How Is A Priori Synthetic Journalism Possible? – Ask IraqSlogger!

It’s Christmas morning and the house is empty – the boys are all gone for the holiday this year, and TG is still asleep, so I’m surfing a bit.

I really want to start finding things I agree with and can support out there, and will make a stronger effort to do that – that’s my Christmas wish right now.

But even on this morning, there’s a backlog of idiocy that I feel compelled to comment on.

I was hopeful when Eason Jordan started Iraqslogger – I really do think we need a better pipeline into news from and about Iraq, and I believed that this venture had a lot of potential. Maybe it still does.

Maybe not so much.
First, Omar, over at Iraq the Model, tears up a detail- (and error-) rich article about Iraqi media. The clear point of the IraqSlogger article was that the Iraqi media are too intimidated or politically connected to report on the (horrible) truth that is being reported in media abroad.

A few of Omar’s points:

First of all “Babil” was not the official paper of Saddam’s regime. The official papers were basically al-Thawra, al-Jumhoriya and al-Qadisiya while Babil was founded only in the 90’s and it was owned by Uday who presented the paper as an independent paper. Yes of course it was never independent but it was not official either.

Now if you know Arabic and opened the website of Azzaman you will first find yourself in the homepage from which one can navigate to either the Iraqi or International version, and guess what? The top story at the top-middle portion of the page is occupied by the rape and murder story.

The stories do not contradict each other in any way; al-Ya’qubi controls only 15 or so of the 130 seats of the UIA and his opinions frequently conflict with those of other bigger factions of the UIA; in this particular case, al-Ya’qubi thinks no solution can be reached while other members are trying to show-or hope for-otherwise.

…there’s a lot more.

I know, I know, the array of wrong facts doesn’t mean the story is wrong. And in fact, Omar makes on point that may be somewhat supportive of the story.

But is it too much to ask that news ‘analysis’ be analytic, and proceed from fact and observation to conclusion, rather than the other way around?

Reading the level of detail in this story, a typical reader – even someone skeptical like me – will nod and see the accretion of fact as supporting the writer’s conclusions. That is, of course, until the facts are shown to be a tissue of error and falsehood.

Then I go over and read the Iraqslogger feeds, and we get this gem:

Zainab may be one of the 655,000 Iraqis who would be alive today if the Bush administration hadn’t launched its criminally conceived and executed war. Violence caused most of the excess deaths. But 54,000 people died from non-violent causes, such as heart disease, cancer and chronic illness. They were victims of a health care system eviscerated by mismanagement, ill-placed priorities, corruption and civil war.

[empasis added…]

Well, we know where they are coming from, no doubt. One small thing niggled at me…the deaths from non-violent causes were 54,000? If Iraq’s population is 26.7 million (World Factbook) that gives a mortality rate of .5/1000 if the 54,000 is for the four years of the war, or 2/1,000 if it’s just for last year.

For reference’s sake, the mortality rate in Iran, where there is no war, and presumably only a few deaths from violence, is 5.55/1,000.

So I’ll call bullshit on this number, as well as on the choice of adjectives.

If this is what Eason Jordan is hoping to rebuild his reputation on – a tired rehash of Democratic Underground – I’ll predict a failure. But since there’s an inexhaustible demand for facts and stories – made up or real – that prove the dominant narrative about Iraq, he may well get a lot of traffic while he’s doing it.

I’ll be offline for much of the next few days, so if I don’t reply to your comments, please don’t think I’m deliberately ignoring you. Well, I am, but…you know what I mean.

7 thoughts on “How Is A Priori Synthetic Journalism Possible? – Ask IraqSlogger!”

  1. So much for the theory that Jordan was forced to tailor CNN coverage to please Saddam to maintain access to Iraq. Or at least, his arm wasn’t twisted enough to show any marks.

  2. Excerpted and linked at “CENTCOM says AP’s “Iraqi police source” isn’t Iraqi police — Part 25″:CENTCOM says AP’s “Iraqi police source” isn’t Iraqi police — Part 25

  3. I am afraid CNN international edition is so taylored and their editors so concerned in pleasing rulers that it consists simply of a sucession of news about natural disasters, bombs going off in Iraq, world sport and the weather.

    It is voidness incarnate in a TV news channel.

  4. One of the things I have always wondered about were the economics of sending in American reporters from news organizations when there are quite some number of native news reporters in that Nation. A news organization could always preface such reporting as ‘From who works for news agency’ and put in a State-Owned or politically affiliated caveat. And if a news organization were really worried about bias, they could do this thing known as: interview the reporter privately.

    In Iraq there are many privately owned news outlets across the spectrum of video, audio and print media. Some are affiliated with a political party, but the large number of them are not and are privately owned and run. And within those organizations are many individuals who have some bi-lingual skills that would jump at a career enhancing opportunity to get wider audience.

    And while a defender of AP is asking why no one covered the shooting of an AP cameraman, I do wonder why the entire MSM has not covered the deaths of any Iraqi reporters and journalists plying their trade to get information out to their public. Repression of fact-based news reporting is reprehensible no matter what the situation or Nationality, and to *not* cover that in Iraq, Iran, Syria or other Nations that have elements or, indeed, Governments, repressing news reporting is something the MSM should be reporting on actively as a global concern. That is contesting freedom and liberty and it is of no matter if it is from terrorists or repressive governments, it has the same result of stifling information and understanding of the world.

  5. Need a new cause? There’s allegedly an unknown case of political corruption and malfeasance to the tune of $150m in tax and public funds frauds that involves government ministers, universities, banks/stock brokers/lawyers and the private sector, and Revenue Canada’s failure to act (or instruction not to act)in order to protect the perpetrators. One half of the book named “With Malice And Forethought” deals with these issues and the other half deals with military corruption in South Africa (the author has been around working directly with governments and the military). It says fiction, I wouldn’t bank on that as there is far too much technical detail and a factual base that can be proven.

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