making the pie higher

Well, ha ha. But I’d like to flag another case of Really Bad Data Visualisation from the Murdoch world. It’s in this story from the Scum; mysteriously, the famous paywall still doesn’t seem to be functioning, but the paper isn’t in the habit of publishing any of its graphics online. This is possibly because they are so embarrassing; this is something the good folk at TSL could profitably have at.

Anyway, the story is that net migration has fallen drastically; it’s the lowest it’s been for years, and the biggest single group of immigrants turn out to be returning British expatriates. So naturally, the line to take is that TEH IMMIGRANTS ARE COMING. And the Scum backs this with a half page infographic – or rather, disinfographic – showing net migration since 1997 as a column chart.

The first thing is that the chart shows the numbers IN and OUT as elements of a stacked column chart, so the columns actually seem to show total migration, because it’s moar that way. The second thing is that they are flat across the whole period; there are highs, there are lows, but a trendline would be essentially dead flat. Naturally, there is none.

But the whole thing is capped with a headline reading “THE FLOODGATES OPEN!” Just in case you needed prompting as to what to think about this data. In fact, the headline and the text use the chart to mean the exact opposite of its content. It’s not, really, a chart in any meaningful sense – rather, looming columns and hurtling lines are a sort of aesthetic toolkit of the Menace.

The whole thing goes out over the byline “Tom Newton-Dunn: Political Editor”, which reminds me irresistibly of the last week or so’s Doonesbury strip.




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