B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Does Obama Use the I Word More Than Other Presidents?

without comments

Fist Bumps

Of course not. But that doesn’t stop bloviators like George Will from repeating this lie, nor does it stop the Fox News Enemies-of-Rational-Thought from repeating the lie either. Facts are not important to these people. So if you hear the allegation spewed somewhere, instead of just rolling your eyes, here’s an answer from the reality-based world:

But here’s one more tedious bit of fact-checking, based on a nearly-complete sample of the texts of weekly radio addresses delivered by Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and a newly collected sample of about 10% of Ronald Reagan’s weekly radio addresses. (I didn’t have time to clean up a more complete set for Reagan, but this temporally-random sample should generalize fairly well.)

As expected, Obama’s rates of “I” and of FPSPs in general are slightly lower than the other two presidents — and in fact George W. Bush alone has almost three times more I’s in total than Obama, since his higher rate was maintained for two full terms rather than for 3/4 of one term. Similarly, if we project Reagan’s rate to his full set of radio addresses (which tend to run longer in terms of word count as well), we expect his total I-word count in weekly radio addresses to be more than three and a half times greater than Obama’s:

# of addresses Total words “I” (%) Total 1st pers. sing. pro. (%)
Obama 99 77,555 704 (0.91%) 834 (1.08%)
Bush 2 230 223,305 2095 (0.94%) 2686 (1.20%)
Reagan 23 26,125 258 (0.99%) 340 (1.30%)

So the idea that Barack Obama “uses the I word more than … all presidents have used it collectively in the two hundred and some odd years of our nation” is a preposterous fabrication. But it’s only the most extreme version (so far) of a meme that has spread like pond scum through the stagnant waters of wingnut punditry since George Will popularized it in 2009.

Frankly, I’m disappointed in these people. Can’t they invent new fabrications instead of tediously repeating old ones?

(click here to continue reading Language Log » Flaming Napalmed Knickers.)


Written by Seth Anderson

November 29th, 2011 at 11:59 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Leave a Reply