Or maybe it should be "Pantaloons in the Plasma State". Anyhow, we need a category of reckless mendacity beyond PolitiFact's "Pants on Fire" stage, to deal with Jim Meyers and Ashley Martella, "George Marlin: Obama Is ‘Narcissist, Classic Elitist’", NewsMax 9/14/2011. More specifically, to deal with their interviewee, George Marlin, who asserts that
Obama … uses the I word more than I think all presidents have used it collectively in the two hundred and some odd years of our nation.
As I've tediously explained tediously many times via tediously many actual tedious counts, President Obama actually uses "I" (and other first-person singular pronouns, like "me", "my", "myself", etc.) at a slightly lower rate, in a tediously wide variety of comparable circumstances, than other recent presidents. Nor, of course, would a slightly higher rate of FPSP use be a reliable indication of greater self-involvement. (See the bottom of this post for the tedious list of links…)
But here's one more tedious bit of fact-checking, based on a nearly-complete sample of the texts of weekly radio addresses delivered by Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and a newly collected sample of about 10% of Ronald Reagan's weekly radio addresses. (I didn't have time to clean up a more complete set for Reagan, but this temporally-random sample should generalize fairly well.)
As expected, Obama's rates of "I" and of FPSPs in general are slightly lower than the other two presidents — and in fact George W. Bush alone has almost three times more I's in total than Obama, since his higher rate was maintained for two full terms rather than for 3/4 of one term. Similarly, if we project Reagan's rate to his full set of radio addresses (which tend to run longer in terms of word count as well), we expect his total I-word count in weekly radio addresses to be more than three and a half times greater than Obama's:
|# of addresses||Total words||"I" (%)||Total 1st pers. sing. pro. (%)|
|Obama||99||77,555||704 (0.91%)||834 (1.08%)|
|Bush 2||230||223,305||2095 (0.94%)||2686 (1.20%)|
|Reagan||23||26,125||258 (0.99%)||340 (1.30%)|
So the idea that Barack Obama "uses the I word more than … all presidents have used it collectively in the two hundred and some odd years of our nation" is a preposterous fabrication. But it's only the most extreme version (so far) of a meme that has spread like pond scum through the stagnant waters of wingnut punditry since George Will popularized it in 2009.
Frankly, I'm disappointed in these people. Can't they invent new fabrications instead of tediously repeating old ones?
Lest you think that I've taken Mr. Marlin's remarks out of context, here's a transcript of the whole Q & A, and full audio of his answer:
Q: The book has a caricature of President Obama staring at his own reflection lovingly in a pool of water below the Lincoln Memorial. While it's probably self-explanatory, please let's hear your description of what that cover is intended to convey.
A: Well the title itself is Narcissist Nation and I believe the- this- this has been a nation that has had elites
for its entire history who believe they are superior to the rest
and should be running things, they should be the collective managers of America.
And we've seen it with the Federalists, with Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, historically we've seen this go on, but
I think this generation of-
of elitists I define as narcissists,
and I think the narcissist-in-chief is the president of the United States.
He's the classic example
of narcissism running a nation, and a nation he's running into the ground at the moment, so
a picture of Obama, who uses the I word more than I think all presidents have used in collectively in the two hundred and some odd years of our nation
uh I think having him gazing a pool of water of himself
uh outside the Lincoln Memorial is quite appropriate; I think it's a very fine jacket cover and the artist did a terrific job.
I note in passing that Mr. Marlin himself uses the "I word" 8 times in the 175 words of his answer, for a rate of 4.6%.
The promised tedious list of tedious refutations:
"Fact-checking George F. Will", 6/7/2009
"Obama's Imperial 'I': spreading the meme", 6/8/2009
"Inaugural pronouns", 6/8/2009
"Royal Baloney", 6/9/2009
"Another pack member heard from", 6/9/2009
"I again", 7/13/2009
"'I' is a camera", 7/18/2009
"What is 'I' saying?", 8/9/2009
"Fact-checking George F. Will, one more time", 10/6/2010
"Them there I's", 2/11/2010
"Open fraud as Op-Ed discourse", 7/10/2010
""A sociopath and narcissist and manipulator"", 8/9/2010
"Recommended reading", 5/3/2011
"Let me count the ways", 5/9/2011
"Two more pundits who don't count", 6/21/2011
"Presidential pronouns, one more time", 6/22/2011
"Another pundit who can't (or won't) count", 6/23/2011
And getting back to PolitiFact: Given the large number of pundits who have pushed this meme, and the importance that the current wingnut narrative seems to give to it, and the straightforwardly false quantitative claims involved, why haven't they bothered to fact-check it?