Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Facts Don't Lie!

February 23, 2012

Dear Readers,

I think this speaks for itself:

It's appropriately ugly and a surprisingly accurate historical snapshot. 

"That's not fair," you say, "you have to put those things in context, Lincoln was fighting the Civil War!" No, it's not fair, but every one of those facts is true and the facts don't lie, do they? Lincoln is now considered one of the greatest presidents to ever serve the United States, but he was unpopular in his day. He won the 1860 election for the newly formed Republican party, but in 1864 they didn't even nominate him. Lincoln was too moderate for their progressive anti-slave agenda. Lincoln formed his own party and even then only barely captured a majority of the popular vote (consider that the Southern States didn't even vote in that election).

Here is the modern day equivalents of that graphic:
This one from an actual congressman, Allen West (House Republican from Florida)
Another one stumbled across with a Google search.
...and there are others floating around Facebook and the like that I have seen.

There are basic math errors here and both have questionable or non-existent sources. No explanation for whether the numbers are averages or if the min and max are even from the same geographical regions. More importantly, the context, history, and trends behind the numbers are absent, not to mention outright ignorance about what events created the fluctuation in those statistics to begin with. They just list facts... facts devoid of anything else to put them in proper context. The point is they are no different than the graphic about Lincoln up there.

This is sad because I think the intent is good and there might be some truth buried behind the bad implementation. We need healthy political debate and public scrutiny of what our business leaders, congressmen, and the president are doing. I would take a well written analysis very seriously. Neither of these are a well written or proper statistically supported analysis though. These are just badly done and misleading graphics (on a number of levels) designed to simply illicit a directed emotional response from the core Republican supporters. In my opinion Mr. West is acting in an irresponsible way as an elected leader when he could have produced something worthwhile and even earned my appreciation.

If you haven't read my previous letter, you should. I am well aware that "there is someone wrong on the Internet" will never go away, but it needs to be stated that the facts can and do lie if the person producing them is misrepresenting the data and that is the quickest way for a politician to lose my respect.


The Letter Writer


Dear Mr Lincoln,

I mean no disrespect to your memory. I can say without reservation, that no other president has worked harder or in more toxic circumstances to preserve our nation's solidarity. That is why I hope you won't mind if I invoke your legacy as an example to illustrate the dangers of misguiding and dividing the public opinion in divisive ways. At least I didn't turn you into a vampire fighting action hero, though it is cool that you accomplished that as well.


Someone who thinks you were a great President

1 comment:

  1. Amusing infographic, and clever, truthful content.

    Voters get confused by facts that are too complicated. That's why our politicians dispense factoids instead, repeating them until they have become accepted as truth.