Society

Fact Checking

The word “fact” can mean “something that actually exists; reality; truth” but it can also mean “something said to be true or supposed to have happened,” and of course those meanings are very, very different but in politics they are often conflated. I don’t like the term “fact check” because it tends to impart too much credibility to the statement being considered. Yes, politicians sometimes make statements that they genuinely believe to be true, and such sincere assertions, such “possible facts,” are indeed worthy of being “checked.” All too often though, politicians make statements crafted for political gain that they know to be false. To subject such deliberate falsities to a so-called “fact check” is to dignify the falsity by suggesting that it might possibly be true or that an informed person might reasonably have considered it as true until learning some new information uncovered during the investigation. But there was never such a possibility: the statement was always a deliberate and obvious lie. There is a phenomenon where the media will play a soundbite where a candidate loudly asserts an obvious falsehood and then a commentator will proceed to “fact check” the assertion and conclude that it is false: the candidate “got the facts wrong,” a minor offense. The “fact check” makes it seem like the commentator is doing his or her job by both reporting on the assertion and subjecting it to scrutiny. Really, the media is allowing itself to be played by the politician whose only goal was to have the falsehood broadcast as often and as widely as possible. Mission accomplished. “Fact checking” the falsehood is superfluous, or even dangerous, because the soundbite will linger in memory much longer and with more vividness than any boring commentary accompanying it (even if that commentary directly contradicts it) and also because the falsehood was never meant to appeal to those with a strong concern for factual accuracy in the first place. Rather, the statement was meant to appeal to those who will applaud any “jab” against their perceived enemies, and every broadcast of the soundbite (whether accompanied by a fact-check or not) is another hit, another point scored. The logical approach to dealing with a person who repeatedly spouts falsehood is not to continuously “fact-check” that person but to ignore the person; unfortunately, the person’s very mendacity makes the person a spectacle that everyone wants to watch, and ignoring a spectacle is not good for ratings. How do we solve this?

Earth

Shampoo In Bar Form

It is safe to say that I’ve never had a reputation for knowing about, or even having the remotest interest in hair care products. But it is also true that, intermittently over the last 25 years, whenever I’ve found myself in a discussion of startup ideas and disruptive innovations, where everyone is excitedly describing their pet plan for “changing the world,” I have sometimes revealed my own revolutionary product concept, and I never even asked anyone to sign an NDA: shampoo in bar form. Solid shampoo. The fact that no one, not one single person, in all this time, has ever told me they think this is a good idea, to me has always seemed like evidence for the truly revolutionary nature of the proposal. Every dismissive laugh, every “Haha, no one will buy it!” has been like a trophy to me. People just don’t get it, that shampoo in bars is more convenient for travel, lighter to ship, and less bulky to store than liquid shampoo, is spill-proof, and most importantly it can be packaged in simple recycled paper as opposed to a wasteful plastic bottle with a pump mechanism that’s going to end up polluting an ocean and possibly choking a polar bear to death. Apparently those environmental and ergonomic differentiators are very difficult to understand. But luckily I didn’t have to waste years of my life actively pitching this concept, making prototypes, trying to develop a market, inventing founder’s stories about how I was just a simple guy hacking on shampoo formulations in his garage, looking for a better way. No, all I had to do was wish for it, and with no other discernible effort on my part, aside from waiting many, many years, poof! Over six companies selling shampoo in bars have now materialized — J.R. Liggett’s, Lush, D. R. Harris, Obia Naturals, Seanik, Chagrin Valley — everyone is doing it! I guess I had gotten a little lazy in following the market these past few years. Online product reviews today are full of newly formed bar-shampoo aficionados saying “Love it! Great idea!” Where were y’all a decade ago when I was crying out into the wilderness? Well, in any case, I am delighted to have just procured my first sample of bar shampoo and will be using it for the first time tomorrow morning. With so many people already on the bandwagon, I feel like a late adopter.

Update 12/11/2016: I switched over to solid/bar shampoo around Sep 7, 2016. My first bar of J. R. Liggetts, priced around $6, has lasted me approximately 3 months, up until today, Dec. 11, with daily use. Great product: compact, convenient to transport or store, long lasting, packed in recyclable paper, no toxic ingredients, pleasant lather, an easy and fun way to reduce your environmental impact — try it.