POSTED MARCH 8, 2019

AxaMonitor's New Fact-Checking System

We decided to follow the example of the Washington Post in using a simple graphic to depict our assessment of how factual statements made by people covered by AxaMonitor are.

Introduction

Like the Post’s “Pinnochios,” AxaMonitor will use its own Trek character, a well-known adversary known for his only occasional relationship with the truth.


Harcourt Fenton Mudd. “Thief —”
“Come now.”
“Swindler and con man…”
“Entrepreneur!”
“Liar and rogue.”
“Did I leave you with that impression?”
James T. Kirk and Harry Mudd, 2268 (“I, Mudd”)

Meet Harcourt Fenton Mudd

Mudd, for short. One of the most popular antagonists of Star Trek’s original series, the character was even revived on The Animated Series and more recently on Star Trek: Discovery.

He’s a lying, thieving, self-aggrandizing, greedy and scurrilous scoundrel. So what better Star Trek character to use to rate the veracity and intent of statements upon which we report. Here’s how we judge their truthfulness (descriptions adapted from the Washington Post):1)

Muddying the Truth

One Mudd Some shading of the facts. Selective telling of the truth. Some omissions and exaggerations, but no outright falsehoods. (You could view this as “mostly true.”)

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Two Mudds
Significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved but not necessarily. Someone can create a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people. (Think of it as “half true.”)

Three Mudds
Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions — “mostly false.” This could include statements that are technically correct (based on some kind of data source) but taken so much out of context as to significantly mislead. The line between Two Muds and Three Mudds can be bit fuzzy, so we’ll try to what tips us toward a Three.

Four Mudds
Whoppers. Just. Wow.

Spock’s Science Insignia
Statements and claims that contain “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” will be recognized with our prized Spock Science Insignia. We tend to reserve this for claims that are unexpectedly true, so it is not awarded very often.

Upside-Down Mudd
A statement that represents a clear but unacknowledged “flip-flop” from a previously-held position.

Weighing Judgment
Sometimes we can’t render a snap judgment because the issue is very complex or there are good arguments on both sides. In such cases, we’ll reserve judgment until we know more. We want AxaMonitor to illuminate factual controversies that are not easily resolved.

Re-offenders

Finally, we’ll also be on the lookout for “Re-offenders” — people who continue to make claims that have already been debunked.


Portions of this article were adapted from the Memory Alpha article, Harcourt Fenton Mudd, and used here under a Creative Commons license.

Debate, Criticism and Additional Facts

We’ll look to revise any judgments if new evidence emerges, and we encourage feedback from readers on the AxaMonitor Facebook group. Please join the discussions on Facebook, or contact AxaMonitor directly with tips, suggestions, and complaints.

Think we’re being unfair? Let us know; we’re happy to discuss it.

COMMENTS
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Keywords

1)
Fact Checker: The Truth Behind The Rhetoric, Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post, retrieved 3/8/19.