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Aug 17 2012

Fox News Lies With Infographic

I wrote the other day about Wes Ellsberry’s article on how to lie with infographics. Here’s another great example, which a reader left on my Facebook page. Unsurprisingly, it comes from Fox News. and it lies in exactly the same way.

23 comments

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  1. 1
    Brett McCoy

    Which post are you referring to? I think I missed it…

  2. 2
    eric

    I find it amusing that they left the number labels on the bars. Its not just lying with graphics, is poorly done lying with graphics.

  3. 3
    dogmeat

    That is painfully amusing. They managed to make a 4.6% base increase and a 13% increase over the current rate to look like a 400% increase.

    Eric, I think they were stuck leaving the numbers in the graph to avoid the whole display becoming meaningless bars. Granted, they created a display of meaningless bars, but they are meaningless bars likely to insight rabies amongst the TRUE AMERICANS!!!!!

  4. 4
    Die Anyway

    Why did they even bother to start at 34% instead of 34.9%? That would have exagerated the bars even more.

  5. 5
    zippythepinhead

    Actually, it’s accurately pointing out that it is a 100% tax on the 4.6% of income you’d otherwise be able to keep.

  6. 6
    Marcus Ranum

    Straight out of Darrel Huff’s “How to Lie With Statistics” (which I highly recommend)

  7. 7
    Doug Little

    I think that they definitely know their audience. Leaving the percentages above the bars is the kicker for me, it’s like they know that their audience doesn’t understand what a percentage is.

  8. 8
    Michael Heath

    The graph is also misleading when it comes to its description, “TOP TAX RATE” (Gotta love Fox also being a screamer). Instead they’re presenting the top marginal income tax rate. To be even more pedantic, it’s the top marginal income tax rate on a person’s adjusted income. I get the more pedantic description may not be a feasible fit for a graphic given its wordiness, but there’s plenty of room in the graphic to note it’s the top marginal income tax rate.

    Dividend income and capital gains are taxed at a lower rate and not at this rate, which is why it’s especially important to add “income” in the title.

  9. 9
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    @eric, #2:

    I doubt anyone it is meant to influence even cares about the numbers. Numbers have a liberal bias, remember.*

    *Plus, “zero”… Neither odd nor even, yet somehow possibly both… Leviticus is clear on its condemnation.

  10. 10
    anandine

    While we’re recommending books, I very much liked The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte, which discusses this particular misrepresentation at length.

  11. 11
    heddle

    Ha! I am teaching Statistics next semester (as in starting next week). I’m going to show this plot on day one and ask if anyone can tell me what is wrong with it.

    anandine,

    While we’re recommending books, I very much liked The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte, which discusses this particular misrepresentation at length.

    Seconded. Fantastic book.

  12. 12
    richardelguru

    The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

    Definitely thirded!

    And his “Envisioning Information” and “Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative”

    BTW There once was, on a TV Stock Market report, a zigzaggy graph icon that zigzagged up when the market did, and which they merely turned 90° clockwise when the market fell, the zigzags thus going backwards and forwards through time thus suggesting that there were three values a certain times.

  13. 13
    Michael Heath

    A college stats course taught by someone who I confidently presume is verbally fluent in English. That’s something I never had the benefit of enjoying; one of the bugs of a big university education (Michigan State).

  14. 14
    ajb47

    “Proofiness” by Charles Seife. “The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception.” Another good one for showing how, paraphrasing my dad when I was growing up, figures don’t lie, but liars can figure like hell.

  15. 15
    fredricmartin

    Michigan State didn’t require statistics? My GF went there and she took statistics, but she was in a science field. My West Virginia University education included statistics also.

  16. 16
    heddle

    fredricmartin #15

    I read Michael Heath’s comment #13 not as suggesting that he didn’t have a stats course, but that he wasn’t able to take it from a native English speaker.

  17. 17
    heddle

    heddle

    but that he wasn’t able to take it from a native English speaker.

    Actually I want to retract that. I am certain Michael was not concerned with whether the speaker was native, but rather his issue was finding an instructor with an acceptable fluency in English.

  18. 18
    Didaktylos

    It’s a case of how deceive without employing any specifically mendacious components.

  19. 19
    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    It’s not just Fox. I ceased contributing to one of the local Public Radio stations about 20 years ago when they pulled a trick like this in a fundraising appeal.

  20. 20
    umlud

    I wrote about this very graph a little while ago.

    http://umlud.blogspot.com/2012/08/wednesday-wonderings-bar-charts-and-art.html

    If they wanted to have a graph that showed what the change would be in comparison to the historic top tax rate, they should have shown how much the top tax rate is still lower than the historical average.

    … of course, that wouldn’t really be something that matches with their rhetoric.

  21. 21
    Michael Heath

    heddle about my stats class:

    I read Michael Heath’s comment #13 not as suggesting that he didn’t have a stats course, but that he wasn’t able to take it from a native English speaker.

    I took a number of stats courses where neither the lecturers or the home-room grad assistants spoke English as a first language. That was true of all my other math-related courses with the exception of my finance and business operations management classes which focused on quantitative decision making techniques – the latter a subject where the teachers all spoke English as a first language and where MSU distinguishes itself.

  22. 22
    Pieter B, FCD

    I’m a bit late to the love-fest, but I too regard Tufte’s book as essential to both understanding graphs and understanding how to make graphs.

  23. 23
    TGAP Dad

    Lies, damn lies and Fox “News”?

  1. 24
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