“There are lies, damn lies and statistics”
– http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/maths/histstat/lies.htm …
There is nothing wrong with the science of statistics. Statistics are just meta-data. Who could possibly object to life-and-death decisions based on meta-data?
Statistics are typically a simplification of a more complex truth. They are only dangerous when misused. Misuse can be ‘plausibly denied’ as simple lack of competence, in any ‘being found out’ emergency, as accidental choice of an inappropriate model. Statistics are only a tool for evil when they are misused deliberately.
Earlier today, I tweeted:
“There are lies, misdirection & oratory. Three levels of lubrication for a falsehood.”
I was drawn to meaning number 3: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/oratory
“Public speaking marked by the use of overblown rhetoric.”
All lies are bad but covering your lies with a slippery layer of deceit to hide them moves the perpetrator from cheeky chancer to professional deceiver. Both David Cameron and Hilary Benn delivered equally passionate speeches about not bombing Syria, only two weeks earlier.
Most of the time, most people would be happy to agree to a sensible course of action, after a discussion based on clear data and good sense. Politics only needs to happen where there is disagreement, based on different sets of values. We have a political system designed for a confrontational two-party system in which the result is decided by the people in the middle who don’t really agree with any party in the fight. The day is won by befuddling people with no convictions. You can do that with bad statistics, good oratory, bribes or bullying.
In recent years this has delivered New Labour and Liberal Democrats pretending to be further Right than they were, until they really were, and UKIP on the Right pretending to be on the Left but only convincing the very poorly informed. We have a political culture that actively encourages and rewards lying and pretence. I want a voting system that allows people to vote for ideas they believe in and makes honest people want to get involved in national decision making. Let’s call for electoral reform rather than politics.