You’ve all heard of the “factoid” – which Wikipedia helpfully defines as a “questionable or spurious—unverified, incorrect, or fabricated statement presented as a fact, but with no veracity.” One can watch entire political interviews on a Sunday morning and hear almost nothing but factoids, especially on any budgetary or economic matter.
There’s a subset of factoids that I don’t believe we have a name for, but which is common in sports and political discussion. It’s the argument seemingly based on statistics, but dependent on information of little to non-existent statistical significance.
I heard the following example also quoted on Meet the Press today, without attribution. I suspect it’s floating around wherever people paid well for having nothing to say gather:
FDR is the only president in the last 75 years to be re-elected when the economy was in bad shape and unemployment was over 8 percent.
The problem with the argument is that FDR is the only president in the last 75 years to run for re-election with unemployment over 8 percent. In fact, since World War II and prior to the current period, the only times the U.S. unemployment measure stood higher than 8% at all were November 1981 through January 1984, and the entire 12 months of 1975.
There is nothing underlying “re-elected when the economy was in bad shape and unemployment was over 8 percent.” You could just as rightly say that no challenger in the modern era has ever defeated an incumbent president when unemployment was over 8 percent, and perhaps spin some bullshit argument about people clinging to the security of a familiar face in hard times, etc., etc.
I need a word for this kind of argument. “Voidistic”? “Numberoid”? “Pseudistic”? “Hackistic”?