Friday, August 3, 2012

Deceit: A Variation

Via the estimable Mike Hendrix, whose site was static for long enough to make us his fans fear for him, we have this essay by Peter Ferrara:

Calculated Deception. That is the central theme of the Obama campaign. Calculated Deception is the term I use for Obama's rhetorical practice of trying to take advantage of what he calculates the average person does not know, and his party-controlled, so-called mainstream media won't report. And that can be seen over and over in the Obama campaign....

President Obama and his chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Alan Krueger, brag that private sector jobs have now grown for "28 straight months." Obama and Krueger apparently think most Americans do not know that job growth is the norm and not the exception for the American economy....

What distinguishes this labor-market recovery is not that jobs are finally being created but rather the growth rate is so slow that it will be 2016 before we return to pre-recession employment levels." Obama is campaigning as if he were certain that a majority of Americans do not know that all recessions end and that labor markets recover eventually.

Please read the entire article, which is packed with important information about the real state of the overall American economy. Where I'd like to focus for the nonce is on the particular style of deception being employed by the Obamunists in their attempts to counter the Romney for President campaign's assault on their economic record: omitting the relevant context.

As an example, consider the following graph:

Stirring, isn't it? As Darrell Huff said in his still-fundamental, still-indispensable How To Lie with Statistics, you can almost feel prosperity pulsing in the nation's arteries. But doesn't there seem to be just a little...something...missing?

When the relevant context is absent -- in the case of the graph above, the omitted time gradations on the X-axis -- the "data" means nothing.

Context omission makes it possible to commit many other offenses: exaggeration of effect, the claim that a particular event is "unprecedented," and of course the cardinal sin of fallaciously attributing an effect to a wholly irrelevant pseudo-cause. Politicians, ever desirous of claiming credit for the good while exculpating themselves for the bad, will use this technique whenever they think they can get away with it -- which means, whenever they're reasonably sure that the public won't notice what's not there.

A wag whose name I've misplaced once said that economic statistics are a bit like a bikini on a beautiful woman: what they reveal may be fascinating, but what they conceal is vital. In the midst of an unusually (but not unprecedentedly) viciously contested campaign in which one contender is an incumbent, it's well to remember at all times that an incumbent always runs either on his record, or from it. Given the record of the past four years, our natural assumption should be "from it" -- with the powerful implication that deceptive tactics of every sort will be deployed to make it appear other than it really is.

Beware!

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