Accuracy in Media

Teen Vogue gives is an excellent example of the danger of politically constructed statistics. Numbers manipulated to make a political point are dangerous because people come to believe them. They then make life decisions based on that political motivation, not facts and the truth.

Here the point Teen Vogue is making is that young women are making decisions about where to go to college based on the abortion laws in those states. Well, OK. That’s what adulthood means. Making choices according to whatever it is that you think is important in life. However, then we get this:

“According to RAINN, 23% of trans, genderqueer, and non-conforming students reported being sexually assaulted in college.”

This comes from this RAINN report:

“Among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”

Now, this writer is so worried at this rape figure that they think they can only go to college in a state where abortion is possible. They’re clearly heavily influenced by that number there. That number, in turn, comes from this report.

“The overall rate of nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent since the student enrolled at the school was 13 percent. …The estimate for women undergraduates is nearly three times higher than for women graduate and professional students (25.9% vs. 9.7%).”

That is the same number from slightly different years. But note how the definition has changed. One rape is one too many, one nonconsensual sexual contact – a hand brushed where it shouldn’t be – is one nonconsensual sexual contact too many. But they are clearly also different things. But look at what has happened.

The original definition was deliberately wide, it narrows as the re-reporting goes through its stages until we’ve got a would-be college student deciding where they’ll go based on a wildly disproportionate understanding of the likelihood they’ll get raped. It’s 26% who are attacked by a feel being copped rather than 26% being sexually assaulted – usually taken to mean something more serious than that – and it’s really, no really, not 26% getting raped and thereby requiring abortion services.

But what is that our would-be freshman believes? And that’s the danger of these politically constructed misinformation numbers. Everyone within actual politics knows they’re false, they’re there for political effect only. But the general reporting of them leads to real-life decisions being made upon their disinformation.

This is the Teen Vogue headline to this piece:

“Abortion Bans May Limit Where Students Choose to Attend College.”

But that’s only true because Teen Vogue and the rest have all been, for years, reporting this rape figure as if it’s actually true. Which it just isn’t.

Teen Vogue ranks just inside the top 500 of U.S. news and media outlets. It gains some 5 million visits a month from that position. The site says that its mission is to “Educate the influencers of the future”.

One good start to doing that would be to actually educate them. Like, perhaps in how to read politically constructed statistical misinformation before they make unfortunate life choices based on that disinformation. Or even, to stop repeating the misinformation in the first place.

Ready to fight back against media bias?
Join us by donating to AIM today.


Comments are turned off for this article.