interests that are doing so much damage to the state of Rhode Island, and the great bulk of our work applies to the entire state.
Part of my job is to be managing editor of the joint Web site, Anchor Rising-Ocean State Current, where I do write about Tiverton from time to time. Only the second half of that name belongs to the Center, and long before Michael Silvia bought his house in Tiverton, back when my only pay was for carpentry work, I was writing about Tiverton politics and government on Anchor Rising. In fact, the Providence Journal periodically publishes essays of mine that draw on my experiences in Tiverton, not because Rhode Islanders are generally interested in the town, but because the lessons apply across the state.
The idea that distant political forces are funding a targeted campaign in Tiverton through me is pure paranoid delusion. (Although the Tiverton 1st crowd may be thinking of the way that national labor unions and progressive groups leverage their members in our town and its government to manipulate the political system. In that case, they may just assume that those of us on the other side would naturally do the same thing.)
Worse, though, nobody at FakeCheck has any basis to claim that Tiverton Fact Check is funded by the Center or any other “outside special interests.” Most of the site is entirely a production of the Tiverton Taxpayers Association. The one exception is the payroll transparency application, which I produced through a mix of volunteer time and on-the-clock time developing a prototype for a new service the Center is hoping to provide in every Rhode Island city and town.
Even then, however, the funding sources will most likely be residents of each town, funding their own transparency applications. In other words, the funding will only be “outside special interests” if anybody who isn’t in government or a small clique of its advocates is “outside” and if having an interest in the health of our community is a “special interest.”