We just have to find the right numbers, and the problems go away!

I’m busy grading exams and quizzes today, and I’m grateful that none of my students have stumbled on the McEnany solution, which is to justify wrong answers by saying they just used different numbers than I gave them.

It is a kind of universal answer, though.

“I asked you what 2 + 2 is, and you said 3.14! That’s wrong!”

Nah, I just added two different numbers than the ones you used.

Republicans: Still creating their own reality, even down to using different math.


  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    Where are all those skeptical guardians of facts, reason, and objective truth who battled so long and hard against the solipsistic threat of post-modernism?

    Oh, they at a Trump rally.

  2. PaulBC says

    I think anyone hired as a spokesperson for Trump understands their job to be a performance, and really couldn’t care less if what they say is grounded in reality. It’s all https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kayfabe

    If there was a hell and it was arranged in circles like Dante’s, there would be a special circle for those like McEnany. Beyond that, I am not really interested in how exactly what makes people like this tick or how they manage to sleep at night after telling so many lies. I am pretty sure it comes from a lifelong habit of not caring about anything beyond social status.

  3. stroppy says

    Yeah, there was Trump in that interview where he was fumbling around with charts and trying to assert to the interviewer that you can’t use per capita as a metric– based on nothing of course. Just another instance of Trump’s blatant stupidity and of his being too arrogant and solipsistic to give a damn. The world is his personal diaper to do with as he pleases.

  4. mnb0 says

    Off topic, but relevant given my distrust of Joe Biden: he finally has provided a positive argument to vote for hem (instead of “rather Dzhengis Khan in the White House than Donald the Clown). He’ll force Downing Street to uphold the Good Friday Agreement.

  5. blf says

    Closely related… (Cross-posted from poopyhead’s current [Pandemic and] Political Madness All the Time thread.)

    From the Grauniad’s current lying liars and suckers live blog:

    Addressing reporters at House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s weekly press conference, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer denounced Trump’s comments about coronavirus deaths in Democratic-controlled states.

    Schumer said Trump’s comments yesterday were “outrageous.” “What a despicable man,” the Democratic leader said. “How low can he go?”

    During his press conference yesterday, Trump suggested that the US coronavirus death toll would be much lower if the deaths in Democratic-controlled states were ignored.

    If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level. But some of the states, they were blue states and blue state-managed, Trump said.

    (So one set of different numbers is only using values from thug-terrorised fiefdoms rather national values. I am not suggesting that is the different numbers, only observing the quote in the OP is not the only instance of severe reality distortion and reliance on numerology — not that that observation should surprise (or even be news to?) anyone…)

  6. Larry says

    In what I think is urban legend, some fly-over state legislature tried to mandate that π equal 3, exactly.

    True or not, I could totally see that happening today is some backwater red state. The only thing that might prevent it is that they probably don’t understand what π means, anyway.

  7. blf says

    Larry@11, Not an Urban legend per se, the Indiana Pi Bill:

    The Indiana Pi Bill is the popular name for bill #246 of the 1897 sitting of the Indiana General Assembly, one of the most notorious attempts to establish mathematical truth by legislative fiat. Despite its name, the main result claimed by the bill is a method to square the circle, rather than to establish a certain value for the mathematical constant π […]. The bill, written by the crank Edward J Goodwin, does imply various incorrect values of π, such as 3.2. The bill never became law, due to the intervention of Professor CA Waldo of Purdue University, who happened to be present in the legislature on the day it went up for a vote.

    The impossibility of squaring the circle using only compass and straightedge constructions, suspected since ancient times, was rigorously proven in 1882 by Ferdinand von Lindemann. Better approximations of π than those implied by the bill have been known since ancient times. […]

  8. JoeBuddha says

    “The most unique thing about PDQ Bach’s ‘Theme and Variations’ is that the variations have nothing to do with the theme…” – Prof. Peter Schickele.

  9. dstatton says

    OK, I wasted some time checking her numbers. Surprise! Our excess death rate is better than four EU countries, and worse than nine. That’s looking only at cumulative totals, but those four countries have a flattened the curve better than the US. Yes, we suck.

  10. rossthompson says

    Let’s not pretend this is a new thing that Republicans are doing.

    We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

    –Dick Cheney, 2004

  11. PaulBC says

    @16 I have heard it attributed to Karl Rove (a little research and the best is a “senior Bush adviser” not Cheney unless that’s been documented since).

    It may be more a matter of degree than kind, but I think “reality” created by Bush was the ability to start new wars faster than anyone could analyze the fallout of the last one. In Trump’s case, the idea is that you can just make things up and insist that people believe them. It works better than I would guess.

