The statement in question: “They took off running by themselves without me,” when “they” refers to the speaker’s pants.
It is perhaps germane to the matter that the speaker, 52-year-old Charles William Raulerson, was naked and blasting music from his vehicle in a car wash parking lot. When confronted by police and asked about the reason for the conspicuous absence of his pants, Raulerson allegedly uttered his remarkable explanation. Police ultimately felt it necessary to tase him.
Today I returned to this offering by the most prolific of my crack ethics issues scouts, Fred, after four plus hours with The Ethical Arts Players, in which I expounded on the best ways for an organization to develop a culture that discourages sexual harassment. I was grateful for something completely different, though I will note that if Mr. Raulerson were inside the car wash and a manager there, this episode might qualify as creating a hostile work environment.
Fred suggested that “My pants took off running by themselves without me” is “a lie that is obvious and absurd.” In truth, it is not.
It does not qualify as a Jumbo, because the statement, unlike “Elephant? What Elephant?” does not deny what is undeniable. If his pants were in plain view, immediately disproving Charles’ statement, then it would be a Jumbo. (If, upon having the pointed out, he responded, “Oh! The devils! I hadn’t noticed! They came back!”, we would be returned to square one.)
Nor is the statement a lie. It just isn’t. We cannot say with certainty that it is a lie until we know that Charles doesn’t believe that his pants ran off, and is deliberately trying to deceive. That would make it a lie, but we simply don’t know that. The fact that he’s in public without pants creates a rebuttable presumption that he might, for example, be hallucinating, and really believes that his pants ran away like the dish ran away with the spoon. (Is that nursery rhyme a lie?)
On his blog, Prof. Jonathan Turley has started a feature where he shows a mug shot and asks, “Can You Guess What This Man Was Charged With?” If we changed that challenge a bit and showed Mr. Raulerson’s visage with the question, “Would This Man Believe That His Pants Ran Away?,” I wouldn’t rule out “yes” as an answer. He could be mistaken, and that can of Sterno he just downed might be the reason why.
I watch a lot of horror movies, and they almost always involve someone seriously swearing that something incredible has happened, and people assuming he or she is making stuff up, to their eventual regret. Is “My pants took off running by themselves without me” inherently more unbelievable than “My husband isn’t really my husband,” “My daughter’s head turned 180 degrees around,” “I have a cute little space man in my closet?,” “a flock of birds attacked the schoolchildren,” or “That serial killer is back from the dead!”? Opinions may differ, but I don’t think so. Thus Raulerson’s claim, while highly unlikely, I will agree, cannot be definitively dismissed as false.
As an aside, Ann Althouse, on her blog, takes the New York Times to task for writing today that “President Trump reiterated his false claim that at least three million illegal immigrants cast ballots for Hillary Clinton…” She says,
“I disapprove of the use of the phrase “false claim” in a news article. Trump deserves criticism if he is purporting to know things that he does not know, but the NYT is also asserting that it knows something it does not know. Trump’s allegation could be true. How can you know for certain without a thorough investigation?
It would be much stronger for the NYT to say that Trump’s statement is unsupported and merely a suspicion (a suspicion that supports his political interests).The obvious reason for choosing to call it a false claim rather than an unsupported claim is that if we actually already know it’s false, then no investigation is needed. So the question is why would the NYT want to take that position? It makes me suspect that they are afraid something will turn up — if not 3 million illegal immigrants* voting, then other voting problems that are damaging to the Democratic Party.”
Brava. But it’s Trump, the news media and the Left have decided to push the narrative that he is always lying, and the #1 paper in the nation states “false” as a fact, when that is merely an assumption.
Trump’s dubious statement is easier to confirm or rebut than Chuck’s: how would you prove that his pants did not run away? Another possibility is that he knew the statement was false, and was saying it to mock or annoy the officers. “My pants took off running by themselves without me” could easily be sarcasm: no reports give us the tone in which he said it. “My pants took off running by themselves without me,” if delivered in a tone that leaves an implied “you assholes” as the end, makes perfect sense as sarcasm. Mr. Raulerson, for all we know about him, may be a deft raconteur, a puckish satirist, and a mordant wit in the tradition of Oscar Wilde, Ambrose Bierce, and Oscar Levant.
Are you pre-judging him by his appearance? That is pure bias, and both unfair and unwise. For example, here is Levant when he appeared on national television:
You can imagine what Oscar, who had many problems, looked like on his bad days. He not only could give Charles William Raulerson a run for his money in the bad first impression category, he was perfectly capable of turning up pantless at a car.
This exercise is merely to remind everyone that whether or not a statement is a lie is often more complicated than the news media would have us believe….which is ironic, since if anyone desperately needs the benefit of the doubt in this respect, it’s them.