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Rhetoric of smear campaigns  
Posted by ALP January 12 2008, 11:29 » Uploaded 12/01/08 13:42  

Professional statisticians/epidemiologists behind, and commenting upon, the major WHO/IFHS study (referred to in the previous thread), like many others, hold Iraq Body Count's work in high esteem. So, I was reminded of a curious remark made by Medialens in one of their nastier attacks on IBC (in a letter they sent to the New Statesman, 16/10/06): "...to our knowledge, IBC has not been able to demonstrate support for its methods from a single professional epidemiologist".

It might throw some light on that remark if I add that:

...to my knowledge, not a single professional epidemiologist denied that Medialens is lying over this issue.

Or, to make it even clearer:

...to my knowledge, Medialens has not been able to demonstrate support from any legislator over the possibility of compassionate wife-beating.

The point about Medialens's statement, and the ones following it, is that while they are technically "true", they are fundamentally dishonest attempts to disseminate untruths. Similar "technically true" (but woefully misleading) statements from Medialens caused some of their followers to spread the falsehood that "IBC ignore non-western media" (I had a very tough time convincing one reader of Medialens's misinformation that this was completely false, despite demonstrating that IBC monitor 72 non-western media sources daily, along with 120 western sources).

...to our knowledge, Medialens has not been able to demonstrate support for its misleading statements on this issue from any refereed scientific journal.

If you want to conduct a smear campaign without taking responsibility for the resulting smears - or if you simply want to stop being gullible - you could do worse than studying these rhetorical devices.

COMMENTS Post comment

 

Comment 01 – Anita January 12 2007, 14:26

Hear, hear! I don't like that rhetoric, it's a politician's sport.

Comment 02 – Russ Bridger January 07 2007, 16:31

yeah, a typically stupid comment from medialens. IBC's method has fuck-all to do with epidemiology, so you wouldn't expect epidemiologists, unsolicited, to pass judgement (positive or negative) on it - unless there's something to prompt it (such as the role of IBC's data in this reasearch that's just been published, pretty well all positive "to my knowledge").

I mean, can Medialens "demonstrate support for its methods" from a single professional coprophagia specialist? No? Shocking. And surprising given how much crap their readers are required to swallow.

Comment 03 – ALP January 13 2007, 09:22

Meanwhile, the rhetoric of smear is starting to heat up over the WHO study estimate of 151,000 violent Iraqi deaths. It was predictable there would be an "outraged" reaction to this from those with an emotional investment in the Lancet study.

The reactions are quite interesting - a mixture of those seeking to attack the study and those seeking to show that despite appearances it's in "agreement" with the Lancet studies.

The latter overlooks the fact that the Lancet 2006 study estimated 600,000 violent deaths (as well as giving a figure for total excess mortality). It's the comparison of this figure with 151,000 estimated violent deaths (from WHO/IFHS) which demonstrates that there could hardly be a bigger disagreement between the studies.

Comment 04 – Russ Bridger January 13 2007, 11:00

LOL. Yeah, the amateur epidemiologists over at medialens and various Lancet-obsessed blogs are masturbating themselves into a frenzy with amateur analyses of figures which show - which must show, in their tiny world - that Lancet actually "agrees" with the new study. The intended climax of this self-abuse is that these fools can convince themselves (but nobody else) that they haven't wasted years of their time defending a turkey. It's a pathetic sight.

Comment 05 – gunnar January 13 2007, 18:51

Hi ALP

Pot, kettle black, - again.

(I had a very tough time convincing one reader of Medialens's misinformation that this was completely false, despite demonstrating that IBC monitor 72 non-western media sources daily, along with 120 western sources)

ALP, we have been through the media coverage exercise of IBC (Non-Western vs Western) last year over on POV.

IBC gives a long list of media the apparently cover, when it comes down to it they actually only quote a few different sources in their database. Nothing wrong with this, but the perceptions you and IBC are giving are not warranted - and, ALP, you know this!

Here the list from last autumn again.

