Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How to lie with anecdotes

Osama Bin Laden fasts completely two days a week. Mao Zedong had an unhealthy obsession with green tea, even brushing his teeth with it. Hitler was a vegetarian. Therefore, you should watch out for people with unorthodox eating habits. Beware vegans.

Ever since Darrell Huff released his classic book How to Lie with Statistics, the American public has been told time and time again to be wary of numbers. And it is probably prudent to be somewhat wary of numbers, as long as you still prefer them to anything else. Because easy as it may be to lie with statistics, it's surely much easier to lie with anecdotes.