Comparative propaganda

The Obama administration needs to convey a message that things are under control. So they commemorated the first anniversary of the Recovery Act with this:

It’s a chart showing the number of jobs lost each month from December 2007 to January 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There is a good deal that can be criticized about the image. Its choice of data set strongly implies improvement since Obama’s policies took effect, but other, equally valid data sets would not present such an uncomplicated picture. The very light text around the edges makes the bars stand out more than they should in a proper chart. The contrast in color value between the deep red Bush bars and light blue Obama bars may imply more than the chart actually says.

All of these are valid criticisms. But what I found most striking was the fact that the White House chose to “send a message” with data. Selective data, sure, but valid data from an unimpeachable source.

Six years ago, the George W. Bush administration needed to convey a message that things were under control. So in May 2003 they celebrated the end of “major combat operations” in Iraq, which had begun only six weeks earlier.

Mission Accomplished

It certainly was a different use of imagery. Not a data point to be seen.

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