The Scrapbook has previously commented on the “new breed of pundit/political scientist who seems to think that a pie chart is a substitute for argument.” Whether it’s the fault of an education system and corporate sector saturated with PowerPoint presentations, the increasing desperation of polemicists, reporters, and poli-sci types to cast their work as hard “science,” or just the rising tide of philistinism, it seems an ever-growing number of writers and thinkers have taken to substituting the siren song of the computer-generated chart for the hard work of written argument.
And so in recent days, The Scrapbook has hardly been surprised to come across headlines like the following: “1 Chart [That] Shows Why Social Security Is So Important” (Huffington Post), “Why we don’t have jetpacks, in one chart” (Washington Post), and “The History of the World In One Chart” (Business Insider).
But the top prize for this inanity goes to the Atlantic (founded in 1857 by a group of worthies including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Harriet Beecher Stowe), which last week published an article headlined, “The One Chart That Shows the Importance of Egypt’s Massacre.” Because, really, the importance of the mass slaughter in the Arab world’s biggest and most significant country wasn’t going to be clear to us . . . unless we saw a bar graph.