A Review of Mark Monmonier’s Book “How to lie with maps” example

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A Review of Mark Monmonier’s Book “How to lie with maps”

People rare question the reliability of maps. It is common to think that maps are made by professional cartographers who provide the most clear and accurate information. In his book “How to lie with maps” Mark Monmonier in a witty and easy-to-read manner reveals the shocking truth about maps. They are not to be trusted. The author introduces to the reader typical kinds of distortions in maps, principles and rules of the mapmaking, misuse of maps for political and social reasons, statistics manipulation. The book teaches to maintain a healthy skepticism while using any kind of maps and not to get misguided by pseudoscientific data.

The book begins with an insight and explanation of the map making process and detailed description of scales, projections and symbols. The author points that “each element is a source of distortion” (Monmonier 5),
but at the same time explains that those distortions are necessary and impossible to avoid. After all, maps are just models of reality, and the way the model is presented depends on the creator point of view, on his
accuracy, competence and professionalism. This thought is quite shocking, the cartographers don’t even need a license to make a map. There are no standards or rules for the maps.

Maps are often used to shape or manipulate people’s mind. Some maps are used for advertising, some are used to mislead the Town Board. Maps designed to someone’s benefit can influence business board decisions, like
withdrawal from the certain market or putting a new building in a certain place.

The chapter about using maps as a part of political propaganda is very interesting. Maps are used for increasing patriotic feelings and sensibilities for certain national minority by providing false maps that present “historical land” or “land of ancestors”. From the school students are told that certain ethic group is living on the area that belongs to another ethic group and showing the false map of ancient territories. Later those misleads can be used as explanation for beginning of the war. In a former Soviet Union there were the special cartographer unit whose aim was to serve propaganda and interpretation of facts that was profitable to Soviet ideology. Judging by the nature of geographical reforms in primary and secondary schools in 1930 in formal USSR, the greatest appeal to the authorities had the texture of physical and geographic knowledge (so-called "geographical specificity") and its inherent ways of organizing the surface. Geographers, methodologists and teachers were required to teach discipline according to maps that were presenting false or misinterpreted facts. The political ideologists used the indisputable right of a geographical map on the accuracy of interpretation and visual
representations of the world of physical objects, the right to reality. The political power transformed its postulates into visual form with help of maps.

Monmonier also talks about use of …

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