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Latest Medialens lies/distortions  
Posted by ALP on October 9 2007, 11:04 » Uploaded 09/10/07 14:20  

I've sent the following out to several people as a corrective to the latest "alert" from Medialens (the website with an obsession for smearing Iraq Body Count).

1. Medialens writes:
"It is striking that IBC link to a high-profile media report that so badly misrepresents its figures".

This is a misrepresentation. The link is listed by IBC under the heading "Lists of victims or victim categories to signal the pervasive impact on every sector of Iraqi society". The purpose of the link is to provide an example of how media have used IBC's data on individual victims (the lower section of the article). There's no implication that IBC approve of the article's wording on totals.

Interestingly, the article correctly notes that IBC's figures are "based on media reports as well as official figures from the Iraqi ministry of health and mortuaries", whilst getting its description of the Lancet 2004 study wrong (it didn't estimate "civilian" deaths).

2. Medialens writes:
"Whereas IBC have responded vigorously, indeed tirelessly, in responding [sic] to the 2004 and 2006 Lancet studies..."

This is false. IBC released only two documents commenting on Lancet 2006 (both mildly critical) and one on Lancet 2004 (uncritical). If this constitutes a "vigorous", "tireless" response, one wonders how Medialens's 20-month smear campaign (full of accusations that IBC are "actively aiding and abetting in war crimes", etc) should be characterised.

3. Medialens writes:
"In the past, IBC’s [Iraq Body Count] response to the suggestion that violence prevents journalists from capturing many deaths has been, in effect, 'Prove it!'"

This appears to be a blatant lie. Medialens know that IBC have always stated that "many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media. That is the sad nature of war." This IBC statement has been quoted several times by the Medialens editors - eg here: http://www.medialens.org/alerts[...] - so they can't claim ignorance.

4. Medialens writes:
"It was [Marc] Herold's Afghan Victim Memorial Project that inspired John Sloboda to set up IBC. Herold's 'most conservative estimate' of Afghan civilian deaths resulting from American/NATO operations is between 5,700 and 6,500. But, he cautions, this is 'probably a vast underestimate' [...] There is no reason to believe that the application of the same methodology in Iraq is generating very different results."

IBC use the same approach as Herold, but they don't use the same methodology. And there is reason to believe the approach in Iraq is generating different results than in Afghanistan. But Medialens wouldn't know the reasons because on this issue they rarely get beyond a lazy, inept level of "analysis".

5. Medialens writes:
"...what IBC is doing to promote or reduce the confusion".

This is fairly typical of the type of insinuation that fills these anti-IBC Medialens alerts - suggesting IBC are "promoting" confusion, but providing no examples of this.

6. Medialens writes:
"Well, the bureau chief of one of three Western media agencies providing a third of IBC’s data from Iraq sent this email to a colleague last year (the latter asked us to preserve the sender’s anonymity)"

Like the anonymous epidemiologists cited in Medialens's earlier smears, it seems that this "bureau chief" and the "colleague" weren't able to send their comments directly to IBC. Odd, that. It's another case of Medialens preferring 3rd-hand rumour-mongering to sourced analysis.

7. Medialens writes:
"...a new ORB poll revealing that 1.2 million Iraqis had been murdered since the 2003 invasion"

Not quite. A new ORB poll estimates that 1.2 million had been murdered. After lecturing everyone on the difference between "deaths" and "reported deaths", you'd think Medialens would be capable of a more accurate level of writing.

8. Medialens writes:
"Why is it important for IBC [...] to challenge the methodology and conclusions of epidemiological studies published in the Lancet..."

IBC didn't challenge Lancet 2004, so Medialens are wrong to write "studies" (plural). And IBC's expressions of scepticism over Lancet 2006 are no more out of place than those from Jon Pedersen of the UNDP Iraq study, demographer Beth Osborne Daponte, Fritz Scheuren, a past president of the American Statistical Association, Professor Hans Rosling and Dr Johan Von Schreeb at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Oxford physicists Neil Johnson and Sean Gourley, Debarati Guha-Sapir, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), etc, etc.

9. Medialens writes:
"...as data collectors, IBC are not in a position to comment authoritatively on the impact of violence on the capacity of journalists to report accurately from Iraq. As data collectors, they have no more insight, no deeper understanding, than anyone else."

A non-argument. Of course, Les Roberts and Medialens "are not in a position to comment authoritatively" on this matter either. All they can do is quote (and in some cases misinterpret/overstate) the findings of a few researchers.

10. Medialens writes:
"Secondly, while IBC’s self-described task does indeed require only “care and literacy”, does not the task of challenging peer-reviewed science published by some of the world’s leading epidemiologists require very much more? Does it not, in fact “require statistical analysis or extrapolations,”..."