Source % Cum
1 Reuters 15.5% 15%
2 Associated Press 12.7% 28%
3 Agence France-Presse 9.4% 38%
4 Washington Post 8.7% 46%
5 Al Sharqiyah TV 5.8% 52%
6 Cable News Network 4.7% 57%
7 Los Angeles Times 4.6% 61%
8 Voices of Iraq 3.7% 65%
9 New York Times 3.6% 69%
10 Kuwaiti News Agency 3.6% 72%
11 National Iraqi News Agency 3.4% 76%
12 McClatchy Newspapers 3.4% 79%
13 Deutsche Presse-Agentur 2.2% 81%
14 Xinhua News Agency 2.0% 83%
15 MoH 1.9% 85%
16 Morgue 0.9% 86%
17 Al Jazeera (Web) 0.8% 87%
18 Middle East Online 0.8% 88%
19 The Independent 0.8% 89%
20 The Guardian 0.7% 89%
21 BBC 0.6% 90%

90% of citations come from above 21 sources.

Comment 06 – ALP January 14 2007, 11:04

gunnar wrote:
"when it comes down to it they actually only quote a few different sources in their database.".

That's completely wrong. For example, on one day alone (2/10/06), IBC compiled material from agencies based in 7 countries — USA, UK, France, Kuwait, Iraq, Germany, China. Ten reports came from Iraqi press and media agencies. http://www.iraqbodycount.org/analysis/[...]

You're right, gunnar, we've been through this before. But you seem to have forgotten the outcome of that previous discussion. You also seem to have forgotten what well-informed people such as Raoul have told you on this matter:

Total BS, gunnar. Reuters and AP may be Western-owned, and in the former case in hock to the global banking complex (which supplies 90+ percent of their income), but their reporters in Iraq are mostly Iraqis and their reports are frequently what local media rely on for daily news. [Raoul Djukanovic - posted 19/9/07]

Frankly I don't feel inclined to run through it all again with people who show all the signs of being either slow-learners or wilfully obtuse. If you must continue your Medialens-programmed goal of picking fault with IBC, try posting to Medialens instead.

Comment 07 – Mordecai January 14 2007, 12:42

These "media critics" are pestering Iraq Body Count due a sense of frustration I suspect. They don't get anywhere complaining to the powerful, and this makes them feel weak, so they take it out on a small group of activists instead. Then they can feel a sense of power. The power of getting some results for once, even if it's just to smear people's reputations.

Comment 08 – gunnar January 14 2007, 13:14

Anna, I know you can do better,

Here is the start of your reply - if you could let me know how to get parts into italic I can make it more readable :-)

"gunnar wrote:
"when it comes down to it they actually only quote a few different sources in their database.".

That's completely wrong."

Please let me know why you think this is completely wrong. The statistics above are compiled from the IBC database counting all sources provided. In other words, every source provided by IBC has been counted, including the incidents when more than two sources were cited.

90% of the source material are based on the 21 news agencies, papers, stations, etc. See above.

Please demonstrate why this is completely wrong.

I have not saved the thread on POV. However, since you still have Raouls message you may still have a copy of the entire thread, that you could link to. You could remind everyone of the outcome of that particular discussion, Anna. Perhaps yourself too!

BTW, Raouls message does not change to point I have taken you up on; the published range of sources used on the IBC website and the actual number of sources used, which is quite different.

One last thing, please do me one favour. Could you please learn to write one entry without bringing ML into the discussion. Please, Anna, please. It is getting rather boring!

Comment 09 – Woofles January 14 2007, 14:19

ALP, you quote Raoul:

Total BS, gunnar. Reuters and AP may be Western-owned, and in the former case in hock to the global banking complex (which supplies 90+ percent of their income), but their reporters in Iraq are mostly Iraqis and their reports are frequently what local media rely on for daily news. [Raoul Djukanovic - posted 19/9/07]

The reality, anyway, is that IBC's database is based on a uniquely awful media source:

"The fact that both good and bad news stories from Iraq have been under-reported suggest that the problem is more systemic. Iraq is the most difficult conflict in any of our lifetimes to report. Colin Freeman, the Sunday Telegraph's chief foreign correspondent, describes it as a 'uniquely dangerous and chaotic environment' - since the war started four-and-a-half-years ago, 235 journalists have died. Much normal reporting is simply impossible.

