Thursday, April 27, 2017

stats sell stories

hello there

it is, look you see, something of a universal truth that if you hear a phrase such as "no word of a lie" or "i swear down" or perhaps even "i swear to God"the person speaking them is informing you only of falsehoods. whether or not we choose to accept such falsehoods as a variation of truth depends entirely on if we are willing to do so and how convincing the distributor is. not convincing, perhaps, but rather how distracting they are.

there is, of course, no greater distraction than numbers. numbers are accepted across the board, excluding no one on the basis of language, culture or other. time, money and numbers are the sole things every living being accepts. this makes all of them rather good selling points.

we have always, always, always had "fake news". it's a term that has become ever so popular of late, but it wasn't invented around the incumbent President of the United States. for some reason, though, it's become quite a popular term to band around.

sadly, just as "racism" is being ignored because of the preposterous number of inaccurate attributions of that to events which have nothing to do with race, "fake news" is being diluted as a concern. this is mostly because in many cases people are dismissing stories they simply disagree with as "fake news", irrespective of truth or fact.

how do you spot what is and what is not fake? not easily. you have to think and look in to things to see where the truth lies. here, let's have a look at a recent story from the Metro, a newspaper handed out gratis in London and with a popular web presence.

goodness me, what? according to that headline, for an article by someone called Richard Hartley-Parkinson, there has been a rethink on the referendum result. knowing that this headline was clickbait, i clicked on it to read more.

interestingly, and as we shall see below, the headline on the actual story substitutes "More" for "Most". oh. so it's not as quite a dramatic shift as this initial headline suggested. but still, more is more, so to speak. how many more?

well, statistically, there's been a 2% increase in the number of people who think Brexit is an act of folly, or if you like error, to be sure. according to a poll by YouGov and The Times the increase is from 43% to 45%. should my maths be fine, so far as i am aware 45% is not "most". but that's not the only problem.

statistics and a survey are only as good as your understanding of those surveyed. in this instance the only information presented in terms of who participated in the survey is that 1,590 (one thousand five hundred and ninety) people were asked.

ladies and gentlemen, the current population of the UK is estimated at 64.14 million. or if you like 64,140,000. the number 1,590 represents - rounded up to be generous - 0.00245% of the population. i do not see how less than half of that percentage can be taken as representing the view of "most" in the country, and that's without getting into the messy business of the sociological demographics of exactly who was approached and quizzed.

oh, look, during the course of the day someone at the Metro thought it might be a good idea to change the headline a little bit.

and yet still it says "more". we simply have no idea if those questioned had changed their mind on the subject or if they had always felt exactly as they answered. we also, for means of comparison, do not have statistical data to show how many of the 1,590 questioned changed from being against Brexit to a stance where they are now for it.

in order to make sure that you don't think of these kind of information and statistical issues the article swiftly moves to distraction. after a look at the numbers they want to, the article shifts over to focus entirely on Ms Gina Miller. this well known anti-Brexit activist is currently very concerned about "voices not being heard" and "democracy not being allowed to work". to address this, she is raising funds so as to unleash "tactical voting", in which people will not vote for who they initially wished to, but rather for who she (and, strangely, Sir Richard Branson) believe should win so that Brexit can be stopped.

fixing democracy by breaking democracy has all been done before, of course. and will be done again. will Ms Miller (and Sir Richard) succeed in corrupting the democratic process in such a way that suits their ideals? we shall see in a few short weeks, i suppose.

To quote Ms Miller, "Only tactical voting in this election can ensure that Parliament plays its full role in the future of our country. We need MPs to be strong and open minded about what is best for Britain.". This is at odds with my idea that people should vote for who they believe to be the best person to represent them, but there you go. neither i nor Ms Miller are standing for election; presumably what we have in comment is that neither of us believe we ourselves would be "strong and open minded".

to be fair, Ms Miller's campaign, according to the article referenced and linked above, has "almost" 10,000 "backers". to be generous and to call it exactly 10,000, that represents (rounded up) 0.0156% of the current UK population.

is this article from the Metro an example of a "fake news" story? i leave that up to you, although i suspect pro-Brexit people will say "yes" and anti-Brexit people will say "no". so far as i can see and understand it, the article is most decidedly an example of using numbers in the way which best serves your point.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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