How Corporations and Politicians Lie With Numbers

… and How Not to Be Fooled – Published on naked capitalism, by Yves Smith, Jan 17, 2016; (first by Larry Schwartz on AlterNet).

… Americans, as P.T. Barnum once noted, are not all that difficult to fool, and our nation’s somewhat weak math skills don’t help. A Pew Research Center report issued last year, which studied test results of 15-year-olds, ranked the United States 35th in the world in math. Not only has this weakness in understanding numbers created opportunities for mass exploitation by Big Pharma and other industries, it has led to needless and mostly unwarranted fear. While Americans don’t understand math, be assured that corporations do, and they happily use it to mislead and obfuscate in the name of selling their products.  

Big Pharma doesn’t only target consumers with its misleading advertising; it also targets your doctor. And why not? Sadly, a medical degree doesn’t necessarily mean your doctor is a numbers whiz. In a report in the journal Psychological Science in the Pubic Interest on doctors’ ability to analyze relevant statistics, they were asked, “If my mammogram is positive, what are the odds that I actually have cancer?” Doctors were given all the information needed to answer that question accurately, and a startling number of them still got it wrong. In fact, only 20 percent of them got it right. (The answer, by the way, is a 10 percent chance.) Of those who got it wrong, 60 percent erred drastically on the side of doom, saying the chances of having cancer were 80 to 90 percent. So if your doctor was in that group, and you got a positive mammogram result, she would have told you that you almost certainly have cancer … //

… And then there is the Donald, whose supporters tend to believe because he is a successful, and as he says, “very rich” businessman. In trying to appeal to his conservative base, Trump ran off a series of murder statistics in a tweet this year that was striking in its claims. Only 16 percent of Caucasians were killed by other Caucasians. (Wrong. 82 percent is the correct figure.) Ninety-seven percent of African Americans were killed by other African Americans. (Wrong. 90 percent is the correct figure.) Eighty-one percent of Caucasians were killed by African Americans. (Wrong. Only 15 percent.) Just two percent of African Americans were killed by Caucasians. (Wrong. 8 percent.) Trump used his false statistics to cast black people as the culprits in white murders when the truth is white people are mostly killed by other white people. And even more true is that most murders happen among people of the same race.

In another statement, Trump called for the cessation of all Muslim immigration, based on a survey he cited which said that 25 percent of those polled agreed that “violence against Americans here in the United States was justified as part of the global jihad,” and that 51 percent agreed that “Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.” Utter hogwash. That “poll” was conducted by a virulently anti-Muslim organization, the Center for Security Policy. Beyond that, the poll itself was fatally flawed, being only an opt-in online survey with a small sample size of only 600, using a question format (agree/disagree questions) that statistically people have been shown to answer “agree” to, and targeting a population (U.S. Muslims) many of whom are first-generation with limited English proficiency. Moreover, the survey participants were U.S. Muslims, meaning their answers, accurate or not, had no bearing on the Muslims Trump was proposing to bar.

If it sounds like we’re picking on Republicans, it’s because there is cause. A study from the non-partisan Center for Media Studies in 2013 came to the conclusion that Republicans lie three times more than Democrats. And a favorite method of political lying is the misstatement of numbers. Politicians and industry and charlatans get away with it because numbers sound impressive to people who don’t understand them, and this includes the mainstream media that reports the numbers without challenge, as if they were fact. If we hear fancy sounding numbers and math intimidates us, we tend to accept the truth of what we are hearing because math has street cred. Mathematicians are smart, and if someone strings together a bunch of numbers and looks confident, we will, more often than not, accept their “smartness.” To paraphrase a famous wizard, “Pay no attention to those numbers behind the curtain!” And so we don’t, especially if the alternative is to do our homework and better understand the math.

(full text).


UK Parliament slams Trump as ‘a dangerous fool who fuels the flames of terrorism’ during debate on barring him from the country but conclude a ban would only turn him into a martyr, on Mail, by David Martosko, Jan 19, 2016;

Emploi et Numérique, les points clés du rapport du CNNum, dans Le Monde, le 14 janv 2016;

Les robots vont-ils porter le coup de grâce aux emplois en Israël? dans The Times of Israel, par SIMONA WEINGLASS, le 14 janv 2016;

USA: Wyoming Free Tax Site will Open January 25, on KGWN, Jan 14, 2016;

Loi numérique: premières retouches des députés en commission, dans TV5/monde, le 13 janv 2016;

La terre, le travail et l’argent, enjeux de la réforme, dans Al Huffington Post (Maghreb-Algérie), par Arezki Derguini, le 13 janv 2016;

Révolution numérique, anticiper les effets sur l’emploi, dans Mutualité.fr, par PAULA FERREIRA, le 13 janv 2016;

Komplexe Gemengelage in Syrien – Dr. Rainer Rotfuß, 21.28 min, von RT Deutsch am 6. Jan 2016 hochgeladen … Interview in voller Lànge;

Has The Crash of 2016 Now Begun – What Can & Should Be Done? 7.36 min, uploaded by The Big Picture RT, Jan 5, 2016;

AUDIO: haben die BRICS Staaten Russland und China die US-Finanzmafia an den Eiern? 9.41 min, von Geopolitische Forschung am 23. Dez 2015 hochgeladen … der Schwarze Schwan ist gelandet – direkt vor unserer Nase;

PERSONAL HEALTH: Guess What You Might Die From … (Hint: It Probably Won’t Be Terrorism), on AlterNet, by Larry Schwartz, Dec 21, 2015: while the GOP is whipping the public into a frenzy over ISIS, scientists are making strides in combatting five of our most feared diseases. Thanks in part to Donald Trump and his angry GOP competitors, who have been stoking the fear card for months, Americans have placed the fear of terror at the top of their lists of concerns. The fact of the matter is that we are still far more likely to die from disease than from a terror attack. For instance, American males have a 1 in 4 chance of dying from cancer. This means it is almost 34,000 times more likely that cancer will be the terrorist that kills you …;

Prof. Dr. Rainer Rothfuss spricht auf der 12. Sonntagsdemo in Plauen, 17.36 min, von Marlboroman08154711 am 7. Dez 2015 hochgeladen.

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