Not necessarily. It doesn't require "statistical analysis" to observe that half a million death certificates are missing if the Lancet 2006 figure is believed. It doesn't require epidemiological expertise to observe that there have been contradictions in the accounts of the Lancet team's description of sampling, or that the sampling methodology as published wouldn't give you "random" street selection. You don't need professional qualifications to appreciate how important random sampling is, etc.

The rhetorical basis of the Medialens alert is: "how dare these data collectors tirelessly and vigorously criticise an epidemiological study". It's a silly, feeble and misleading argument - all based on one innocuous comment made by John Sloboda after being subjected to an email bombing accusing him of being an "amateur" and an "apologist" for war crimes.

I see something very mean and low in the way Medialens have taken a single comment from Sloboda and used it to insinuate that IBC are committing some major crime against humanity by publishing a few documents which express scepticism about the Lancet 2006 study. Remember that many others - including non-epidemiologists and epidemiologists - have expressed similar doubts and raised the same types of questions as IBC have done. Why aren't all these other people being subjected to the Medialens smear treatment?

Why do Medialens have such an obsession with smearing Iraq Body Count?

COMMENTS Post comment

 

Comment 01 – Raoul Djukanovic October 09 2007, 16:26

Why do Medialens have such an obsession with smearing Iraq Body Count?

Because they think if they can shut it down (or destroy its "credibility" by exposing its "complicity"), the world will focus on larger numbers which, being larger, are more morally compelling to campaign with, or something.

Whether or not they're smearing IBC, the total death toll attributable to conflict is clearly going to be higher than the reported number of violently killed civilians, so had they started out constructively, they might have found it possible to talk to IBC about how best to help them make that point.

But it quickly became clear that the truth about IBC wasn't of the slightest interest to the moral crusaders, so everything went warped and here we are: they're only getting what they deserve, don't you see? They could have made this all go away by just... shutting down their project because ML says so. Er...

Comment 02 – sonny October 09 2007, 18:03

"6. Medialens writes:
"Well, the bureau chief of one of three one of three Western media agencies providing a third of IBC's data from Iraq..."

When the title of the "Alert" itself is an anonymous smear, you can pretty much tell what you're in for.

For that matter, this "third" thing seems to come from the 2005 IBC Dossier. Maybe Media Lens knows if that's still true two years later. Who knows. But this would mean that the anonymous bureau chief's agency exclusively provided maybe 10% of IBC's data (1/3 of 1/3).

For some reason that person seems to have thought that if his agency alone did not report everything that this represents some massive deficit in IBC, leading to the anonymous smear which Media Lens elevate to headline status for their "Alert". That reasoning seems to make no sense. Wouldn't it be obvious already to IBC that one agency providing around 10% of their data is not reporting everything?

No matter that it makes little sense. It makes for a good headline smear, which is much more important.

Comment 03 – Mordecai October 09 2007, 19:10

When I first read the "providing a third of IBC’s data" remark, I interpreted it as meaning that the anonymous person's agency was itself providing a third. Medialens should have taken more care over the wording. They could have written, for instance: "the bureau chief of one of three Western media agencies which combined provide a third of IBC’s data".

This isn't the first time Medialens have used misleading language. Their own readers held them to account on another example recently: "IBC only collects records of violent civilian deaths reported by two different (mainly Western) media sources operating in Iraq".

Perhaps it's unintentional, but when it happens more than a few times, one starts to wonder. The mainstream media does the same thing. Maybe Medialens are learning their tricks?

Comment 04 – Woofles October 09 2007, 20:01

Sonny:

"When the title of the "Alert" itself is an anonymous smear, you can pretty much tell what you're in for."

No... I don't think the bureau chief was smearing IBC - the alert says it was an internal doco passed on by a colleague. It was just an honestly expressed opinion, not a smear. And not anonymous - according to the alert, the identity was/is known but protected. Given the importance of the issue and the information, it was quite a scoop - absolutely right that it should be made public, surely.

ALP:

2. Medialens writes:
"Whereas IBC have responded vigorously, indeed tirelessly, in responding [sic] to the 2004 and 2006 Lancet studies..."

This is false. IBC released only two documents commenting on Lancet 2006 (both mildly critical) and one on Lancet 2004 (uncritical). If this constitutes a "vigorous", "tireless" response, one wonders how Medialens's 20-month smear campaign (full of accusations that IBC are "actively aiding and abetting in war crimes", etc) should be characterised.

Well, responses don't just mean documents. IBC co-founder John Sloboda told the BBC:

"Some critics of the Lancet study have said it's like a drunk throwing a dart at a dartboard. It's going to go somewhere, but who knows if that number is the bulls eye.

