Lies eclipse issue

Numbers lie, and statistics can be manipulated. Politicians use this to their advantage every day.

This week, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse released a report saying underage drinkers account for one-fourth of all alcohol consumption in the United States. The report had been criticized, and it has since been revealed that the center manipulated the statistics to inflate teen drinking. In reality, teenagers account for 11.4 percent of alcohol consumption.

When the government resorts to misinformation to call attention to a problem, its credibility is sacrificed. Reducing underage drinking is an important goal. The statistic contained troubling information on increases in binge drinking and increases in alcohol use by teenage girls. It is this data to which attention should rightfully have been called.

Instead the legitimacy of the entire survey has been called into question, eclipsing the real issues. Just as the Office of Strategic Influence – recently shut down – erodes the government’s credibility, every faulty study or fallacious report reduces the effectiveness of the government to disseminate information.

A credible government is the cornerstone of a democracy. Because of this, the government must be especially careful its information is accurate and not purely inflammatory.

The statistical shell game played by the center also draws attention away from the very problems the study illuminates. Binge drinking is a growing problem among teenagers. More kids are getting drunk and having unprotected sex, as the study said. These are legitimate concerns for which the government should seek solutions. Instead, however, it has chosen to obscure the real problems by obscuring the truth.