Although its origin is in dispute, I find it very easy to believe that it was Mark Twain who first said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth puts on its boots.”
I often feel like I am just getting around to putting on my own boots, but there are differences between the communication of Mark Twain’s era and today’s lightning-fast, linked-up global community. One important difference is that not only does information travel around the planet at the speed of light, but also that much of that information remains indelibly stamped, if not necessarily discussed at any length, upon the memory banks of the human race.
Take for example, the statements made by the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau upon the release of the preliminary results of the 2010 Census. These are available at several different web addresses, where they are subject to careful scrutiny by those willing to seek them out. For me, these clips readily bring to mind another Twain remark, one he himself attributed to an earlier source, but which he greatly helped to popularize, which reads, “There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
While I don’t dispute the numbers released by the Census Bureau (although there are some who claim that they understate the size of the undocumented population), I do take issue with the statistical emphasis and the words he used to characterize the implications of those numbers. Describing those statistical methods and words from the U.S. Census Bureau, I can think of one word that fits perfectly: “obfuscation”—based on the verb “obfuscate,” which is defined by Merriam Webster’s Online dictionary as “to be evasive, unclear or confusing.”
Watch these two short videos and see if you don’t agree.
Chapter one: Is it Fast or Is it Slow: The Reality of US Population Growth
Chapter Two: Comparing Decades and International Comparisons
And here are the next three videos in the series:
Video Two: Carrying Capacity: Context is what matters most
Video Three: Census Bureau Obfuscation on Immigration
Video Four: A Tale of Two Booms