Tuesday, July 19, 2005

How Media Uses Statistics for Brainwashing

It was generally believed that media, as a trustworthy dissemination subsidiary of knowledge, is an independent source of factual information whose purpose is to inform public objectively about current issues based on widest possible range of opinions. Statistics science is a powerful tool in shaping this factual information. Unfortunately it might nowadays used by media as an invisible weapon to promote a particular point of view and to sound more convincing. Laymen, mostly being statistically illiterate or innumerate, simply accept the statistics reported in the news as if they are proven facts. And we witness these more and more on oil!

Most journalists make their stories based on press releases distributed by institutions. In general, reporters never bother themselves reading the original reports. This behavior is quite understandable given the immense amount of press releases and information they receive every day and the pressure they have to report the news as soon as possible, especially if the subject is hot.

Statistical mistakes may be made intentionally or unintentionally anywhere between creations of the numbers to final news. These mistakes can be in the forms of misuse, misinterpretation, mispresentation and even abuse. Since statistical information come from a trustworthy source and documented in widely recognized media, the public, in general, do not hesitate to believe and accept it passively. Once the statistics is widely accepted and believed to be true, politicians may use it actively. Consequently, it may get general acceptance.

This sort of data laundering around statistics endures because no one questions it and points out the flaws. Finally they may become a powerful invisible weapon in the hands of rules to pursue a hidden political agenda.

This is the new era we are living in. Nowadays oil prices are on top of the global agenda and media perfectly displays the use of this weapon in oil combat.

There are three types of statistics - the good, the bad and the ugly. Surprisingly the good ones do not get much attention whereas the bad and ugly ones mostly find their way to be hero.

For instance, we always see the following claim in media: "Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world with its 115 billion barrels, and Gulf region sits on two thirds of world oil reserves." Is that so?

Which source says so? Well, all the respected ones - BP Statistical Review? Oil & Gas Journal, World Oil?

Why do those journalists not mention that Iraqi oil reserves did not change over the past six years in those publications, and pretty much the same for almost all Middle Eastern countries over so many years? Ah yes, we should believe that those countries discover exactly the same amount of oil they produce every single year!

Why the figures in the US Geological Survey 2000, which say that there is more oil outside the Gulf than inside the region, are not mentioned? Why difference between reserves and resources are not explained? But no! They should not be questioned. They should only be used to be good servants they are wanted it to be in order to cover up their master’s agenda. Why is it a general tendency in the US to look for scapegoats only outside the US? Why to hide the fact that depreciation of the US dollar, US refining capacity and Wall Street are important reasons of the price hikes?

Why attack only OPEC on the grounds that its members do not extract enough oil while hiding the fact that the biggest oil exporter to the US today is Canada?

Instead of speculating about the situations outside the US why not speculate also who might be behind the oil price hikes and what their connection to the White House could be? But no! Manipulate the statistics, lie with statistics, twist the statistics and if not enough make up some statistics and present them as proof, evidence and fact.

We are persistently bombarded with numbers, statistics and twisted charts with no supporting real hard evidence. For example, do we really know how much oil does OPEC produce? Does even OPEC know how much its Members really produce? The numbers available out there are only the estimates or best guesses. Why not simply accept that recent oil price hikes have nothing to do with oil market fundamentals? Indeed, oil market fundamentals tell that there is excess supply of oil out there. And yet, oil prices are rising! And yet a fight around those numbers! High oil prices will hurt economic growth, especially the developing countries! IS that so? why they had the highest growth in 2004 then? Apparently the highest over the past 25 years, says the World Bank!

Meanwhile, gasoline prices in Europe are double the ones in the US and yet Europeans do not cry. Because American way of life is not negotiable ?

In a world where innumeracy and statistical illiteracy have been increasing, it is very easy for politicians through media to convince the people on the street by using numbers. It is time to wake up and think critically about what we read.

It should be us who draw the conclusions about what and why things are happening, how statistics are created and presented to support the views.

There are great journalists out there, and they should at least warn and train their colleagues. People should immune themselves against lies with statistics. In sum, it appears that statistics has already become an invisible political weapon.

This weapon now serves to the ones in power to be used for imposing the twisted information which is accepted and believed easily by the innumerates. We should stop looking at things by using only one of our eyes. We are given two of them in order to see the good and the bad together.

As Rod Serling said in the opening remark of the famous TV series The Twilight Zone "This highway leads to the shadowy tip of reality: you're on a through route to the land of the different, the bizarre, the unexplainable...Go as far as you like on this road. Its limits are only those of mind itself.” Welcome to statistical misreality.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home