First, some fun quotations about statistics:
numbers, and they'll confess to anything. ~Gregg Easterbrook
98% of all statistics
are made up. ~Author Unknown
Statistics are like bikinis. What they
reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital. ~Aaron
Statistics can be made to
prove anything - even the truth. ~Author Unknown
Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more
pliable. ~Author Unknown
uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts - for support rather than for
illumination. ~Andrew Lang
Do not put your faith in what
statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say.
~William W. Watt
You get the drift. Statistics are often derided or disrespected in quotes; but people react to numbers and statistics in real life quite differently. Citing a number, no matter its provence, lends the weight of credibility to anything. Numbers impress people unduly; often without giving much thought into how they were obtained. And this could even be used for dirty tricks in politics or making generalized alarming statements. Actually, this might be a form of political psychological warfare. (For all I know, the major parties might be deliberately doing this already.) See this interesting article on military Psychological Operations:
PSYOPS includes the use of three types of information to impact on an adversary: White PSYOPS, factual information, Black PSYOPS, out-and-out lies, and Gray PSYOPS, a mixture of truth and well-planted lies.
Let's consider a few possible examples that could be used. Last year some Republican congressman from Kansas, while on a junket, went skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee (a harmless fact though some tried to turn it into some sort of sacrilege. Don't ever consider peeing in the Sea of Galilee). But there was a big brouhaha about it. I'm surprised that someone didn't manufacture a phony statistic such as, "44% of Republicans regularly skinny-dip;" which might have the intended effect of the type:
"The horror! The horror!"
Actually, that's a famed Joseph Conrad quote; and it did not involve going into that real Heart of Darkness, Washington. Still, this could prompt a scary thought and negative attitude toward the political party mentioned in the false statistic. [Somewhere I read that Democrats were more likely to do so; but the same caveat would apply to that assertion.]
Recently, a schoolteacher inadvertantly synchronized iPads intended for student use with her phone, and the students got to see quite a bit more of her than the lesson plan called for! Can you imagine some tabloid carrying the hysterical headline: "Wave of topless teachers: 38% admit sending topless pictures of themselves to students!" Strangely enough, the student recipients were suspended for receiving this unorthodox lesson. Possibly some readers might see a need to re-enroll in school; or at least go for a G.E.D. And some schemer can turn it into a political slant by including the mention that most teachers tend to be Democrats.
So much about nudity. What about money? Both parties have their plutocrats; but wish to see only the other party's moneybags mentioned in print. But for theirs, the curtain of privacy and respect should prevail. There's even more leverage if you link the money with organized crime. "The Purple Gang is 84% Democrats!" "39% of playground bullies are fund-raisers for the Republicans!"
But, also accusations of moral turpitude. We can see this tangentially alluded to in lists like "Most Corrupt States," which are simply those that have less scope for corruption, or rarely make the news. Is New Hampshire a corrupt state? I don't know; but I suspect Illinois, New Jersey, and New York. Also Louisiana, because I read the Times-Picyaune. At least the corruption there is bipartisan.
Anyway, although this quote might be kind of heavy-handed: "State House corruption: 63% of Democrats are on the take" without a parallel reportage on venal Republicans. However, when it comes to persuading the simple-minded or the casual reader, it could be judiciously used. The key to a successful lie is that it is embedded in truth. Winston Churchill's epigram should be modified: "In politics, a lie is so precious that it should always be attended by a bodyguard of truth."
Then there's pork: not the four-footed kind that oinks. "What is pork?" Possibly Pontius Pilate also asked that question once. Pork is decidedly in the eye of the beholder. Somehow, the Bridge to Nowhere seemed like a good idea in Alaska.
Having said my piece on this, I somehow wonder if making up bogus statistics regarding the opposition might be like carrying coals to Newcastle. After all, each major party is adept enough in shooting themselves in their feet without the use of Black or even Gray PSYOPS involvement. White PSYOPS might suffice. Years ago there was some Democrat running for President who mis-managed a photo-op enough that the Republicans used it in their counter propoganda! And they didn't have to make up any numbers.*
*In science, that is referred to as "dry labbing."
1 hour ago