Repeating Something Doesn’t Make it True (Or False)

This tweet from the very talented and funny TV writer Wendy Molyneux summed up a prevalent opinion today:

I replied with this:

That caught me some blowback, so I figured I should defend my argument. 1The following has nothing to do with whether or not Bill Cosby raped anyone. I have no opinion on his guilt or innocence.

From a formal logic standpoint, the number of times a statement is made doesn’t affect its truth or falsity. If a proposition p is true, one hundred people repeating p can’t make it false, just as one person asserting a false statement doesn’t make the statement true. Frequency of assertion and truth value don’t influence each other, just like how the size of a number doesn’t influence whether it’s divisible by 2. 2There are exceptions. One I can think of is the proposition “The proposition p has only been stated once,” but those don’t apply in this case.

But let’s ignore formal logic and examine this from a common-sense standpoint. It’s tempting to believe that as more folks make a credible assertion, the more credible the assertion becomes. Except that if the credibility of an assertion increases with the number of times it’s made, then:

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1. The following has nothing to do with whether or not Bill Cosby raped anyone. I have no opinion on his guilt or innocence.
2. There are exceptions. One I can think of is the proposition “The proposition p has only been stated once,” but those don’t apply in this case.
My Uncle Joe’s Garden – A Veterans Day Remembrance
Originally published November 11, 2011

Four Cut Sunflowers by Vincent Van GoghJoseph Papak was a carpenter, my great uncle, and the only natural-born gardener I ever met. A railroad track ran alongside the duplex he and my Aunt Sue shared with my dad’s family in Monongahela, Pa., and Uncle Joe claimed the strip of rocky soil across the track for his garden. Polio forced him to walk with a cane as long as I knew him, but he scaled the gravel rise along the tracks, “just threw seeds on the ground,” and raised everything without fail. Broccoli, strawberries, corn, massive sunflowers lighting the entrance to the driveway, all in the constant gray of southwestern Pennsylvania. He also took over every unused patch of ground around the house and yard, always growing something year round. Beautiful asparagus shot up randomly along the wooden fence, like they’d taken root in each of his footsteps. He was the first person I ever saw compost, when I was just a little kid. He’d dump table scraps into a perfectly dug hole in the garden, sides as smooth as a beer keg, and cover it with a garbage can lid.

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A Bunch of Good Songs About Being a Good Person
Update, 11/10/2014: I’m reposting this today because, for some reason or another, it continues to be one of the most popular posts on this site three years after I wrote it. More importantly, I’ve modified it to replace the Kirsty MacColl track at #5 with a much more appropriate song that I should’ve included originally. You can also now listen to this playlist without leaving the page.

Mr. Ted LeoJanuary 18, 2012 – Maybe it’s just been my spending a couple of years unemployed, but I’ve noticed a subtle, glacial shift in the assholism of our culture. It feels like sometime not too long ago we crossed an invisible line on this side of which it’s ever so slightly more probable that people will act like assholes than not.

We choose to just be a tiny bit lazier and not return that email. We decide to spend just a little bit more time on our own stuff instead of doing that thing we promised to do for someone else. We quickly jump on Twitter to badmouth other people instead of spending just one moment to stop and think about whether or not we should, let alone an additional moment to judge ourselves. And we all seem to have finally agreed that it’s probably okay to screw someone else over a little bit if it’s not personal, just business.

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Turn Your Children Into Werewolves: A Halloween Book Hunt
NOTE: I originally wrote this post for Halloween 2011, but turning your children into werewolves is a useful lifehack every year.

Meet The Werewolf by Georgess McHargueSomething I watched recently reminded me of a book that I loved when I was in grade school. Possibly it was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. (I mean possibly that movie was the thing I watched, not that I loved the Booker-Prize-winning novelization. Though obviously I did.) The book was about werewolves. Nonfiction. A sort of guide, as if werewolves were an actual rare species worthy of study, like secretary birds or Kardashians. This was a book for children. In particular I remembered a section with detailed instructions about turning oneself into a werewolf. Oneself being a child. And I’d found this book in my elementary school’s library.

Remembering that, it struck me as beyond belief that a school library in the early Eighties would’ve happily loaned a fourth-grader a step-by-step guide to the black arts. Nowadays such a scandal would likely result in the firing of all the teachers and administrators, the closing of the building, filling it with burning sage, and then reopening it as a charter school based on the educational power of complimentary pamphlets. But I was certain I’d read the book, and I even had a vague recollection of the ceremony it contained. Had it been snuck onto the library shelves by some miscreant, Helloween-listening teens? If so, why’d it have a circulation card? It seemed like the book had to have been an honest-to-goodness, corporately published library holding. So I set out to figure out what it was and track down a copy, preferably one bound in human flesh.

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Those of Us Who Think Uber is Wrong Continue to be Proven Right

Have I still not convinced you to stop using the customer-gouging, driver-screwing, society-disintegrating ride-sharing outlaw taxi service Uber? If the fact that the company comprises an unethical skeleton skinned with a business model that’s an affront to progressives everywhere and wrapped in a demonic cloak of pure greed isn’t enough to make you delete its app, keep in mind that if you criticize your Uber driver’s route he will cave your skull in with a hammer.

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Dictator Doings

It’s time for Dictator Doings, where we see what’s doing with the world’s dreamiest dictators!

Slice Open Your Stomach for Carnie Wilson

Carnie WilsonSunday night in my house is reserved for viewing of cooking competition, cute animal, or kooky-vet shows. Last night’s feature was the “celebrity” portion of Chopped’s Ultimate Champions Tournament, which included Carnie Wilson trying to win money for her chosen “charity,” the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America. Thing is that by promoting the WLSFA, she’s shilling for a twisted corporate scheme designed to take money from the ill and desperate.

Carnie Wilson, for those lucky enough not to know, is the daughter of Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson and former member of the hell-shat vocal band Wilson Phillips, whose video for their 1990 emetic hit single “Hold On” I was subjected to endlessly by my niece during babysitting sessions. After Wilson Phillips broke up in ’93 under threat of invasion from extra-terrestrials who’d intercepted radio broadcasts of “Impulsive,” Carnie went on to pioneer the field of modern trash celebrity.

She began avoiding real work with her extremely short-lived mid-90s tabloid talk show Carnie!, the exclamation point of which plead guilty to 26 misdemeanor counts of creating a public nuisance and was last seen sleeping outside the Santa Monica Blvd. impound lot. Carnie then spent a decade appearing on select TV show, her selection criteria being that no mentally functioning human had any interest in watching them. She hostined a revived version of The Newlywed Game, judged Karaoke Battle USA, and appeared on oodles of reality shows from Celebrity Wife Swap to the no-I-swear-it’s-real Celebracadabra, on which she lost the title of Greatest Celebrity Magician to blackface performer C. Thomas Howell.

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