“STUDY: American personal freedom now ranks below 20 other nations…” reads a link in this morning’s Drudge Report.
That is NOT what the study shows….not even close.
The link goes to an Examiner story headlined “Under Obama, U.S. personal freedom ranking slips below France.” That’s a little better, but it’s also misleading. Both headlines are attempts to spin a study that tells nobody anything about how much freedom there is in the U.S., under President Obama or otherwise. The study, meanwhile, is easily spun because it was badly conceived, is itself of dubious value, and was also probably the result of a researchers grinding their own axes.
It is early, and I am pretty sure that the cable news sharks and the internet pundits will be latching on to this garbage study in droves, with the result being mass confusion in the public. That’s right: the world of scholarship and research, and the world of journalism, will conspire to make the public less informed than it already is, setting it up for the handiwork of future Jonathan Grubers and the parties that employ them.
You see, the study doesn’t even purport to measure “freedom” in any objective way across different nations. Continue reading →
“Ok, I’ve put on some weight, but that hippo must weigh a ton!”
Ethics Alarms readers know that certain statistics reporters and pundits like to cite are guaranteed to set my head spinning around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. One of them, that 50% of marriages end in divorce, is unethical because it’s imaginary. Another, the “women earn 75 cents for every dollar earned by men” line, is intentionally misleading as well as out of date. Lately, my head has been doing a 180 because of the popularity of citing Congress’s unpopularity, as measured by polls. In this case, the number is probably accurate and the implication of it is clear: the public doesn’t have much admiration for Congress. What is unethical is the misleading way it is typically used by journalists, to contrast with the President’s increasingly miserable poll numbers. Continue reading →
Tonight is the finale of the Westminster Dog Show. The show is always entertaining if you are dog lover and educational whether you are or not—what the heck is a Plott?–but it is also a strange epitome of what human beings will accept as fair and reasonable because of tradition alone. The pretense that the judging at this stage of the show, after the best of the individual breeds have been selected, is anything but deluded arbitrariness presented as scientific expertise is astounding, because so many intelligent people not only accept it, but accept it with good humor and certitude.
A Scottish Deerhound
The American Kennel Club has exacting standards for each breed, and its judges are well-trained and knowledgeable to be sure. The Group competitions and climactic Best of Show determination, however, are blatant exercises in the suspension of disbelief. It is a true apples vs. oranges extravaganza that the owners, crowd and commentators treat with the solemnity of a major Supreme Court ruling, yet has no more real meaning than a series of coin flips. Last night, for example, a Scottish deerhound, one of my favorite breeds, won the Hound Group. This meant that the Group’s judge determined, in a matter of minutes, that the winning deerhound was a better deerhound than the best long-haired dachshund was a long-haired dachshund. How? What does that even mean? Continue reading →