"Unfortunately many many people have decided to accept that that 98,000 figure is the truth - or the best approximation to the truth that we have." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/[...])

There have been all kinds of responses from IBC - even letters to scientists backing the Lancet reports - they count as IBC responding.

I could go through the rest of the list, but I'm afraid I've got a beach waiting to be sat on...

Woofs

Comment 05 – sonny October 09 2007, 20:10

2. Medialens writes:
"Whereas IBC have responded vigorously, indeed tirelessly, in responding [sic] to the 2004 and 2006 Lancet studies..."

IBC published one piece about the 2006 Lancet study in October 2006:
http://www.iraqbodycount.org[...]

I don't recall anything else that mentioned the Lancet study after that until they put another thing up the new website in September 2007, almost a year later, and which only one part talks about the Lancet study (and which arguments are studiously ignored by Medialens in favor of questioning IBC's right to say anything on the matter):
http://www.iraqbodycount.org[...]

Apparently IBC was so tireless that they hibernated for a year between publishing anything that mentioned the Lancet study. Maybe the one they did in October 2006 was so vigorous a response that they needed a long rest before they could continue their vigorous and tireless responding.

Comment 06 – sonny October 09 2007, 21:25

"No... I don't think the bureau chief was smearing IBC - the alert says it was an internal doco passed on by a colleague. It was just an honestly expressed opinion, not a smear."

It's often hard to tell the difference between "honestly" and "hastily" Woofles. One indication of the latter is when a person will not stand behind anything they have said, particularly when it's from some email intended for a particular person, and not the public. Another is when an opinion is resting on rather obvious non sequiturs (as illustrated above).

It's Medialens who is doing the smearing. This is a well-worn tactic of Medialens. They look around for remarks from others that they can grab to make their smears and accusations for them. Apparently this is supposed to make them seem like they aren't ones hurling smears around (a tactic you seem to fall for hook line and sinker).

Blame does not rest with some anonymous person who had some opinionated comment from a private correspondence taken out of context and put into a public "Alert" headline without their consent. The supposed bureau chief is just made into another of their many victims. Another tool to be used in the service of Medialens' narrow (but always compassionate) agenda.

And your sophistry over 'anonymous' will not work on me Woofles. Anonymous sources are almost always known to someone who conveys the anonymous message. They're still anonymous.

Comment 07 – ALP October 10 2007, 10:34

Woofles writes:

"There have been all kinds of responses from IBC - even letters to scientists backing the Lancet reports"

I remember one letter in response to a call for "open and constructive debate" from some academics in Australia. It queried why ILCS had been overlooked.

I also remember a private letter sent to Les Roberts (and a few others) which Roberts, without permission, made public via Medialens.

And, er, I think that's about it. Or perhaps there were a few other letters I haven't heard about. Whatever, it doesn't constitute a vigorous, tireless campaign. And prior to Medialens initiating the "debate" in early 2006, you'll find only one IBC response to the Lancet (2004) study - an uncritical, supportive one.

In a word: Medialens are lying again. But it's for the good of humanity.

Comment 08 – Woofles October 10 2007, 16:47

"In a word: Medialens are lying again. But it's for the good of humanity."

Trouble is, ALP, many people reading your accusations of Media Lens mendacity know, for example, that Josh D has been posting many, many messages criticising the Lancet studies/authors as an identifiable IBC co-author across several websites for years. Now he may claim to be acting as an individual, but to many people I know that fully justifies the comment that "IBC have responded vigorously, indeed tirelessly" to the Lancet studies, as ML write. Especially when you consider the other IBC responses on their site, in emails, and so on. You might disagree with it, but it's hardly a lie - it's a very reasonable point of view.

Woofs

Comment 09 – ALP October 10 2007, 17:53

You need to get your facts right, Woofles. Josh didn't join the "debate" until 2 months after the first Medialens alert on IBC. On 2/6/06, the Medialens editors posted the following:

"Over the last five months, IBC's Josh Dougherty (with other close supporters of IBC) has posted a large number of messages on the Media Lens website and elsewhere..."

That was clearly a lie. Medialens had been running their own campaign for 5 months, but for the first 2 months IBC (and Josh) had been silent. In fact, the main criticism at the time was that IBC weren't responding.

And once Josh entered the "debate", he regularly stated he was giving his own opinions, not those of IBC. So if Medialens wish to be accurate (and, God knows, they demand accuracy of everyone else) they should make the distinction between IBC and Josh. It would take only a few words to make this distinction.

And what exactly are you referring to when you write of the "other" IBC responses, Woofles? I think we've already covered them all - you can probably count them on one hand. Not quite the vigorous and tireless campaign that Medialens claim.

Comment 10 – sonny October 10 2007, 19:29

"In fact, the main criticism at the time was that IBC weren't responding."

