A follow on from the ‘Dashboard Dangers‘ entry. Here is a simple example of why summary information can distract you from messy realities, from a different perspective.

From ‘Imperialism and World Politics, by Parker Thomas Moon, published 1927 (Macmillan)

…Language often obscures truth. More than is ordinarily realised, our eyes are blinded to the facts by tricks of the tongue. When one uses the simple mono-syllable ‘France’ one thinks of France as a unit, an entity. When… we use a personal pronoun in referring to a country, for example ‘France sent her troops to conquer the Tunis”, we impute not only unity but personality to the country… all too easily we forget the flesh-and-blood men and women who are the true actors. How different would it be if we had no such word as ‘France’, and had to say instead: ’38 million men, women, and children of very diversified interests and beliefs, inhabiting 218,000 square miles of territory’ Then we should more accurately describe the Tunis expedition… as this: ‘A few of these 38 million persons sent 30,000 others to conquer the Tunis.’ This way of putting the fact immediately suggests a question, or rather a series of questions. Who are the few? Why did they send the 30,000 to Tunis? And why did the 30,000 obey?

A very different context, but the same argument. Summary information can lead you to make snap judgements and form opinions, when you should be asking more questions…

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