Roy S. Durstine? Fred Gymer? Ed Place? Earl Landgrebe? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: There is a funny saying that illustrates and lampoons the notion of holding an irrationally obstinate opinion:
My mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with the facts.
Apparently a legislator actually said something like this during the period when members of Congress were considering whether or not to impeach President Richard Nixon. Could you explore this saying?
Quote Investigator: The earliest pertinent evidence known to QI appeared in a 1945 article titled “Don’t Confuse Me With Facts!” by Roy S. Durstine in the periodical Advertising & Selling. Durstine was a prominent specialist in advertising, and his article described a meeting between an ad agency and a client: 1
A group from the agency had just finished its presentation of a market survey. The findings were conclusive—clearly showing that the policies being followed by the client could lead only to disappointment and perhaps disaster.
Despite the facts given in the presentation the client had no desire to change the strategy that had been previously selected.
“I still think we’ll go along as we have been doing.”
“But how can you say that in the face of this evidence?” protested the agency man.
The client stared at the presentation, deep in thought. At last he reached for a cigarette and said softly:
“Don’t confuse me with facts!”
The most striking aspect of Durstine’s anecdote was this humorously recalcitrant response. Indeed, it is possible to compress the setup and dialog to yield the quotation under investigation. Interestingly, the conclusion of the article was actually sympathetic to the fact-dismissive client. Durstine suggested that advertising was more of an art than a science, and the judgment of an unorthodox client who had succeeded in the past should be respected. Thanks to Professor Jonathan Lighter of the University of Tennessee who located this important citation.
In March 1954 a full version of the saying appeared on a sign in a legislator’s office as reported in an Alaskan newspaper. The sign was presumably intended to be comical: 2
The following sign was seen on a prominent Democrats desk:
“I’ve made up my mind — don’t confuse me with facts.”
Now, what could he mean?
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In May 1954 a Chicago Tribune article discussed an advertising man named Fred Gymer who distributed a monthly letter containing humorous mottoes. None of the example mottoes listed were provided with attributions. The following motto appeared in one of Gymer’s letters: 3
My Mind Is Made Up—Don’t Confuse Me with Facts.
In July 1954 the diligent quote-collector Bennett Cerf published the saying in his “Trade Winds” column in The Saturday Review magazine: 4
Sign in an editor’s office: “My mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
Also in July 1954 the New York Times reported that the saying was being printed on cards: 5
Washington is so weary of certain controversial subjects that vest pocket self defense cards are making their appearance. The latest to come to our attention says: “Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is made up.”
In August 1954 a syndicated newspaper column based in Washington D.C. described a legislator using the expression with humorous intent during a committee hearing: 6
During closed committee consideration of the farm program, Chairman George D. Aiken, of the Senate Agriculture Committee, convulsed his colleagues by telling a witness:
“Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind already is made up.”
Also in August 1954 an article in the Washington Post explained how the small cards with the motto were used to deflect arguments: 7
Public Relations Man Ed Place has a wonderful gimmick for avoiding arguments about controversial matters. As soon as anybody starts to bend his ear, he flashes a little card on which appears the message:
“Don’t confuse me with facts. I’ve already made up my mind.”
In 1962 the saying continued to circulate, and the popular Chicago Tribune column called “A Line O’ Type Or Two” reported its appearance on a sign: 8
Mrs. K. K., at the Arlington Heights theater, has this sign on the door to her office: “Don’t confuse me with facts-my mind is already made up.”
Saul the Hoosier
In 1974 a Congressional Representative named Earl Landgrebe who adamantly opposed the impeachment of Richard Nixon employed a version of the saying: 9
It was in that final Nixon week, however, that Mr. Landgrebe tossed off some of his most memorable lines. “Don’t confuse me with facts: I’ve got a closed mind,” he declared.
In 2002 a book about philosophy connected a version of the quote to Plato: 10
Plato was probably not the first to say, “I’m trying to think, don’t confuse me with facts,” but he would have been able to relate to this statement.
In conclusion, QI hypothesizes that the origin of this saying can be traced back to Roy S. Durstine’s 1945 article which contained the statement “Don’t confuse me with facts!” The other phrase: “My mind is made up” was implicit in the context of the anecdote. Durstine did not precisely identify the person who said “Don’t confuse me with facts!” Versions of the full saying were imprinted on signs and cards by 1954.
(Great thanks to Professor Jonathan Lighter who proposed this topic and found the citation in 1945 together with citations in 1954 and 1957. Lighter shared his results in April 2012. Special thanks to quotation expert and BBC broadcaster Nigel Rees who published an inquiry about this topic in the “Quote . . . Unquote” Newsletter of October 2012. Thanks to Dan who pointed to a faulty link.)
- 1945 November, Advertising & Selling, “Don’t Confuse Me With Facts!” by Roy S. Durstine (Roy S. Durstine, Inc.), Quote Page 34, Advertising Fortnightly, Inc., New York. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1954 March 10, Daily Sitka Sentinel, Veatchcombing, Page 1, Column 1, Sitka, Alaska. (NewspaperArchive) ↩
- 1954 May 23, Chicago Tribune, He Deals In Insults!: Fred Gymer’s Humorous Mottoes Bring Needed Chuckles to Staid Business World by Ken Berglund, Page G32, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest) ↩
- 1954 July 3, The Saturday Review, Trade Winds by Bennett Cerf, Start Page 5, Quote Page 6, Saturday Review Associates, New York. (Unz) ↩
- 1954 July 5, New York Times, Random Notes From Washington: Hearing Takes a Singular Turn, (Special to The New York Times), Quote Page 12, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest) ↩
- 1954 August 12, Times-Picayune, Washington Scene: How to Work Up a Dither by George Dixon, Quote Page 16, Column 6, New Orleans, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank) ↩
- 1954 August 12, Washington Post, The District Line by Bill Gold, Quote Page 50, Column 2 and 3, Washington, D.C (ProQuest) ↩
- 1962 October 4, Chicago Tribune, A Line O’ Type Or Two, Quote Page 20, Column 3, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest) ↩
- 1974 October 9, Wall Street Journal, Rep. Landgrebe Says He Has Closed Mind; Do Voters Approve?, Quote Page 1, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest) ↩
- 2002, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Philosophy by Jay Stevenson, Second Edition, Quote Page 56, Alpha Books, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Google Books Preview) ↩