The Believer is a monthly magazine published by McSweeney’s, a nonprofit publishing house based in San Francisco.
I have always been a fan of the Believer’s schema section and its presentation of oftentimes-whimsical information as straightforward information graphics. My idea for this piece came from frustration with news coverage of the financial crisis—not only was everyone losing their life savings and jobs, but the arena of TV pseudo-economic experts was exploding.
Through some background research, I identified the top fifty talking heads who were offering economic critique on cable news. From this group of people, I consulted a phrenologist to perform analysis of each pundit’s head shape in order to decipher whose economic theories could be trusted. The figures were arranged in a table based on shared characteristics, for example, trustworthiness or intelligence.
Thematically, my revisiting of the controversial topic of phrenology tied in with their main story of the issue about O. S. Fowler who, among other things, was America’s foremost practitioner of phrenology in the 1800s. Hopefully within this context, the irony of applying a pseudo-scientific technique to analyze pseudo-economic experts was not lost on the audience.