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?) Continue reading