05-01-2008, 08:01 PM
This indelible quote was first made by the novelist Mark Twain and is a concise and accurate summary of the deliberate attempt to mislead the public through the use of statistics.Reply
Most people will digest figures which are fed to them by the media, politicians and the government without question. Most people will not check whether a survey or opinion poll has been carried out in a truly representative manner. Most people simply do not have the ability or time to check the authenticity and accuracy of the figures presented to them.
Nowhere is this more true than the study of the views and opinions of British Muslims. Both the BBC and ITN News Channels on Monday 3 July were dominated by the results of a dramatic Times opinion poll which revealed:
13% of British Muslims think that the four men who carried out the London Tube and bus bombings of July 7, 2005, should be regarded as martyrs.
The Times published the figures as front page news. The apocalyptic cry was of over 120,000 potential Muslim suicide bombers walking the streets of Britain. ITN realising that the public may not be sufficiently shocked by abstract figures such as 120,000 decide to use a computer simulation of football stadiums to show that there are approximately 5 football stadiums full of potential suicide bombers in Britain.
What is the basis of these nonsensical figures? How can mainstream media make such wild accusations? The opinion poll was carried out by a company called Populus which interviewed 1131 Muslim aged 18+ by telephone and online between 1 June 2006 and 16 June 2006. Look carefully at the timing of the survey: The survey was carried out in the midst of the Forest Gate Police raids. A time when the Police had targeted an innocent Muslim family, shooting one of the brothers, destroying their home and cordoning large sections of Forest Gate off under the guise of an exotic chemical bomb threat. What do you expect people to answer in such a climate of anger and frustration?
Consider also the attempt to extrapolate the results of the opinion poll to the entire Muslim community of Britain. There are approximately 1.6 million Muslims in the UK. If the results of a small opinion poll are now extrapolated to 1.6 million people then the results will inevitable be sensational and misleading. For example, according to the 2001 census, there are 36 million white Christians in the United Kingdom.
If I carried out a survey of 1000 white Christians asking the question? Would you assassinate Tony Blair if given the chance??, I am likely to find at least 50 respondents who say yes as an attempt to be funny, or simply expressing their hatred of Tony Blair as a politician. Nobody could seriously suggest that these 50 people are potential political assassins. If I now extrapolated these 50 out of 1000 (5%) to the 36 million white Christian population I arrive at an astronomical figure of 1,800,000 (1.8 million) political assassins in the white Christian community. For extra effect this is more than the population of Northern Ireland!
It is high time that this form of xenophobic, Islamaphobic reporting was relegated to the dustbin of political journalism.
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