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, IBCs [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 IBCs data from Iraq sent
this email to a colleague last year (the latter asked us to
preserve the senders 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
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
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 IBCs self-described task does
indeed require only care and literacy, does not
the task of challenging peer-reviewed science published by some
of the worlds leading epidemiologists require very much
more? Does it not, in fact require statistical analysis
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,
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