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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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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.

PolitiFact.com is a website that 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 Politifact as an actual person, rating everything they hear. When Megan, apparently fresh out of bed, says she had trouble sleeping, Politifact appears and observes that Megan is telling the truth with the rating of "Mostly True!" Megan appears distressed, and Cueball appears, hinting that this has happened before, and tells Politifact to get out. Megan claims she had locked the window, but Politifact denies the claim with the rating of "False!", indicating that the window was not locked (and thus that Politifact's entry is entirely Megan's own fault). After a brief chase, Politifact hides under the bed; Cueball's claim that Politifact "can't stay under there forever" is promptly rated "False". Megan remarks that no one likes Politifact, which Politifact quickly rates "Mostly True!"

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. 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 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's most untrue rating, "Pants on Fire!" - a reference to the childhood accusation "Liar, liar, pants on fire!" Cueball has thrown a smoke bomb into Politifact's vicinity, apparently near enough to ignite Politifact's legwear - thus, Politifact's pants are literally on fire.

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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