Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Some numbers matter, some don't

Journalists like to hide behind numbers and claim that numbers are objective and they don't lie. They may not lie but journalists damn well do decide what to emphasize and what to ignore. If you want an example of how that works, note this CBS News story by David Martin, this ABC news story by Jake Tapper, and we could go on and on but those are two of the better reporters and if that's what the best are doing . . . . Are they lying about the number of troops in Afghanistan? No, they're hiding behind that number (fed to them by the Pentagon, no reporter did the actual work on the numbers) and avoiding telling you about other numbers.

The most important number this week, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, is 171. That's the number of US service members who have died in the Iraq War since Barack was sworn in as President of the United States. "We want to end the war! And we want to end it now!" He hollered that often as tent revivals causing damp panties for many men and women. Now? End the illegal war now? He's been in office 16 months and the Iraq War drags on. The 'peace' candidate took office 16 months ago and has not ended the Iraq War, has continued it and is responsible for those 171 deaths.

Now the Pentagon didn't supply that number. To get it, journalists would have to do what I did which was find out the death toll number when Barack was sworn in and then do the math. That may be more work than many of the well coiffed personalities are capable of. And certainly the fact the Pentagon isn't supplying that number makes it actual news -- as opposed to repeating and refurbishing the government's many press releases. Here's another number that matters but isn't being posted all over the place: The total number of US service members killed in Iraq to 4400. The 4400 number was noted by Hari Sreenivasan on last night's The NewsHour (PBS).

The ease with which journalists rush to do the Pentagon's bidding (often out of laziness -- so much easier to file numbers the Pentagon gives you than to actually do the math yourself) makes it more jaw dropping that, as Walter Pincus (Washington Post) reports this morning, the Pentagon is still working propaganda operations within the US:

"It is essential to the success of the new Iraqi government and the USF-I [U.S. Forces-Iraq] mission that both communicate effectively with our strategic audiences (i.e. Iraqi, pan-Arabic, international, and U.S. and USF-I audiences) to gain widespread acceptance of core themes and messages," according to the pre-solicitation notice for a civilian contractor or contractors to provide "strategic communication management services" there.
Calling strategic communications "a vital component of operations in Iraq," the notice says one goal is "to effectively build U.S. decision makers' and the public's understanding of Iraq's current situation, future and strategic importance as a stabilizing presence and ally against terrorism in the Middle East."

For propaganda the CIA weighed utilizing in the lead up to the Iraq War, click here for Jeff Stein's report.

Since Saturday, three US service members have been announced dead in Iraq. DoD identifies one of them: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. Stanley J. Sokolowski, III, 26, of Ocean, N.J. died May 20 in Kirkuk, Iraq, in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. For more information, the media may contact the Fort Bliss public affairs office at 915-568-4505."

Meanwhile Bryan Mims (WRAL -- link has text and video) reports on a video apparently shot in Iraq -- by someone with the US military -- which was posted on Facebook May 14th by Robert Rodriguez and has the voice of a US male questioning two small children, apparently Iraqis, who do not understand English and making derogatory comments about sexuality and calling them terrorists.

The following community sites and Antiwar.com updated last night:

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues to highlight the economy and finances in a number of videos this month. Click here to be taken to the DPC video page.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.