So What?

Stats / Kony2012 (again) / “Truthiness” and Accountability

March 23, 2012

Unpacking Stats
A few weeks ago we told you about a World Bank report showing a marked decrease in the number of people in developing countries living in extreme poverty. In their latest “Trade Fact of the Week,” our friends at the GlobalWorks Foundation explain what these stats really mean. It’s another effort to provide readable, accessible, intriguing information about complex topics—hey, just like “So What?” You can sign up for “Trade Fact of the Week” here.

On Kony2012, Part Deux
As the debate over Kony2012 continues, the Ugandan Prime Minister has used the same social media tools as Invisible Children to counter what he regards as a false and misleading report. But is he doing the same thing? (Oooo – it’s so “meta-!”) Meanwhile, the general public is by all accounts ill-equipped to evaluate the activities of a charity like Invisible Children. The Stanford Social Innovation Review rightly says we need a public literacy campaign to help folks understand how charities work.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Mike Daisey
Accountability to audiences and, y’know, to the people whose welfare an advocate claims to serve, matters a lot.  Telling the truth is one way to be accountable.  Whether it’s the scandal that now taints Three Cups of Tea  or the recent news about Mike Daisey’s “truthy” account of conditions in the Chinese plants making  products for Apple, convenient exaggerations ain’t facts. The basic argument Daisey makes may hold—but of course he has undercut its impact. At best, dumb. At worst, destructive.