I was hoping that would come up. First it was "How dare IBC not respond!"

Now it's "How dare IBC respond!"

One gets the impression that this game is a little rigged.

Comment 11 – dav October 10 2007, 20:07

True, Josh did in the beginning say he was writing in his own capacity and not as a spokesperson for IBC, but was seemingly elevated by his vocal appearances on a number of boards, and subsequently (though his appearances did not diminish) co-edited IBC's defence of it's work and it's attack, yes it was, on Lancet 2.

Comment 12 – BBJE October 10 2007, 21:37

Medialens fail badly when it comes to honesty. If someone says they are giving their own opinion, not that of the organisation of which they are a member, you don't attribute those opinions to the organisation. To do so in order to smear the organisation is dishonest.

Any half-decent journalist would know this. If Medialens wish to present themselves as journalists, they'd better adopt some basic journalistic ethics.

Comment 13 – ALP October 11 2007, 09:04

dav writes:

"Josh did in the beginning say he was writing in his own capacity"

Not just "in the beginning", dav. Throughout, Josh said he was giving his own opinions. This point was raised often enough that it couldn't possibly have been missed by Edwards/Cromwell.

And your remark about Josh being "elevated" is typical of the pettiness of Medialens disciples. You'll have to do better than that to defend Medialens's reliance on lies, dav.

Comment 14 – dav October 11 2007, 09:16

"And your remark about Josh being "elevated" is typical of the pettiness of Medialens disciples."

It's true, and you know it.

Comment 15 – Russ Bridger October 11 2007, 09:57

LOL. dav, you have no argument. Your heroes, Dave Spart-Edwards and Dave Spart-Cromwell have been caught lying. You hate that, don't you? You must feel like those cult members who believed that the world was going to end on Tuesday at 3 o'clock, when it just rained instead. ROTFL

Comment 16 – ALP October 11 2007, 10:14

dav, here's a challenge for you. If you're really serious about having an open debate on the points raised here, why don't you post a link to this page at Medialens. Let Edwards/Cromwell and their followers address my allegations (that they have lied/smeared). Presumably they would wish to address them - unless they're irrefutable, in which case they might prefer to ignore them.

Comment 17 – Raoul Djukanovic October 11 2007, 11:29

Er... please take this one to the forum. ;)

Comment 18 – dav October 11 2007, 13:02

Point 1 is a sham, it doesn't matter what the heading is. The title of the piece is 'Iraq conflict claims 34 civilian lives each day as 'anarchy' beckons'.

Point 2 - IBC have publicly criticised both studies.

Point 3 - Essentially yes, it's 'find a death we haven't found'.

Point 4 is speculation.

Point 4 is silly, IBC's comments on what their figure may represent, in terms of a true total, adds to the confusion.

Point 6 is not actually a point.

Point 7 - It's not really a case of 'revealed' vs. 'estimated' as you would like to make out. It could more accurately read: 'a new ORB poll revealed that an estimated 1.2.' This being the most substantial point you've raised thus far. An instance in a sea of other instances.

Point 8 - IBC did 'challenge' Lancet 1.

Point 9 - It is not a 'non-argument'.

Point 10 - We know from Josh's comments, seeing as he is co-author of the Lancet 2 critique, that it goes beyond a healthy scepticism.

Mr. Sloboda, in interview with the BBC, expressed reluctance to exposing these 'errors' in the Lancet studies because it might harm the movement. Apparently it was only when his work had been undermined did he feel it was time to 'expose' the apparent deficiencies. It is a strange turnaround - and to make it on the beeb.

Comment 19 – Russ Bridger October 11 2007, 15:47

ALP wrote:

dav, here's a challenge for you. If you're really serious about having an open debate on the points raised here, why don't you post a link to this page at Medialens.

Not likely to happen. Dav won't risk offending his masters at Medialens. He'd sooner fill this board up with idiotic propaganda.

Comment 20 – ALP October 11 2007, 19:34

Thanks for the link, Raoul. Edwards/Cromwell seem to be making even more of an effort than usual to spread their lies around the net this time. No doubt due to their unhealthy obsession with burying IBC. I think it will backfire, though. Only the true believers will be able to overlook all the errors/distortions.

Comment 21 – Stephen October 15 2007, 10:06

Looks like Robert/ALP had his knuckles well and truly rapped, even after toning down his remarks for NASPIR:

Members should take care with the tone of their disagreements and especially those that can easily be read as imputing sinister intent - 'insinuate', 'misrepresent', 'outright falsehood', 'at best, a gross exaggeration'. This is directly violation of our existing, agreed forum rules.

As for any substance to those remarks, dav has it about right with his Comment 18 above.

NASPIR forum

 

 

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