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Revision as of 03:05, 4 September 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have an explanation for all 1 xkcd comics, and only 0 (0%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

Politifact
"Ok, I lit the smoke bomb and rolled it under the bed. Let's see if it--" ::FWOOOSH:: "Politifact says: PANTS ON FIRE!"
Title text: "Ok, I lit the smoke bomb and rolled it under the bed. Let's see if it--" ::FWOOOSH:: "Politifact says: PANTS ON FIRE!"

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Updated slightly, could probably use further overseeing.

The website PolitiFact rates political claims based on how true they are. The rulings from the Truth-O-Meter™ at PolitiFact are:

  • True
  • Mostly True
  • Half-True
  • Mostly False
  • False
  • Pants on Fire!

This comic presents a woman pretending to come from PolitiFact.com, annoying people (in this case especially Megan, but also her living partner Cueball), by rating everything they say on the Truth-O-Meter. When Megan, apparently just having gotten out of bed, says she had trouble sleeping, the PolitiFact.com woman (called PolitiFact from now on) appears at an open window and observes (directly to Megan's face) that she is telling the truth with the rating of "Mostly True!" (So according to PolitiFact she did not sleep well most of the night, but may have slept OK for some parts of the night...)

Megan appears distressed, which is not improved when PolitiFact enters their house through the window, which caused Megan to chase after PolitiFact. They run by Cueball whose comment makes it clear that this is not the first time PolitiFact has been in their house like this, and he tells PolitiFact to get out. Megan even swears she had locked the window, which would imply that PolitiFact had opened a locked window (breaking and entering), but PolitiFact denies the claim with the rating of "False!", indicating that the window was not locked (not that this makes it acceptable to enter other peoples houses).

After the chase, PolitiFact ends up hiding under the couples bed; Cueball's claim that Politifact "can't stay under there forever" is promptly rated "False". Megan remarks, however, that no one likes Politifact, is rated "Mostly True!" This indicated that PolitiFact actually knows that what she/they do annoy most people, but she/they keep on doing it anyway.

The comic may be commenting on the fact that many people become very defensive when claims they make in political discussions are debunked by PolitiFact.com. There is a phenomenon where the people most influenced by an erroneous claim are the least likely to believe a fact checker. For example, The Washington Post shut down their internet rumor fact checker because, "institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views — even when it's demonstrably fake." Many people like the idea of a fact checker, until they disagree with it.

PolitiFact.com has been accused of being both liberally biased and conservatively biased at various times and has angered politicians on both sides of the aisle. The summary statistic "rulings" are especially troublesome; often the critics will agree that the information presented by the fact check is correct, and may agree that all relevant information has been included, but will disagree as to the importance of context omitted by the original speaker or the interpretation of ambiguous language. Hence, the statement that no one likes PolitiFact is "mostly true".

The title text makes a play on PolitiFact.com's most untrue rating, "Pants on Fire!" - a reference to the childhood accusation "Liar, liar, pants on fire!"

As it is very likely that Cueball have a smoke bomb on his person, as shown in another comic with Megan and Cueball as a couple, see 486: I am Not a Ninja, it will below be assumed that he says the first line in the title text. But it could also have been Megan, who seems even more eager to smoke PolitiFact out. She could have borrowed the one Cueball has...

In the title text Cueball says that he lit a smoke bomb and rolled it under the bed near PolitiFact. When it goes off it was apparently near enough to ignite PolitiFact's pants - thus, PolitiFact's pants are literally on fire and she yells "PANTS ON FIRE!".

Alternatively (but maybe less likely?) Cueball just says this out loud (he could even roll something other that is not a bomb in under the bed) and maybe he himself makes the loud FWOOOSH sound to represent the bomb going off. Then he would be telling an outright lie and that would be rated as "Pants on Fire!" as well.

The fact that PolitiFact seems to yell it could be interpreted to fit better with real pants on fire, but if Cueball tries so desperately to "smoke" her out, that he lies about a smoke bomb, she might also choose to yell "PANTS ON FIRE!" out loud. Maybe it is intended that both interpretations should be possible.

It may be a coincidence, but the fact that PolitiFact.com was rewarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2009 for work done already in their first full year of work (after it was started in August 2007), and that this comic was released right after 1711: Snapchat that mocks the strange prize categories of the Pulitzer Prize seems related. National Reporting is probably also not one of the best known categories, although it may rank above the Pulitzer Prize for Snapchat.

Transcript

[Megan walks around and rubs her eyes.]
Megan: I did not sleep well last night.
[A person with long hair wearing a hat crawls through the window, PolitiFact, Megan looks at the person.]
PolitiFact: PolitiFact says mostly true!
Megan: Oh no...
[PolitiFact has entered the room and Megan chases after that person with Cueball walking behind of them.]
Cueball: Not again. Get out of here, PolitiFact!
Megan: I swear I locked that window.
PolitiFact: PolitiFact says: False!
[Cueball and Megan standing in a bedroom, PolitiFact hides under the bed.]
Cueball: You can't stay under there forever.
Politifact: PolitiFact says: False!
Megan: Nobody likes you, Politifact.
PolitiFact: PolitiFact says: Mostly true!


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Lots of people contribute to make this wiki a success. Many of the recent contributors, listed above, have just joined. You can do it too! Create your account here.

You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes, memes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • List of all comics contains a table of most recent xkcd comics and links to the rest, and the corresponding explanations. There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
  • If you see that a new comic hasn't been explained yet, you can create it: Here's how.
  • We sell advertising space to pay for our server costs. To learn more, go here.

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