Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
Keith Lowe argues that in history, there is no weapon quite so powerful as a good statistic.
In history, there is no weapon quite so powerful as a good statistic. Any fact can be made to sound more factual, and any truth can be made to sound more true, simply by putting a number on it.
The problem is that these numbers can be, and frequently are, made up. Probably the most abused area of study is that of the Second World War and its aftermath, where statistics are routinely manipulated, stamped on or simply plucked out of the air, depending on the speaker’s personal or political agenda. If there is something to be gained by inflating or deflating the figures, then inflated or deflated they shall be. In the past, such alternative versions of history would be published in grubby pamphlets, to be passed round in private societies – but nowadays they are more likely to be published on grubby websites that put themselves forward as beacons of hidden or subverted ‘truth’.