By Michael Gaffney
You’ve seen, probably shared or even “liked” the articles about how great your city is. Such articles are always being shared on your city’s website and by the various influential groups trying to convince you of how awesome the city policies and businesses are.
It’s all propaganda designed to deceive you.
If you live in Worcester, this “article” has been posted and shared on all the official social media pages and the associated political pages:
Worcester, MA – 2019 Top 100 Best Places to Live.
The comments are loaded with the usual suspects supporting the Mayor and City Manager, some of which may or not be real accounts.
It doesn’t take much to find out who Livability.com is. They are owned by Journal Communications a publisher for chambers of commerce and economic development agencies.
This isn’t some independent blog that just happened to notice Worcester. It is pure propaganda produced for Worcester.
They claim some form of methodology using “our proprietary algorithm to calculate a LivScore” that they obtain from their “data partner” Esri. Esri was originally founded as a land-use consulting firm that started a conservation program “to help change the way nonprofit organizations carried out missions of nature conservation and social change.”
A “proprietary algorithm”, simply means they can manipulate the data as they see fit. Which certainly isn’t influenced by their publishing connections. Look up the names of the businesses (or associated businesses) listed in the screenshot above on the Worcester Chamber of Commerce member list. A membership with the Worcester Chamber has its benefits! Although it is highly likely that the businesses don’t even know that this list may be contrived.
And it is clear that their data partner is in the business of conservation and social change, not exactly an unbiased data source. (They were also under federal investigation for issues relating to lobbying and land donations).
Part of 40 alleged data points of the “proprietary algorithm” include “social and civic capital” and “healthcare.” As they only list 8 of the 40 alleged data points, what the other 32 are is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure they are not influenced by their corporate owner’s publication business.
They claim to have surveyed “1,000 millennials about the factor that are most important to them when deciding where to live.” So, in addition to the “proprietary algorithm” that is completely unexplained and potentially corrupted by financial interests, the determination of what makes a place one of the best places to live in the entire country with a population of 325.7 million is based on a survey of 1,000 millennials.
Ignoring the absolute irrelevance of the survey sample, keep in mind it is a survey of people ages 23 to 38. Millennials constitute 83.1 million of the 325.7 million of our population. Further the age group is abstract, the desires of men and women in their early twenties are significantly divergent from those in their late thirties.
Where do they get the remaining data to use in their “proprietary algorithm”?
“Our trusted sources include public-sector providers such as U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Federal Aviation Administration, the United States Golf Association, the Federal Communications Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Education. We also source data from leading private-sector sources including Esri, Great Schools, and ATTOM.
We also find great data created by nonprofits such as the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.”
They don’t explain how they use any of the above sources, if at all, but a quick review of the names and missions leaves one scratching their head. The FCC and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for a review of livability in Worcester? The United States Golf Association – maybe this is why our City Councilors are always justifying using tax dollars to pay for the golf course?
More interestingly, is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Note that above, one of the 8 of 40 disclosed data points include “social and civic capital” and “healthcare.” Well, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a far-left organization whose guiding principles include “informing policymakers, inspiring leaders, and energizing communities.” They “take a stand” on “issues like access to affordable health care, health equity . . . through our leadership programs, we also help interdisciplinary leaders speak out….”
The mission of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the same mission outlined in the Worcester Board of Public Health’s Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). But that is probably just a coincidence.
So when you are sharing, commenting, and reacting to these feel-good articles, keep in mind that they are pure propaganda designed to influence your opinion. You are being told how to think. Worse, you are being told that if you think differently, your opinion is an outlier. This is manipulation. Don’t be fooled.