Saturday, January 05, 2008

If a Propaganda Success Story Unravels...

UPDATE: Study Puts Iraqi Death Toll At 151,000 Not 655,000
"For the new study...researchers visited 23 times as many places and interviewed five times as many households [as the Lancet study (ed)]. The project also involved greater supervision of the survey teams, which wasn’t possible when the Johns Hopkins study was conducted in the spring of 2006 because of safety concerns."
It was Winston Churchill who said: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." He might have added, and when truth does get its pants on, will anybody notice?

To me, the biggest story this past week was the revelation appearing in National Journal about political bias, fraudulent data and questionable surveying and collection techniques used in the Lancet study that pegged Iraqi deaths at an astronomically high number of 654,965, not to mention numerous peer reviewers who seemed asleep at the switch. (See Data Bomb and Unscientific Methods? for the main account, and here and here for further discussions.)

War dead tallies are an important statistic for a variety of reasons, but are never easy to assertain with complete certainty and raw totals never tell the full story, even if they are accurate. But, as the Vietnam war illustrated, the numbers make for great anti-war propaganda and the so called insurgents in Iraq seem to know this far better than most of the Western media. When the Lancet story originally hit the press, the figure of 650,000 did, literally, travel around the world at lightning speed and has still not stopped.

The National Journal has published other pieces relating to methodologies of body counting and estimating of war dead. In Counting Corpses we find this little gem:

"A U.N. agency and the Iraqi Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology conducted the latest study in 2006. The final estimate is being kept confidential until publication by a medical journal, perhaps early this year. This survey has concluded that the death toll is well below what the so-called Lancet II study found in 2006, several sources told National Journal." (Emphasis mine.)
and this:

"One advantage of surveys, compared with body counts, is that they can also track the number of lives saved by the removal of a despotic government, by better medical care, and other factors. In Iraq, this effect is likely to be smaller than in Afghanistan, where improved medical care is saving an estimated 89,000 infants per year, according to a recent survey managed by Gilbert Burnham, the Johns Hopkins professor who managed the controversial Lancet surveys. This figure far exceeds the estimates of people reported dead in the fighting between the government and the Taliban -- which means that the war in Afghanistan is, at least by one count, producing more lives than deaths." (Emphasis mine.)
which is a pleasant antedote to the steady drone of negativity coming from the Canadian press about the Afghan mission. But don't count on it getting any coverage in the likes of the Globe and Mail or the National Post, unless of course they experience the earth shattering epiphany that somehow their propensity to distort reality may have a direct relationship to this.

No. The real stories behind the headlines seem to be pariahs too untouchable for the left-leaning media to fully examine. Would they dare to consider how many of the dead were actually enemy combatants or how many innocents have been killed by suicide and/or car bombers and roadside IEDs planted by those combatants. How many point to the real culprits and castigate the ideology in which the slaughter of innocent (Muslim) bystanders, including children, is just the normal cost of doing Allah's business, never mind questioning the ethics of providing head slicers with free publicity by broadcasting their videos on the 6:00 pm news and thereby encouraging them to kill more innocent people? None of that can be blamed on Bush and the Americans and that's all that matters.

Even now, when the death toll has dropped dramatically and the Iraqi economy and daily social life is almost back to normal (I hesitate to use the phrase "back to normal", because pre-war Iraq is not a normal place of the kind anyone would want to go back to, which, of course is just another detail left out of the narrative), the media cannot bring itself to acknowledge any successful outcome to the war. Of course not. One cannot allow the propaganda value of war dead to be diminished by placing it in its full context.

Indeed, one of the most disgusting episodes of the whole media coverage of the war in Iraq occurred just in the past couple of months. It took the media several weeks before they would finally admit that the war was winding down and the death toll was shrinking. Even as late as last week, CBC's Sunday Edition's host, Michael Enright, had assembled a panel of liberal "experts" one of whom had convinced herself that the violence will resume as soon as the Americans leave. One can almost sense the panic in the newsrooms of the world as they frantically search for a way to save face. They need it to continue, lest they be expected to engage in some introspection.

So I don't expect any of the MSM outlets will give nearly as much coverage to the discrediting of one of their favourite stories from the war as they did to spreading it around the world, over and over again. Afterall, it is their business to distort and misrepresent deaths of real human beings at the altar of anti-Americanism. It reveals not only their own culpability in the carnage, but the ease with which naive brain-numbed audiences lap up whatever they have to offer, all of which makes me want to puke.


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