Ever Forget To Read The Small Print? More Than You Know, Pal!

We live in an age of facts and stats, data and detail. Whether we want them or not. Consider the latest breathless batch: 68% dislike Christmas because of lines…28% say the US should deport all illegal immigrants…76% say the economy favors the rich…31% of children have been arrested by age 23.

Wait a minute! Are they telling us almost one third of our kids have been arrested?

Well, yes they are. They being the criminologists in the current Pediatrics Magazine. The number is significantly higher than their last study in the 1960s. At first glance this would reinforce the cranky “kids today aren’t what they used to be” critics. However, then the small-print pops out. The study did not take into consideration racial or regional differences, nor did it consider how the criminal system has become more punitive in the last 50 years, nor did it factor in the enormous growth of the drug culture.

Without the small-print, the headline-numbers are supremely unhelpful. The very same way different economists and candidates use numbers for their headlines without ever qualifying the figures with the footnotes. In a rush-to-print culture, everyone with a statistic goes for the splashy headline at the expense of the real truth.

Can anything be done about these distortions? Get real!

First, you must want to do something about them. Second, you must have a citizenry who really cares for the footnotes. But here’s where the truth becomes a casualty of the spin. Neither the pitchmen nor the pitched-to have time for anything more than the quick easy-to-read headline. After all, we’re living in the fast lane.

And then we wonder how we got into the mess we’re in! My footnotes say the odds are 50 to 1 it’s just where we all want to be….

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