May 06, 2017

Eisengeiste FACTCheck™ - Ball of Confusion

In this modern age of "fake news" it seems no one can be trusted, even pop culture icons.  In today's post we are going to interrogate a modern cultural work using our proprietary Eisengeiste FACTCheck™ process, an up-to-the minute tool informed by big data, algorithms, and state of the art knowledge bases such as Wikipedia and The Daily Mail.

The object of today's interrogation is a work by an "African-American" musical group known as "The Temptations" (double entendre intended, surely), who in 1971 expressed discontent with their song "Ball of Confusion".


Well, Mr. Temptation (if that is your real name) stand by for an objective assessment of your claims. Get ready, because here we come!  Readers can listen to the song for themselves here.

(The song begins)

People moving out, people moving in. Why? Because of the color of their skin.
  • FACTCheck:  Although causes of the 'white flight' from urban areas in the 1960s and 1970s are debated by historians and sociologists, it does appear that, in fact, people were moving out and moving in because of the color of their skin.  This phenomenon may have even persisted into modern times.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

Run, run, run but you sure can't hide. 
  • FACTCheck:  Presumably intended figuratively, as anyone can hide at almost any time.  But, to the degree that this describes the futility of trying to not be noticed in a society with heightened attention to race and ethnicity, it does seem accurate to say you sure can't hide.  
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Vote for me and I'll set you free. Rap on, brother, rap on.
  • FACTCheck:  In point of fact, many politicians have promised to seek greater attention to civil liberties when courting the black vote in America, but African Americans remain marginalized.  Americans' general assessment of politicians is highly negative.  The ironic twist to the lyric is therefore justifiable.  
    • FACTCheck Assessment: TRUE

Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the...(preacher.)
  • FACTCheck: See The Economist's pre-election article on Obama's final State of the Union address, which states that "America is in no mood for healing." 
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

And it seems nobody's interested in learning but the...(teacher.)
  • FACTCheck:  In recent weeks scientists around the United States have protested the anti-science view of many leading politicians.  The very existence of such protests, however, suggests that the claim that "nobody's interested in learning" is at least dubious.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  ARGUABLE 

Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation.
  • FACTCheck: This appears to be a rhetorical exhortation.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  RHETORICAL

Ball of confusion. Oh yeah, that's what the world is today. Woo, hey, hey.
  • FACTCheck: The claim that the world is a "Ball of Confusion" is a complex one, and a final determination will depend on a weighing of all available evidence.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  UNCLEAR

The sale of pills are at an all time high.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, the pharmaceutical revenues are at an all-time high [see chart].
    •  FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

Young folks walking round with their heads in the sky.
  • FACTCheck: True, although drug use is not confined to the young.  Nor are the alarming effects of substance abuse limited to pills:  in 2015 a  German homeopathy conference descended into chaos as adults aged 24-56 consumed hallucinogens with ill effects, including “staggering around, rolling in a meadow, talking gibberish and suffering severe cramps.”  
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE, but incomplete

The cities ablaze in the summer time.
  • FACTCheck: Yup.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE then, TRUE now
Watts, 1965
Residents view incendiary munitions in Aleppo, 2016 (source)

And oh, the beat goes on.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, the beat does appear to go on.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

Evolution, revolution, gun control, sound of soul.
Shooting rockets to the moon...
  • FACTCheck: In points of fact rockets were shot to the moon in the late 1960s and 1970s, although this has not been the case in recent years.  
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE, but incomplete growing up too soon.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, children reach adolescence sooner than they used to [see chart.]  
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

Politicians say more taxes will solve everything.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, the Republican Party controlled the White House when the song was written, and all three branches of government in the modern era.  The GOP Platform of 2016 emphasized reform of the tax system, and explicitly expressed skepticism about the efficacy of higher tax rates.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  NOT TRUE

And the band played on.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, the band does appear to play on.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

So, round and around and around we go.
Where the world's headed, nobody knows.
  • FACTCheck: Robert Litterman, former head of risk for Goldman Sachs, notes that one of the most concerning aspects of climate change is not the certainty of a bad outcome, which is disputable, but the increase uncertainty about future outcomes as carbon concentrations rise.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE


Oh, great googalooga, can't you hear me talking to you.
Just a ball of confusion.
Oh yeah, that's what the world is today.
Woo, hey, hey.
  • FACTCheck: This appears to be a primarily rhetorical exhortation.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  RHETORICAL

Fear in the air, tension everywhere.
  • FACTCheck:  One paradox of the modern situation is that some indicators, such as consumer confidence or the options market-derived CBOE Volatility ('Vix') index suggest an elevated level of confidence in the future.  Other sources, however, suggest notable anxiety, such as Gallup's finding that 45% of Americans worry "a great deal" about global warming.  The American Psychological Association warns that "two-thirds of Americans say they are stressed about the future of our nation, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans."
    • FACTCheck Assessment: UNCLEAR

Unemployment rising fast...
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, unemployment has fallen steadily since 2010.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  NOT TRUE

...the Beatles new record's a gas...

...and the only safe place to live is on an Indian reservation.
  • FACTCheck: Indian reservations are not safe, either.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  NOT TRUE

And the band played on.

Eve of destruction, tax deduction, city inspectors, bill collectors,
Mod clothes in demand, population out of hand, suicide, too many bills,
Hippies moving to the hills. People all over the world are shouting, 'End the war.'
  • FACTCheck: That about covers it.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  TRUE

And the band played on.
  • FACTCheck: In point of fact, the band does appear to play on.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  STILL TRUE

Great googalooga, can't you hear me talking to you.
Sayin'... ball of confusion.
That's what the world is today, hey, hey.
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya.
Sayin'... ball of confusion.
That's what the world is today, hey, hey.
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya.
Sayin'... ball of confusion.
  • FACTCheck: This appears to be a primarily rhetorical conclusion to the song.
    • FACTCheck Assessment:  RHETORICAL

FACTCheck™ Assessment

In our review of "The Temptations" song "Ball of Confusion" we noted 24 claims that we viewed as potentially assessable, and evaluated each one on its factual merits.  Five of these were ultimately judged to be either UNCLEAR or largely RHETORICAL, making it impossible to make a final determination as to factual content.

The remaining claims were assessed as follows:

We conclude that "The Temptations" have a point.  It is objectively true that the world was and is at least 79% a "ball of confusion."  In addition, in our judgment the song has a sweet, sweet opening hook.

The question of what to do is a matter for further research.


Blogger VMM said...

Well done.

May 7, 2017 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger JAB said...

impressive. But of course, art is the lie that tells the truth.

May 8, 2017 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger VMM said...

Not anymore, thanks to data-driven music criticism.

May 8, 2017 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger The Other Front said...

Stay tuned next week when we will FACTCheck™ "I'm on a Boat".

May 10, 2017 at 7:39 AM  

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