A momentarily revolutionary technology

Twitter was the flare, statistical analysis the spotlight on problems in the Iranian election. Statistics ace raises doubt, fans anger on Iran’s vote offers a short profile of Daniel Berman, an American working on a master’s degree in Scotland. Berman and a fellow grad student looked at election data posted online by Iran’s government and found suspicious patterns. They sent these to the fivethirtyeight, which posted Iranian election results by province, and noted some irregularities. (Here’s further work posted on the fivethirtyeight, Iran does have some fishy numbers.)

Later, the regime would have to acknowledge the math, though it said the irregularities merely inflated Ahmadinejad’s victory. Perhaps. Statistics, after all, make up the hypotenuse of the tainted triangle they form with lies and damned lies.
Will statistics make a perpetual beacon in politics, reducing Lippmann’s discrepancies between the conceived and the effective (i.e, the ideal and the real) political environment? More likely, they’ll be an anomaly of their own, like the Nixon tapes. Political regimes will of course adapt. They will either rig things in statistically reasonable ways, or at their clumsiest simply not post results on the Internet for all to see. But statistics should make corruption a little harder.

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