12 Oct Scale Data Abuse
Scale framing is one of the most common techniques for propaganda and clickbait, especially in headline media.
“Britain At Breaking Point – 4000 illegal migrants cross the Channel into the UK every year!” Sounds like a lot, right? Imagine all of those people cramming into your home every year. There would be no room for you. It’d be chaos. Help the reader put Britain in the same context. Fuels xenophobia and the “no more room” narrative. In reality, the national scale in the UK is a nation of 65 plus million people. 4000 illegal migrants and it turns out 3000 end up deported. 1000 stay, which would still fill a home to bursting, but the country? Given UK legal immigration stands at over 500,000 a year, it would take five hundred years for these illegal migrants coming over the channel to get close to a single year legal.
This technique is used to convince the audience by using selected information and not presenting the complete story. Examples: “A study was done that showed eating peanut butter causes liver cancer” (the fact that later the study was later shown to be flawed or funded by the peanut butter haters and therefore suspect, is not revealed). A variation would be “Raising the speed limit to 65 mph resulted in many fewer traffic fatalities”. Such statements need to be checked with how many people were driving before and after the change in speed limit. Fewer people may be driving after the speed limit change, even though the fatality rates (deaths per 100,000) may be higher, leading to the overall result of fewer fatalities.
Data is presented in a way that suggests a certain interpretation that’s in line with the aims of the propaganda. Some examples: Average results are reported, but not the amount of variation around the averages. A percent or fraction is presented, but not the sample size as in “9 out of 10 dentists recommend…”. Absolute and proportional quantities are mixed as in “3,400 more robberies occurred in our town last year, whereas other cities hand an increase of less than one percent”. Graphs are used that, by chopping off part of the scale or using unusual units or no scale, distort the appearance of the result. Results are reported with misleading precision. For example, representing 13 out of 19 students as 68.42105 percent.
In this technique data is quoted in such a way it misleads by ignoring the average or median in favour of an extreme. Examples: “Savings up to 90%” or “Constituencies voted for Brexit by as much as 70% in favour” or “The phone’s battery life promises up to 72 hours”.
This is when propaganda highlights a certain angle, illustrated by listing or detailing a number of proofs; without putting a comparative number of non-proofs that’d put the angle into perspective.
EXAMPLES FROM MAINSTREAM MEDIA
- “THREE Murders In Only Two Weeks In Seattle’s C.H.O.P. Zone” where the angle is to emphasize the violent breakdown of society in the lawless zone.
- Qaon Violence Timeline – The Guardian
- Is this for real? Half a dozen “Qanon”;arrests over 3 years (how many total?) half of which they proclaim as kidnapping where in reality it’s parents taking back their own kids (presumably after losing custody) which is hardly the same thing… What rubbish. Why is it always this sort of shit?