Opinion columnists are familiar with the traditional role of the fact checker. Prior to publication, an editor checks accuracy of quotes and the sources for factual assertions. Erroneous or unsupported assertions are removed or revised.
But times have changed. Today, an entire fact-checker industry has emerged to check your opinions, making sure you have not strayed beyond acceptable limits for public discourse. These professional fact-checkers are often brought in after publication of a controversial article, opinion piece or podcast to quell a controversy. Acting more like business consultants, they help media platforms large and small stay on the right side of government officials and corporate sponsors.
COVID-19 has been a boon to the fact-checking industry. Big outfits like Politifact and Factcheck.org have special divisions just to police COVID “misinformation.” Like the Ministry of Truth imagined by George Orwell in his epic novel, “1984,” these outfits will tell you what you can and can’t say about the lockdowns, masks, and the mRNA vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna.