If you’ve been reading this week you’ll have seen my recent open letter taking Gareth Morgan to task about his selective and misleading use of statistics in his Cats To Go campaign. The letter received some better than normal readership statistics and an interesting comment from an individual called “Geoff”. In it, Geoff set up to disagree with my analysis of Gareth’s infographic. While Geoff was correct in that I’d used the wrong source in rebutting one of Gareth’s claims around the territory ranged over by cats, it turns out that the actual source referred to rural cats, not urban – which is where most of our domesticated cats in New Zealand live. Urban cats, as I pointed out, have a much smaller range – a fact supported by a study cited by Gareth as well as this study out of Illinois. These studies both showed urban cats have much smaller ranges, averaging from less than 2 to 2.6 ha.
That would seem to me to be like something of an own goal. Even more so that Gareth (@GarethMorganNZ) has tweeted me claiming to be “engaging with you on your blog about facts”. In which case, this raises some additional questions:
- Was this “Geoff” character someone associated with or affiliated with Gareth Morgan? His language could have implied that, but I had assumed he was just an interested member of the public who supported Gareth’s viewpoint. Now it seems more likely that he’s someone who’s been engaged by Gareth on this issue. Now aside from my having comfortably dealt with the comments raised by “Geoff”, if this was what Gareth Morgan calls engagement, it seems rather underhanded and rather poorly done. If Gareth is indeed instructing these people to spread the good word about his campaign, surely it’s in his interests to do so openly and honestly?
- Given Gareth is an economist, surely he wouldn’t want people investing in his products or taking his economic advice with only half the story or a misleading selection of outlaying statistics? Gareth is still claiming to be engaging in a debate using facts but, as I pointed out in my open letter, he’s completely ignoring the raft of facts that don’t support his sensationalised campaign. You would think the same discipline to understanding the full picture of what is going on in economics should be equally as applicable here.
- Finally, as you’ll see below, how is this about me “not liking” your facts? If you, or “Geoff” or someone else from your campaign actually took the time to read what I and many others had said about your campaign (including those in the media who’s articles you continually share while ignoring the bits of those articles where scientists point out issues with your campaign), you’ll find what I didn’t like was the inability of your campaign to engage in a discussion using ALL of the facts. The issue around “not liking” facts seems to be one on your end, not mine. As I demonstrated, you have simply cherry picked those facts which best support the Cats To Go campaign and ignored those which didn’t – which is important because those facts present a much different story than the one you’re trying to sell publicly.
For those that are interested, my Twitter exchange with Gareth is below. When you read Gareth’s tweet (or anything he tweets on the matter in the future), it might be interesting to read them through the lens of what he said to The Atlantic about those who disagree with his campaign. To summarise, “the cat lobby here is just as feral, self-centered and as balmy as your gun lobby is.” A small piece of advice for you Gareth: Before you say you’re interested in debating the facts, you might want to make sure you haven’t been off calling people names instead. Doing so further eats away at any mana attached to your claim that you’re using facts.