One of our foundational rules on notability is that claims made by celebrities are automatically, ipso facto considered notable by the very fact that they were made by celebrities. Most of the examples of this rule in application have been for public claims by celebrities. For example, a famous rock star adds a Tweet containing a claim that the average rainfall in Spain is actually less than that of Arizona and someone bounces onto Skeptics SE and asks if that is really true.

Does this rule of notability apply in cases where a celebrity has privately made a claim to the question asker? For example, suppose I bump into Vladimir Putin in a pub and he whispers to me that his country's space program has discovered liquid water on Venus. Is this a notable claim because it was made by a celebrity or does it remain non-notable until Putin repeats this claim publicly (e.g. via a speech, a Tweet, etc.)?

While the example I gave above is perhaps a little farfetched, there are plenty of people (and, I'm sure a few who post here) who actually have personal relationships with celebrities who could be in the position of hearing one of them make a dubious claim.

For another example, consider the following hypothetical question:

My mom told me that sheep have internal compasses and always face north when hungry. Is this true? P.S. my mom is Britney Spears.

Would that be on-topic?

To be clear, I do recognize that proving the existence of a private communication may be difficult and could lead to some people downvoting the question for lack of evidence. I also recognize that some users may downvote such questions out of disinterest or a feel that such questions are inherently low quality. I'm not asking about those scenarios at all, but whether such claims are on-topic at all.

1 Answer 1


Notability is about the number of people who believe it, not its source.

Proving people believe it is difficult, so we use proxies to at least give us the feeling that a large number of people believe it. A suitable proxy can be the source (consider the numerous tweets by famous people), but you are right that the circumstances of the claim matter as well. In your unusual Putin example, I would first question whether the conversation even took place. But again, that's not evidence whether the claim is believed. If this firshand report of this Putin conversation has some indication of being widely shared and/or widely read, we take that as our default notability proxy all the time. Consider again famous people's tweets: it's not that they are famous, but that their tweets are read by thousands and even millions.

At the same time, there's what I call the Charlie Sheen effect. About 10 years ago the actor Charlie Sheen went ham and started saying some really outrageous things. It's questionable whether his audience believed it, rather than simply found it entertaining in a train wreck kind of way. I don't think many of his claims ended up on Skeptics. An example from today's news cycle would be the magnetic covid vaccine hoax, and related meta question.

Similarly, with what I'm now calling the Trump effect, politicians talk a lot, and if taken literally at every turn can appear to be making all kinds of claims that aren't really in keeping with their official policy and statements, nor previous more clearly worded statements. I think Kellyanne Conway said it best when she suggested that Trump's critics take him literally but not seriously, while his supporters take him seriously but not literally. I'm suggesting now that politicians are treated this way in general, and what we should do here is be careful when the literal interpretation of a politician's statement may be a strawman. After all, the entire purpose of the notability requirement is to keep us from chasing geese on claims that virtually no one believes anyway. The issue at the moment here would be finding a proxy that shows lack of notability on a literal interpretation, but notability otherwise. The recent Biden 2nd Amendment question is an interesting case study that maybe needs to be discussed more.

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