"The scale of the difficulties that journalists face was illustrated by a recent report from the Pew Research Centre's Project for Excellence in Journalism. A survey of journalists covering Iraq for 29 different news organisations - all but one US-based - found that 57% of those who use Iraqi staff had had a staff member killed or kidnapped in the past year; 82% admit that Iraqis do at least half of their street reporting; while 87% report that these staff can not identify themselves as journalists or carry the tools of the trade. Two-thirds of the journalists surveyed are concerned about this reliance on Iraqi reporters who often have little journalistic background. Yet 87% think that at least half of Baghdad is too dangerous for western journalists; 77% have private security for their bureaux; and 73% are accompanied by armed guards when they go out on reporting trips. Considering these obstacles, it is unsurprising that 62% think that the media's coverage of the circumstances of ordinary Iraqis has only been fair or poor." ('Media: The land the press forgot: It is the biggest foreign story of the year - but since Tony Blair's departure both good and bad news from Iraq has failed to make the front pages,' James Forsyth, The Guardian, December 10, 2007)

W

Comment 10 – Raoul Djukanovic January 14 2007, 15:44

Woofles,

If the point is that deaths are systematically underreported because no one really knows what's going on, why don't you ask ML why they invented the Western sources fallacy to bamboozle people with (instead of simply quoting the IBC FAQ about "many if not most" deaths being unrecorded by the press).

Gunnar still seems to be labouring under the delusion that there's some putative "other" source out there, reporting reams of deaths that these "uniquely awful media" on his hitlist willfully ignore.

I wonder why that is?

Comment 11 – Raoul Djukanovic January 14 2007, 15:56

Er... the question mark ought to have ended the first paragraph, not the third one, like, is it?

Comment 12 – gunnar January 14 2007, 15:56

Hi Raoul,

All I do is taking the IBC data and analyse what they actually base the reports on. As stated above, 21 sources account for 90% of all sources used.

When Anna writes

(I had a very tough time convincing one reader of Medialens's misinformation that this was completely false, despite demonstrating that IBC monitor 72 non-western media sources daily, along with 120 western sources)

she is misleading herself (since she knows better) and anyone else. When IBC states to monitor close to 200 sources but only cite 20 of them in 90% of cases, than this becomes a bit of an empty statement. That's all. If IBC wants to use only 10 sources, that is fine with me, as long that this is pretty clear from their website, official statements, etc. It is their database and they can do with it whatever they want.

Raoul, you state:

"Gunnar still seems to be labouring under the delusion that there's some putative "other" source out there, reporting reams of deaths that these "uniquely awful media" on his hitlist willfully ignore."

What makes you write this?

Comment 13 – Woofles January 14 2007, 19:21

Raoul commented: "If the point is that deaths are systematically underreported because no one really knows what's going on..."

Yes, the deaths are being massively underreported, as you'd expect, very obviously, in a "uniquely dangerous and chaotic environment" for journalists.

And: "Gunnar still seems to be labouring under the delusion that there's some putative 'other' source out there, reporting reams of deaths that these 'uniquely awful media' on his hitlist willfully ignore"

What's putative about the 'other' source?:

"A review of Iraq deaths reported by 4 major U.S. newspapers found that IBC missed more than 1 of every 10 deaths reported by the news media. The separate and soon to be published study from Columbia University researchers also found that the majority of violent deaths in a phone sample from Baghdad were not recorded by IBC." (http://www.jhsph.edu/refugee/research[...])

W

Comment 14 – Raoul Djukanovic January 15 2007, 12:20

In a conflation of the job of the journalist with that of mortuary registrar, Woofles wrote:

Yes, the deaths are being massively underreported, as you'd expect, very obviously, in a "uniquely dangerous and chaotic environment" for journalists.

It's not necessarily obvious at all - journalists don't go to the scene of every death in any country, but they frequently report what people tell them is happening. Anyhow, to return to the point, why wasn't Woofles haranguing Media Lens for concocting a spurious story about Western sources (which they now seem to have dropped)? If there was any reason for them doing so other than proforma Propaganda Modelism, I missed it.

Who conducted the review you cite, Woofles? Is the evidence available online? As for Roberts' claim about the forthcoming Columbia study, it will be interesting to read it (for all that it doesn't seem to be particularly earth-shattering). Nevertheless, I think we can safely conclude that the likes of Woofles aren't motivated (any more than Les Roberts) by an interest in ensuring IBC tallies as many reported deaths as possible.

If Gunnar can't already see what my point is, or why I'm making it, then I guess that's up to him. For the sake of clarity, the question is whether IBC is neglecting to tally deaths by relying on particular media sources, not whether it tends to cite the sources that report more deaths than the others (not least because agencies don't have limited numbers of pages, or a conviction that most of them need sexing up).

 

 

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