Innumerate Newscasters

One of my innumerable pet peeves is the gobsmacked credulity with which most TV and newspaper hacks report statistics fed to them by various spin doctors and advocacy groups.

Were you to add up all the diseases and problems these idiots breathlessly proclaim to be “epidemic” that will kill people within 5 years, and if you were to assume each American had two of these diseases, we’d still all be dead 5 times over in the next 5 years.

Ever since I ditched cable, I’ve been a regular viewer of BBC News America’s nightly newscast on PBS. It’s better and a LOT smarter than any American major network’s evening general news program.

Tonight, they were doing a fluff story on a guy who plays piano really fast. I don’t know why he does that–it sounded pretty lame to me, but I guess it’s a pretty good stupid human trick. The Piano Mangler claims, and the reporter didn’t dispute him, that he plays on average 14 notes per second and that he peaks at 19. Yeah, well, so do most of us.

The reporter tagged the story with something along the line of “What a remarkable talent…at 93 thousand notes an hour!” If you don’t get what’s wrong with that, you’re part of the fucking problem.

Most breathless media statistical lies aren’t quite this obvious. To detect them you must have some numerate context of your own. Notice how the media drops context whenever they say “X billions of dollars” or “Y millions of people.” How big is $50 billion dollars in context of the story? Compared to what? How bad is it if 3 million children have this disorder? None of these douchebag reporters has a clue or thinks for 5 seconds about whether the numbers they’re reporting even pass the laugh test (the order of magnitude test).

How many children are there in the USA? About 60 million, 18 and under. Let’s ignore declining birth rates and assume that at any given single age, there are 3.something million children. That means 16 point something million kids age 5 and below, 32 point something million age 10 and below, and so on. Next time some media shithead claims that 20 million pre-schoolers are starving, you’ll know that’s bullshit because there aren’t that many to starve. When he says it’s 10 million, you’ll go, really, half of all pre-schoolers are starving? 5 million? Really, we should be able to feed the rest of the toddlers with the emaciated corpse-jerky of the dead ones.

Here’s the obvious truth: No children are starving in the USA unless their parents are EVIL FUCKS, not POOR FUCKS. Yes, the majority of EVIL FUCKS are also POOR FUCKS, but the overwhelming majority of POOR FUCKS are not EVIL FUCKS and that’s why THERE’S NO REAL PROBLEM OF HUNGRY CHILDREN IN THE USA.

Ok, I’m done shouting.

Here are some other numbers you might want to go get before you believe any statistic the lamestream media is pimping:

  • GDP of the USA and of the world. GDP’s of important countries in the world: China, every Western European nation, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Indonesia, Israel and a random basket of Middle East Muslim horror-show-ocracies.
  • Population of the USA. Demographics by age, and aging trends. Ethnic composition trends. States in the USA gaining and losing population. Cities in the USA dying and thriving.
  • Unemployment rate per college major (good luck finding this out except by asking around — US Universities are morally worse and even better politically protected than the mortgage monsters who used to monopolize radio advertising before the housing collapse).
  • Mortality and morbidity rates per country and per ethnic group and SES quintile. Morbidity and mortality per cause of death and rate of death per cause per country.
  • Unemployment rates by age in the USA and Western Europe.

This is just a sampler off the top of my head. All this stuff is available on the Internet.

If this is too much work, next time that idiot Diane Sawyer or George Snuffalupagus or whoever reports a statistic with emotion and a barely audible hitch in her stupid voice emoting empathy blended with self-righteousness, just scream BULLSHIT! at the TV.

That’s close enough for rock ‘n’ roll.




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