The news headline says Oregon ranks high in natural disasters, which the text explains, is wildfires in the State.
This claim comes from a press release from a small, little known online Internet insurance sales web site. This type of press release is put out in hopes of garnering free publicity – and it certainly worked for them – in large part because the media, like all of us, is more likely to succumb to a fear-based scary headline.
However, if we practice factfulness and look at the long term trend in Oregon fires we see that a small rise at the right end of the chart has been translated into a crisis and a catastrophe. The chart above is the official chart from the Oregon government’s Fire Statistics page, and shows actual acreage burned and total fires burned in Oregon since 1911.
The slight increase at the extreme right edge is the basis for the scary headline. By leaving out all historical context and by focusing on large percentile increase in a tiny number at the right edge of the chart, the media creates unwarranted fear and hysteria in viewers.
This poster is a persuasive bit of propaganda. Most of it is not true. The parts that are true are that the Corn belt is a very productive region, and about 80 million acres (close to 100 million in the poster?) are growing corn. This item had been shared into my Facebook news feed.
A month ago, the media gave us scary stories that “Fears of an economic recession could derail the holiday shopping season”. Actual sales rose by +3.4% year over year, even with a shopping season that was six days shorter than the prior year. Unfortunately, mindless speculative “news” is used to fill up air time and web page time with something new.
Can you spot all the propaganda tricks in this chart? This chart has been running around social media for years. At best it is highly misleading. At worst, the data is not correct.
In 2019, California wildfires, by acreage, are running about one quarter the number as in 2018, and also well below the five year average.
Last week, the news
reported speculated that “fears of an economic recession could derail the holiday season”. This week, that speculation is already old news as Black Friday broke shopping records.
When someone tries to persuade you of something that is not actually true, and the persuader knows it is not true, then the persuader is engaged in manipulation – versus argument or discussion.
If you do not trust mass media, then you are unpatriotic. Interesting assertion unsupported by evidence. But its in the Washington Post, so you can trust it.
An Internet meme says “11 teens die each day from texting while driving”. This claim, however, is false. In 2017, an average of 6 teens died each day from all vehicle accident causes. Cell phone usage falls within the distracted driving category. According to the government, distracted driving accounts for 9% of all crashes – therefore, cellphone usage is even less than this.
CNBC writes “As more Americans find it harder to afford a home…” while the data, surprisingly, show that affordability is high and improving. To learn this, however, you must practice factfulness and dig into the actual data.