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Inept Medialens get it wrong again
Posted by Russ Bridger on December 8 2007, 14:22 » Uploaded 08/12/07 15:05  

Astonishingly sloppy. The website, Medialens, writes (in its latest "alert"):

Guardian journalist Maggie O’Kane later conceded of Kosovo: “this is a tale of how to tell lies and win wars, and how we, the media, were harnessed like beach donkeys and led through the sand to see what the British and US military wanted us to see in this nice clean war”. (O’Kane, The Guardian, December 16, 1995)

In fact O'Kane was writing about the 1991 Gulf war, not about Kosovo. (The Kosovo conflict occurred well after 1995, the date when O'Kane was writing).

One of the Medialens editors explains: "Somehow I got confused and slotted that quote in the part on Kosovo."

They seem to get "confused" quite often. Professor Marc Herold (as you'll recall from previous threads) had to correct them recently on a few other points they got "confused" over.

And they're "confused" about studies into Iraqi deaths (eg IBC & Lancet).

COMMENTS Post comment


Comment 01 – BBJE December 8 2007, 16:01

The medialens editors elsewhere write: "For my money, that alert is what Media Lens is all about".

What, sloppiness? To see how careless this was, see their source, posted in their own forum, which shows - right under their noses - that O'Kane was writing about 1991 Iraq:

In the lead-up to the war, the Guardian reported stories of grotesque Iraqi atrocities, atrocities that Matthew Engel agreed ‘in other circumstances would seem absurd, but here seemed all-too believable’ (1991). In fact they were just absurd, manufactured by the military. After the event, journalist Maggie O’Kane conceded ‘this is a tale of how to tell lies and win wars, and how we, the media, were harnessed like beach donkeys and led through the sand to see what the British and US military wanted us to see in this nice clean war.’ (Guardian 16 December 1995)

Can you imagine if one of their favourite journo targets made this careless an error? You'd never hear the end of their amateur psychoanalysis of that carelessness.

Comment 02 – ALP December 8 2007, 18:55

Perhaps more significant than this carelessness (after all, everyone makes mistakes) is the comments made by Medialens about humanising victims.

They are right to compare the humanising of 9/11 victims with the lack of humanising of Iraqi victims. What's interesting then is that the study which perhaps does most, in a systematic rather than anecdotal way, to humanise Iraqi victims (as well as providing a running tally) - Iraq Body Count - is the study least favoured by Medialens (in fact they've said IBC's work is "irrelevant").

But Medialens says of the Iraqi victims: "These people do matter - they're real!".

Precisely. Of the main studies, IBC is the only one which details the deaths of real individuals (as opposed to producing statistical extrapolations based on samples). And they don't just provide a few anecdotal examples. Wherever details are available (age, occupation, family details, etc of victims) IBC provides these - cross-linked with incidents from their massive database. This provides the raw data for analyses of the human impacts of the invasion and occupation.

But despite their comments about humanising victims, Medialens seem interested only in the studies which estimate the highest number of deaths. Thus they smear IBC's work as "pro-war propaganda" and "irrelevant" for not producing a higher count - presumably forgetting the humanising aspect of IBC's work.

Indeed, Medialens's lastest anti-IBC piece castigated IBC for linking to a newspaper report which used IBC's data precisely for the purpose of humanising Iraqi victims (see the bottom section of the newspaper article, "Victims' stories"). IBC linked to this article explicitly for this reason. Medialens ignored this and wrote: "It is striking that IBC link to a high-profile media report that so badly misrepresents its figures" - a complete misrepresentation of the purpose of the link.

Comment 03 – Steven Andersen December 9 2007, 13:29

re the point about humanising victims - the "Madeleine" story has captured the public's imagination (or so we're led to believe) because it's made into a "human" story. Statistically it's just one crime.

Contrast the Lancet figure (655,000 deaths), as the BBC news reported it: a number with little humanising context. It was news for a day but no "massive public outcry" as a result. The depressing conclusion is that maybe big numbers alone don't sway those who aren't already swayed. The lesson for antiwar campaigners is to put more time and energy into providing humanising contexts in priority to merely publicising largest estimated numbers of deaths (ideally both though).

Comment 04 – Paul Harris December 9 2007, 15:02

Aunty Beeb and ITV refused to show the images of Iraqi kids with their faces blown to pieces, and the only images you ever see of life in Iraq or other middle east countries is nutters firing bullets into the sky and burning effigies of Bush in the street. John and Jane Sunreader sitting at home don't ever see anything more than cardbord cut out stereotypes. Yep, the more humanising the better.

Comment 05 – Ian Cresswell December 9 2007, 15:52

IMHO, you can only explain an error like this- I don't think they were being mendacious or they wouldn't have corrected themselves- though their apparent lack of familiarity with the source material.

It's extraordinary that they managed to convince themselves that Maggie O'Kane really did have the views they quoted her as having. Unless that is they don't know anything much about her opinions or career.

After all, as the Editors themselves quote her as saying in their post

--Somehow I got confused and slotted that quote in the part on Kosovo. I think I had it in mind that these comments were an extension of what O'Kane +did+ say about Kosovo:

"But Campbell should acknowledge that it was the press reporting of the Bosnian war and the Kosovar refugee crisis that gave his boss the public support and sympathy he needed to fight the good fight against Milosevic." (Quoted, Charles Glass, 'Hacks versus flacks', Z Magazine, August 1, 1999)

It also fitted perfectly because in fact the media were led like donkeys over Kosovo.



They are still confused. Maggie O'Kane is claiming (rightly or wrongly) that the media led the politicians over Yugoslavia, not the other way round.

Comment 06 – Ged December 9 2007, 19:20

One of the medialens posters ("lenin") has said it was a "small typo". Wishful thinking. They've now removed the whole paragraph quoted above.




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