Phony, unchecked statistics are a growing trend. The Internet is multiplying them like a virus.
Management genius, Peter Drucker, once told me, "Never trust a number unless you made it up yourself." I started to laugh until I realized he was making a joke about the serious problem -- our unthinking acceptance of any statistic, especially if it reinforces the way we see the world.
I started thinking about how our on-demand, infoholic culture chews up statistics, swallows them and then passes them on, undigested, before the next set of numbers hits our e-mail, TV, radio or cell phone. I started thinking of the local TV news which lies almost every night with false statistics designed to glue you to your TV so they can frighten you with "details at 11".
Well, help is at hand.
At George Mason University, they issue an annual "Dubious Data Awards" (www.stats.org/record.jsp?type=news&ID=534) focused on all the phonied up numbers that are passed off as fact by the media. This year, they debunked the idea that America's teens are more drunk and stoned than ever. And, they highlighted the phonied up Methamphetamine scare as well as Good Morning America's irresponsible story on Poison Popcorn (ratings anyone?).
Phony, unchecked statistics are a growing trend. The Internet is multiplying them like a virus. TV news and talk shows are prime vectors of the disease. If a number doesn’t "feel" right to you, check where it started. You'll be amazed that in many cases, someone just made it up.
-- John Parikhal, Joint Communications
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Wednesday, January 04, 2006,