    As to the larger point, Dubya was a terrible president. Arguably Reagan did even more damage. Trump is maybe just the final straw and looks more extreme for that reason. The way had to be paved for him.

  12. rpjohnston says

    If your students do that, they fail the course. And consequently, waste their money, disappoint their parents, and get scorned by their peers. What consequences do these assholes face?

    If your students did that, plus cheated cheated and plagiarized and assaulted faculty and students, and the university graduated them magna cum laude, their family cheered them on, and their friends hired them into lucrative “jobs”…you’d have a significant number of students acting like shitty little terrorists, right?

    Ain’t nothing gonna be solved till the fuckers get smacked around until they learn the lesson.

  13. anthrosciguy says

    It’s a general pseudoscience thing, fluid numbers*, that the RW uses as well. I’ve always assumed this is a) because of their associations with pseudoscience types, and b) they just have defensible positions and haven’t for decades, so they have to lie and cheat. Or change.

    in my online interactions with a specific pseudoscience pusher a few years back, he repeatedly used very fluid numbers, like a site from less than 200k ago being used as support for things happening 2 mya, or saying of genetic dating info that didn’t come remotely close to matching even with the most generous error bars that if the numbers weren’t what they were he’d be correct.

  14. mailliw says

    McEnany says that the excess mortality rate is lower in the US than in Europe.

    Am I correct in inferring from this that the normal mortality rate in the US is much higher than in Europe? If so why is this the case?

  15. patricklinnen says

    @9 mnb0 – OT
    And just WHY is forcing the UK to up-hold the Good Friday Agreement causes you to despise Biden even more?

    Did you get PI from 2+2? The Good Friday Agreement is not the only thing keeping the Troubles from reocurring, but it helps.

  16. PaulBC says

    @23 Didn’t he say that upholding the Good Friday Agreement was a reason to vote for Biden?

    I think I figured something out though. (Re: “Donald the Clown”) Many Sanders voters in 2016 really saw the presidency as the vote for an individual candidate.

    I will confess I “liked” Hillary Clinton more than I like Joe Biden. I think Clinton is smart and hard-working while Biden really just glides along with glad-handing. I will still vote for Biden.

    But that was never the point. I want someone in the White House who will, when necessary, veto all the shit that comes out of the GOP congress, like we had in 2016, and who will not appoint justices from the Federalist Society’s list. The idea that it actually mattered whether that was Clinton or Sanders is ridiculous. Neither of them had the leverage to do much of anything in office. But it turned into a huge personality thing.

    Likewise, Trump is a despicable human being, whereas, let’s say, John Kasich is a smiley-faced Republican who may be personally OK. I’d also vote for any Democrat over Kasich. It has nothing to do with individuals. If you are voting for individuals, you are playing a sucker’s game.

  17. Sean Boyd says

    blf @13,

    Lindemann did even more than that. Lindemann proved that for each non-zero algebraic number (a number that is a root of a polynomial with rational coefficients) a, that e^a is transcendental; that is, there is no polynomial with rational coefficients for which e^a is a root. Wikipedia has a decent write-up, with references! This in turn implies that pi is transcendental, and therefore is not constructible (can’t be created via straight-edge and compass constructions.) (Sorry if I’m blathering about something you’re fully aware of..I love this stuff.)

    tl;dr Lindemann proved that pi is transcendental :)

  18. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC, #24:
    Most Sanders voters that I know of care about substantive issues. In fact, that is a huge sticking point for many, if you actually listen to them. If indeed you’ve figured something out, then what made you reach that conclusion? Do you mostly just know some who are similar to yourself? (And if so, do you think this is representative of the general population?)

    Other than the literal and trivial sense in which it’s true that voting is for one person to have one job, I don’t know what you mean when you claim Sanders voters (i.e., people like me) see it as a “vote for an individual candidate.” Beyond that, it simply seems to be false.

    Also… Is it the case that Biden would veto all the bad legislation and sign all the good legislation? No.
    Is not being on the Federalist Society’s list even close to a decent standard for Supreme Court appointees? No. (And are you sure that’s not itself an example of defining things in terms of individuals/personalities rather than issues?)
    Is John Kasich “personally OK,” in any sense that has to do with his own substantive record and policy positions, as opposed to making this “a huge personality thing”? No.

  19. blf says

    Sean Boyd@24, “Sorry if I’m blathering about something you’re fully aware of..I love this stuff.”

    No problem! I’m a mathematician-by-education (albeit not by-profession), and enjoyed the reminder.

    The text quoted in @13 is from Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge, and seems to-the-point regarding the subject (that silly proposed law); the more general mathematical proof / result would perhaps be confusing for that specific context.