A toothpaste brand claims their product will destroy more plaque than any product ever made. A politician tells you their plan will create the most jobs. We’re so used to hearing these kinds of exaggerations in advertising and politics that we might not even bat an eye.
But what about when the claim is accompanied by a graph? After all, a graph isn’t an opinion. It represents cold, hard numbers, and who can argue with those? Yet, as it turns out, there are plenty of ways graphs can mislead and outright manipulate. Here are some things to look out for.
In this 1992 ad, Chevy claimed to make the most reliable trucks in America using this graph. Not only does it show that 98% of all Chevy trucks sold in the last ten years are still on the road, but it looks like they’re twice as dependable as Toyota trucks.
That is, until you take a closer look at the numbers on the left and see that the figure for Toyota is about 96.5%. The scale only goes between 95 and 100%. If it went from 0 to 100, it would look like this.
This is one of the most common ways graphs misrepresent data, by distorting the scale. Zooming in on a small portion of the y-axis exaggerates a barely detectable difference between the things being compared. And it’s especially misleading with bar graphs since we assume the difference in the size of the bars is proportional to the values.
So the next time you see a graph, don’t be swayed by the lines and curves. Look at the labels, the numbers, the scale, and the context, and ask what story the picture is trying to tell. Look out for more tips on reading graphs coming later this week!
Boy and I went to see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets today and it was fucking fantastic and so pretty and I loved it. Once it’s out on Blu-Ray I’m gonna buy it and also finally buy Jupiter Ascending and I’m gonna rewatch them back to back every year at the summer solstice while I slowly dissolve into a mountain of glitter.
American propaganda works so well that we still have people out here thinking it was totally fine and justified that the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japanese civilians, killing well over 100,000 innocent people. It works so well that, even though the United States is the only country to ever use a nuclear bomb in warfare, people think that the United States is still the only qualified entity to invade other countries in order to stop them from having nuclear weapons. It works so well that you can read all about every war crime committed by the United States all around the world, with little to no government censorship, and that STILL doesn’t make people rise up in anger. It works so well that you can read accounts of the CIA or FBI literally trying to brainwash Americans into total subservience and people STILL won’t resist.
Americans put the Soviets to shame in how effective their propaganda is. It’s not even close.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia’s infamous gay propaganda law — which bans any materials promoting homosexuality to minors, and has been used to stifle gay pride marches and arrest members of the LGBTQ community — violates European treaty rules, Reutersreported.
The court ruled that the law violates people’s freedom of expression and discriminates against LGBTQ Russians.
Though the law aimed to protect minors, the court said in a statement that “the limits of those laws had not been clearly defined and their application had been arbitrary,” Reuters reports. Read more (6/20/17)