Thursday, August 13, 2015

Top Six Reasons I’m Such a Pain About Bad Data

Back-ache !!!!!!!!!!! by Craig Sunter, CC BY-ND 2.0

If you don’t know me well, you may be asking yourself, “What the hell is Selina’s issue?  Why is she so frigging nit-picky?  And why does she have such a damn annoying compulsion to scrutinize every third talking point she reads?”  Heck, people who know me well may well have been asking those very questions for years.

You could say it’s an illness.  A verbal tic.  Maybe even a personality disorder.  Or maybe it’s just because I want us to focus our limited collective resources on effectively solving real problems.  And when I say resources, I mean tax dollars, charitable giving, time, labor, talents, and physical/emotional energy.  

To break it down, I do this because:

1. When we end up battling things that are deemed a crisis based on faulty reasoning, we also generally tend to make other faulty assumptions about the cause as well as possible solutions to the problem,

2. We may or may not see backlash, as folks who are skeptical of the validity of the claimed crisis grab on to every data point they can find that confirms to them that the crisis-claimers are, in fact, lying liars,

3. Sticking with provable data and reality-based talking points actually helps attract high-information folks who’d be naturally sympathetic to the cause (I know I’m not the only one turned off from social movements by hyperbole and “gut-based facts” – I’ve met plenty of people just like me),

4. Sticking with reality-based talking points is also our best tool in building middle-of-the-spectrum folks’ support for policy approaches to solve social ills,

5. We all too often end up throwing a ton of time, energy, and money at something that isn’t the crisis we think it is and/or at things that aren’t actually causing the phenomenon we’re concerned about,

6. And, in the process, we divert our time, attention, energy, and tax dollars from combating things that actually *are* crises.  Climate change, anyone?  Disproportionate police use of excessive and deadly force against black and Native folks, anyone?  Flagging public confidence in our political system due to the corrosive influence of moneyed interests, anyone?  Complete and utter failure to reasonably regulate our financial institutions in order to prevent another massive financial crisis, anyone? [There are more, but you get the point.]

I hate inefficiency and inaccuracy with a passion that may well be indicative of a mental disorder.  But I’ve come to terms with that.  If exploiting that personality quirk might possibly help improve life for anyone else on this planet, I’m willing to risk people thinking I’m an old-school nerdy weirdo.  Quite frankly, I am, I always have been, and it’s okay.

If you don’t like what I write, you don’t have to read it.  But if you do like it, then welcome!  Enjoy, and please share your thoughts once in a while in the Comments sections. 

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