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!"
The website PolitiFact.com rates political claims based on how true they are. The rulings from the Truth-O-Meter™ at PolitiFact are:
- Mostly True
- Mostly False
- Pants on Fire!
This comic presents a woman wearing a white hat with a press pass in the hat's belt. She is calling herself "PolitiFact" - either pretending to come from PolitiFact.com or she is representing a personification of the website itself. She is obviously annoying Megan and Cueball by first breaking and entering and then rating everything they say on the Truth-O-Meter. (She is using the official logo of PolitiFact as her name, and since they write their name PolitiFact her name should also be written like this, even though Randall has named the comic Politifact with all lower case letters and also uses it like this in the title text.)
When Megan, apparently just having gotten out of bed, says she had trouble sleeping, the PolitiFact.com woman (henceforth simply PolitiFact) appears at an open window and observes that Megan is telling the truth with the rating of "Mostly True!" (So according to PolitiFact she did not sleep well most of the night, but may have slept OK for some parts of the night.)
Megan appears distressed, which is not improved when PolitiFact enters their house through the window. Megan give chase to PolitiFact, passing by Cueball, whose comment Not again makes it clear that this is not the first time PolitiFact has annoyed them in this way. Megan swears that she had locked the window, though PolitiFact gives that claim the rating of "False!" as PolitiFact herself demonstrated. Entering someone's house against their wishes is illegal — the state of their windows notwithstanding. Cueball asks her to leave as Megan chases her through the house.
After the chase, PolitiFact ends up hiding under the couple's bed; Cueball's claim that PolitiFact "can't stay under there forever" is promptly rated "False". Megan's remark, however, that no one likes PolitiFact, is rated "Mostly True!" This exchange is likely metaphorical just as much as it is literal — Randall's PolitiFact acknowledges that what she does annoys people, but she keeps on doing it anyway.
As for metaphors, Megan is likely commenting on the popularity of the website, which Randall's PolitiFact is no less correct about. People become very defensive when claims they make in political discussions are debunked by PolitiFact.com. 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." Simply put, people like the idea of a fact checker until they disagree with it.
PolitiFact.com 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.
The title text makes a play on PolitiFact.com's most untrue rating, "Pants on Fire!" - a reference to the childhood accusation "Liar, liar, pants on fire!"
In the title text either Cueball or Megan says to the other that they have lit the smoke bomb and rolled it under the bed near PolitiFact (seems they have discussed this first). When it goes off it apparently manages to ignite PolitiFact's pants - thus, PolitiFact's pants are literally on fire and she yells "PANTS ON FIRE!". Cueball has thrown smoke bombs before while in a relation with Megan, see 486: I am Not a Ninja, so it would be likely he had a smoke bomb on his person for immediate use.
Alternatively, either Cueball or Megan just says this as a threat (they could even roll a non-bomb object under the bed and maybe they have talked out loud about the idea of using such a bomb before) and they could try to make the loud fwooosh sound themselves to simulate that the bomb going off. Then they would be telling an outright lie that would be rated as "Pants on Fire!". The fact that the fwooosh is located outside of the "quotation marks", is no indication as the sound is not part of the quote. Also the fact that "PANTS ON FIRE" is yelled, rather than calmly delivered in the fashion of her other judgments, is not necessarily any indication that this is not the case, since a threat that is so blatantly a lie as to warrant such a rating should be proclaimed out loud.
It is also possible that PolitiFact's rating is a meta check of the title text itself; because the scenario described is not illustrated as is the rest of the comic, it has not happened, and thus is blatantly false.
It may be a coincidence, but PolitiFact.com was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2009 for work done in their first full year of work (after it was started in August 2007), and this comic was released right after 1711: Snapchat, which hinges on the existence of little-known Pulitzer Prize categories.
PolitiFact was later referenced indirectly with a fact check in 1790: Sad which is rated mostly false.
- [Megan with messy morning hair is walking right and rubs her eyes.]
- Megan: I did not sleep well last night.
- [A woman with hair like Megan (but a bit longer) wearing a white hat with brim and a small white card attached to the hat's belt (like a press pass) crawls up on the pane of an open window. She begins all her sentences with the word PolitiFact. When she says this it is written in the color and style of the PolitiFact.com logo with blue Politi and red Fact. Megan has just walked past the window and has turned to look at the woman. She is still holding one hand up and her hair is still messy.]
- PolitiFact: PolitiFact says mostly true!
- Megan: Oh no...
- [In a frame-less panel Cueball is walking right, while Megan, arms stretched out and hair flowing out behind her, runs by him chasing PolitiFact who is running with a hand up to hold her hat in place, hair also flowing out behind her.]
- Cueball: Not again. Get out of here, PolitiFact!
- Megan: I swear I locked that window.
- PolitiFact: PolitiFact says: False!
- [Cueball and Megan, looking downwards, are standing at the foot of a well made bed with two pillows, and the bedsheets drawn tight. PolitiFact's voice emanates from a starburst at the edge of the shadow under the bed.]
- Cueball: You can't stay under there forever.
- PolitiFact (voice from under bed): PolitiFact says: False!
- Megan: Nobody likes you, Politifact.
- PolitiFact (voice from under bed): PolitiFact says: Mostly true!
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