Facts Matter

by Colin Berkshire

A lot of the news we read is really opinion, not news and not facts. There are several reasons for this: As any undergraduate student knows, it’s easy to BS your your way through a term paper armed with just a few facts. Facts are difficult to get, hard to source to the origin, and frequently don’t present clear support for the editorial in question.

VW is a good example. You will read words about how VW sales are plummeting, and how the company is in dire straits. Then, you look at their stock and see that it is down significantly confirming their financial distress.

OK, time for a reality check.

VW stock is down about 50% from May 2015.

But VW stock started to slide in May, which was four months before the emissions scandal. In fact, if you look at articles around the time of the story VW sales were already down because they didn’t have the product mix that consumers were asking for.

Now, worldwide, VW sales are down by a few percentage points. In fact, their sales are UP when compared with two years ago. VW stock may be selling at 50% of its all-time high of May 2015, but it is still three times what it was a decade ago.

My whole point here is that news wants to sell you news. And, there are enough pseudo facts out there on any topic that they can create a story that sells, even if it misleads. Most news is simply editorial.

The Dow industrial average could “crash” by 33% and it would be sensational news. But keep the perspective that this would be a setback of only four years of growth, and would still be double what it was 20 years earlier.

So whenever you hear fantastic news, stop and ask: “What are the facts?” Five ,minutes will set you on the oath to truth.

Generally, I try to find truth by widening up the timeframe window. If salmon populations are down 75% in the past decade then I try to find how they compare with populations of 50 or 75 years ago. If global climate change is steadily risen over the last 100 years, then I ask what it was 1000 and 2000 years ago. The results are usually surprising.

Finally, correlate numbers with other things over a longer timeframe. Are gun deaths up in the last 25 years? Then correlate this with population in the past 25 years.

Is terrorism a mostly Muslim activity? Get the FBI statistics on worldwide terrorist acts. You will be surprised that Jewish terrorism exceeds Muslim terrorism, and Christian terrorism exceeds Jewish terrorism…according to the FBI’s global numbers. Here APIs an interesting link: http://thelondonpost.net/94-terrorists-in-usa-are-non-muslims/

Oh, and perhaps we spend too much time thinking about terrorism. Here are some facts to consider:

The Terrorism Statistics Every American Needs to Hear

Facts matter.