The WSJ’s new The Numbers Guy column has some thoughts on irresponsible and inaccurate statistics used in advertising by advocates for various causes.
He’s right. It’s hard to argue about these things. For example, that the statistic about men beating women on Super Bowl Sunday was nonsense and was almost immediately retracted. But it still shambles on. Like most such numbers, it was born of a combination of bad math, bad reporting, gullibility, and a desire to re-enforce a preconcieved notion.
Try to be gentle. Folks who trot out weird stats often don’t know or understand that they’re wrong. They’re repeating something that they received in good faith. We can hope that they’d be open to discussing the facts rather than parroting dogma, but they’re not bad people for being wrong. What is unforgivable, however, is when allegedly trustworthy sources simply make stuff up to mislead them.