Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Genesis of a Misinformation Campaign

1.) United Way King County releases a press statement announcing their campaign to raise $25 million to build 1,000 units of housing for chronically homeless people. The press release includes a statement that chronic homelessness in Seattle has been reduced by 10% annually two years in a row.

2.) Nobody notices until the US Interagency Council on Homelessness quotes this misinformation on their website, and I draw attention to the problem that this claim is unsupported by any facts.

3.) United Way of King County gets embarrassed, and excises the offending statistic from the original press release that is posted on their website.

4.) A reporter from Dallas/Fort Worth's Star Telegram writes another one of those annoying "Phil Mangano is the best thing that ever happened to homeless people since hot soup and army blankets" articles, which states that Seattle has reduced chronic homelessness by 20%.

5.) Outraged local activist contacts said reporter to ask where he's getting his information. Reporter produces the map above, received as part of his press materials from the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, thus perfectly illustrating Mark Twain's famous dictum that "There are three kinds of lies: lies. damn lies, and statistics."


Bruce said...

Wow, a 65% reduction in homelessness in Tacoma? I hadn't noticed things had changed so much. Maybe because they have not.

Bill said...

In your speaking enagagement blog, one poster asked, "What can we do?"
I mentioned getting in the face of elected leaders. This blog is a good one to hold up and ask them if they support the lies or if they are willing to be distinguished from the lies? Perhaps what we need is a Seattle City Council resolution decrying the hart and statistics and "not reflecting the best leadership assessments of the City as to the nature of the problem of homelessness in our City." By saying that, with tact, it says what a lie the report is. To NOT SAY the report is a lie is, in effect, to support its lies.