Global Analysis from the European Perspective. Preparing for the world of tomorrow




Fact Checking the fact-checkers: a case of intellectual dishonesty

The Western globalist elites’ current strategy to deal with dissent is to accuse anyone that disagrees with their worldview of falling victim to “fake news”, possibly from Russia. That is the reason why they have put in an effort to scrutinize statements of populist politicians in the hope of proving to the Western populace that they are wrong and only Western globalists have a monopoly on truth. The attempt is nothing more than a totalitarian tilt at basic freedoms by the self-professed liberal elites, who now show a strong distaste for diverging opinions in politics.

We have recently stumbled across an article on fact-checking and fake news by Oscar Barrera, Sergei Guriev, Emeric Henry and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya published on voxeu.org the Center for Economic Policy Research portal.1)Fake news and fact checking: Getting the facts straight may not be enough to change minds, Voxeu.org 2017-11-02.The article picked a quote by “populist” French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, where she claimed that 99% of the illegal immigrants coming to Germany through Hungary etc. were men. The counter claim by the “fact-checkers” was that “statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, (…) reported that men accounted only for 58% of refugees crossing the Mediterranean in 2015″. The article goes on to claim that Marine Le Pen used “alternative facts” that should be exposed as false; the authors further deplored that voters do not change their mind after fact-checking.

Methodological mistakes and alternative facts

Let’s fact-check the fact-check to begin with. The percentage reported by the authors is correct, but it does not refer to the totality of the inflow.2)Refugee/Migrants emergency response – Mediterranean, UNHCR 2016-01-26.The statistical methodology of the UNHCR, for their own reasons categorizes the arrivals as between adult males, adult females and children.


“Children” are not a gender. The 58% claimed by the authors of the article refers only to adult males, but it doesn’t say anything about the 25% of minors. This is a methodological preference by the UNHCR and they are entitled to it. However, if the authors were looking for the actual distinction between men and women to disprove Marine Le Pen, they picked the wrong source. They were in need of one that assesses the gender of the group of “children” as well.

We thus look elsewhere for the answer.

Pew Research Center, based on Eurostat data, provides us the information they were looking for: “Men made up nearly three-fourths (73%) of Europe’s asylum seekers in 2015. “3)Number of Refugees to Europe Surges to Record 1.3 Million in 2015, Pew Research Center 2016-08-02.

So once “minors”, which would probably be the correct term instead of just “children”, are accounted for, the percentage of males increases to 73%.

Just to double-check, the number is confirmed by an article by the Economist,4)Oh Boy, The Economist 2016-01-16.which also outlines that the younger they are, the higher the percentage of males is.

The source chosen by the authors leaves out the segment of migrants with the highest ratio of males to females, therefore providing a significantly skewed vision of reality.

While accusing Marine Le Pen of using “alternative facts”, the four writers did exactly the same thing.

Conceptual fallacies and intellectual dishonesty

Marine Le Pen’s quote was likely to be hyperbolic to highlight the disproportion between men and women of the migrant inflows of 2015. Hyperboles, by definition are exaggerations used to make a point. Once properly fact-checked, the ratio is almost 3:1, thus real and significant. Marine Le Pen could have a point.

The authors however do not. First, they took as literal a hyperbolic statement; if we apply the same pedantry to their own fact-checking, however, more fallacies can be evidenced. Marine’s quote mentions Hungary, hence she’s specifically referring to the inflow going through Eastern Europe, which is only one of the three routes of the Mediterranean.

The authors of the fact-checking pick the data of the UNHCR that refer to the whole Mediterranean, hence all the routes, not just the one Marine Le Pen was talking about. They thus want to fact-check a specific flow (the Eastern one) by using the data of a broader one, and they chose the wrong set anyway.

Even worse, they chastise Marine Le Pen for reaching a “desired conclusion” that migrants came for economic reasons rather than security. Yet, two lines above they call the entire flow “refugees crossing the Mediterranean in 2015” thus committing the same “desired conclusion” they accuse the leader of the National Front of. While Le Pen claims they are all economic migrants, the authors, equally wrongfully, claim they are all for security reasons by calling them refugees, implying also that their asylum request has been accepted.

Eurostat data for the 2015 asylum applications show a range between 46% approval rate in Q15)Asylum Quarterly Report Q1 2015 p.10, Eurostat. and Q2,6)Asylum Quarterly Report Q2 2015 p.10, Eurostat. to a max of 60% in Q47)Asylum Quarterly Report Q4 p.10, Eurostat. The influx was therefore a mix of refugees and economic migrants.

Conclusion

The fact-checking contains conceptual mistakes (failing to distinguish between asylum seekers, economic migrants and refugees, while sweeping all of them into the last category), geographical ones (it uses data from all the Mediterranean routes instead of just the Eastern one Marine Le Pen was referring to) and incomplete data (it chooses the UNHCR report which does not include the gender of minors). It is guilty of everything it accuses Marine Le Pen of: from use of alternative facts to ideological bias.

The irony is shrieking as they conclude that given that their fact-checking failed to change the viewers of those they confronted (with wrong data!) they suggest that “correct facts need to be embedded in a narrative with persuasive argumentation and conclusions – and delivered by a charismatic politician”.

Is that was we need? A narrative and a “charismatic politician”? The same people who chastise populist voters for requiring a resolute leader now want a charismatic figure to deliver their message!

Fortunately, we still have the freedom to verify claims on our own. Should the EU leadership push forward with its Orwellian Ministry of Truth, the distortion presented above is a dire warning of how bad it’s going to be.

References   [ + ]

1. Fake news and fact checking: Getting the facts straight may not be enough to change minds, Voxeu.org 2017-11-02.
2. Refugee/Migrants emergency response – Mediterranean, UNHCR 2016-01-26.
3. Number of Refugees to Europe Surges to Record 1.3 Million in 2015, Pew Research Center 2016-08-02.
4. Oh Boy, The Economist 2016-01-16.
5. Asylum Quarterly Report Q1 2015 p.10, Eurostat.
6. Asylum Quarterly Report Q2 2015 p.10, Eurostat.
7. Asylum Quarterly Report Q4 p.10, Eurostat

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