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Erasing Flint’s Water Crisis: Or How to Lie With Statistics

By: 
Anthony DiMaggio

Mark Twain famously wrote that “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” This insight is relevant to examining the apologetics of modern-day academics in the rising neoliberal assault on the public. This subservience to power is evident in efforts to rationalize governmental attacks on the most basic of human needs: access to clean water. In seeking to numb the public to basic facts and reality, the New York Times has published an op-ed analysis piece by Hernán Gómez and Kim Dietrich: “The Children of Flint Were Not Poisoned” (7/22/2018).

On the face of it, many might take the above piece seriously in light of its prestigious source. It was published in the most prominent, influential newspaper in the country – the national “paper of record.” Furthermore, the authors are trained experts in their fields, Gómez an “associate professor” of emergency medicine” at the University of Michigan, Dietrich a “professor of epidemiology and environmental health” at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Furthermore, Gómez’s research on Flint has gone through the peer review process, as seen in the publication of his article, “Blood Lead Levels of Children in Michigan: 2006-2016” in The Journal of Pediatrics. Scholarly peer review is designed to guarantee the highest possible quality of scholarly and medical research, although in this case it appears that the process badly broke down in relation to the study of water in Flint.