FACT FINDING Escambia County politics is a blood sport. Too often the races aren’t about platforms or one’s good deeds. Instead the campaigns wage war over who can best distort the facts. Sometimes the distortions are half-truths that have some glimmer of fact as their basis. Oftentimes they are boldface lies.
For a political columnist, local politics make good copy because so few of the yokels running for office understand that they will be held accountable for the outlandish statements that they make.
I expect 2012 to be one of the dirtiest campaign seasons since W.D. Childers ran for the Escambia County commission in 2000. Lies and accusations will be flowing like puss from an infected sore. Fake newspapers will be published and distributed at convenience stores, filled with attack articles. Websites and phony Facebook pages will pop up, intent on destroying the reputations of the opposition.
The Independent News plans to take on all the distortions, half-truths and lies and ferret out the truth in a feature that we will run in the newspaper and on our websites. The feature, “INside Politics,” will investigate the statements made by local elected officials, candidates for office and their political handlers.
We will fully document the facts with whatever official documents and expert statements that are available. We will rate the statements as “True,” “Mostly True,” “Mostly False” and “False.” Whether we have written favorably or unfavorably about the official or candidate in the past will have no bearing on the rating.
After all, facts are facts. With our “Winners & Losers” column, we’ve shown everyone has an opportunity to be a “winner” one week and a “loser” the next. In the heat of a debate or public meeting, people sometimes “cross the line” to win an argument. Getting caught in a misstatement shouldn’t be political suicide—unless the false statements happen repeatedly.
We will pay particular attention to campaign literature, the faux newspapers, attack websites and phony Facebook pages. We will give the authors an opportunity to defend their work, if the authors put their names on their work. Unfortunately, some of the most vicious attacks are done anonymously by cowards.
You can help us in our quest to find the truth. Send me e-mails on what you are reading and hearing on the local political races. We will publish, in the paper and online, our findings on a regular basis up until the November general election.
This will be fun.