I believe it's called reductio ad absurdum -- where you carry what seems to be a reasonable idea to such an extreme that the conclusions become laughable. At least that's what I remember from high school debate class.
Political "fact checking" has reached new heights -- or, more accurately, new depths -- in 2010. Media outlets trip all over each other "checking" facts, mostly in television commercials, and then making a big show of misinforming the public about what's true and what's false. The media get it wrong more often than the campaigns do, but that doesn't stop their posturing as arbiters of the truth.
The right wing in Wisconsin has even started its own "fact check" called, most apppropriately, PolitiCrap, because that's what it is. (They did not intend the irony.)
Now comes the Appleton Post Crescent, giving Sen. Russ Feingold an editorial thumbs down for a campaign commercial that doesn't exist.
Says the Post Crescent, Thumbs Down
To U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, for a misleading campaign ad.
In the ad, Feingold contends: "I've been outspent by my opponents every time I've run for U.S. Senate."
...For a guy who's staked his political reputation on integrity, the ad's a black mark.
There is no such ad. What they paper's referring to is a comment by Feingold in a TV interview. It never ran in a commercial. [UPDATE: The paper has changed its online story to say "a misleading campaign claim" rather than ad. They're still wrong.)
But even if it had run in a commercial, it happens to be true.
Only in the Journal Sentinel's accounting system, in which your opponents' spending only counts in the last 8 weeks, is there even any doubt about the numbers.
Eye on Wisconsin has the numbers.
They are readily available to any editorial writer who took 90 seconds to check. It would also be pretty easy to discover there was no commercial.
Two thumbs down and a middle finger up to the Post Crescent. For a newspaper that claims to be credible, it's a big black mark. (Or did I read that somewhere else?)