NOAM LIKES THOSE NUMBERS

Today Tonight, the Seven network’s version of a current affairs program, ran an item recently that mentioned the number of dead in Iraq: 100,000. No attribution was offered, nor was the figure described as an estimate. The Lancet‘s dubious study, released prior to the US election for maximum effect, has become truth – at least for research-averse television journalists.

Repetition will do that to people. Upon its release, that study received notice from Washington Post, The Guardian, the International Herald Tribune, the Melbourne Age, CNN, the Sydney Morning Herald, the BBC, the Boston Globe, ABC news, CBC, Channel News Asia, MSNBC, the Daily Star, the Economist, the New Zealand Herald … well, everywhere.

So how does Noam Chomsky describe this massive coverage, and the subsequent assumption by so many that 100,000 is an accurate number?

The way the media treated this Lancet report is kind of interesting. I mean it was mentioned, it’s not that you couldn’t find it. But it was either ignored or downplayed.

It’d be interesting to learn Noam’s definition of simple words like “ignored” and “underplayed”. It’s bad enough that he struggles with “dictatorship” and “dissent” …

(Via contributor J.F. Beck)

Posted by Tim B. on 01/03/2005 at 12:54 AM
    1. Can you give us an email address to lodge complaints at Seven, and re-run some links to critical appraisals of the Lancet figure. Emails of the journalists and presenters involved would be helpful.

      Posted by Rafe on 01/03 at 01:58 AM • permalink

 

    1. Good job on refuting the Lancet study there, Tim.  You don’t want to believe it so you call it “dubious”.  Just who is research-averse here?

      Posted by Tim Lambert on 01/03 at 02:33 AM • permalink

 

    1. We really must get the team who produced the study published in the Lancet to do one on mortality in Indonesia.

      Following their logic we could;
      1). Survey people living in coastal regions and ask them how many people had died, using as small a sample as possible,
      2). Extrapolate this into coverage of the whole country, ignoring the difference between coastal and inland regions, and thus come up with an ‘accurate’ casualty figure.

      If anyone disagrees, then;
      1). Say they don’t know enough about statistics to offer an opinion,
      2). Ignore any casualty counts from hospitals and morgues as being ‘unreliable’,
      3). Keep repeating the figures over and over again until media outlets assume they are true and accept them.

      Posted by Wilbur on 01/03 at 02:51 AM • permalink

 

    1. I guess that’s what they mean by the term the ‘bleeding heart’ Left. There’s a sickening bloodlust component to their psyche, they can’t seem to get enough of the stuff and appear to revel in it.  Collectively, they seem to be willing the number of dead in Iraq ever higher with nothing more than sheer hope, just so they can score a few points, all else, human life included, is expendable.
      How the Left must lament that all those poor, murdered, little Beslan kiddies couldn’t in some way be exploited and used in their obsessive efforts to whack America, the way the tsunami victims have been. As such, these tragic dead children were promptly, coldly and ruthlessly abandoned. I’d rather throw myself on the mercy of an evil ‘neo-con’ any day rather than take my chances with those unscrupulous frauds!

      Posted by Brian on 01/03 at 02:54 AM • permalink

 

    1. Wilbur, the Lancet team took a random sample from the entire country.  It is dishonest of you to pretend otherwise.

      Posted by Tim Lambert on 01/03 at 03:10 AM • permalink

 

    1. (Reference to the original study)
      http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/507991/

      Chris Suellentrop (Right-wing tool at Slate)
      http://slate.msn.com/id/2108887/

      Parapundit (and see additional comments, pro and con):
      http://www.parapundit.com/archives/002431.html

      Michael Fumento (with bad statistics)
      http://www.fumento.com/military/lancet.html

      Weekly Standard:
      http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/858gwbza.asp

      Posted by F451 on 01/03 at 03:13 AM • permalink

 

    1. According to Fred Kaplan:

      Readers who are accustomed to perusing statistical documents know what the set of numbers in the parentheses means. For the other 99.9 percent of you, I’ll spell it out in plain English�which, disturbingly, the study never does. It means that the authors are 95 percent confident that the war-caused deaths totaled some number between 8,000 and 194,000. (The number cited in plain language�98,000�is roughly at the halfway point in this absurdly vast range.)

      http://slate.msn.com/id/2108887/

      In the linked interview Chomsky refers to the estimate range as 8,000 – 200,000. Tim is correct in referring to the study’s figures as “dubious”.

      What’s of interest to me is the way Chomsky glides past the 800,00 deaths in Rwanda. Surely the professor could figure some way to blame the US for the massacre.

      Posted by J F Beck on 01/03 at 04:28 AM • permalink

 

    1. dsquared explains what is wrong with with most of the criticisms of the Lancet study in this post.  For the Weekly Standard one, see here.

      Posted by Tim Lambert on 01/03 at 04:44 AM • permalink

 

    1. Dr. Robert Lichter, President of the Statistical Assessment Service, George Mason University, thinks the Lancet study is dubious.

      http://www.stats.org/record.jsp?type=news&ID=481

      Over to you Mr Lambert.

      Posted by J F Beck on 01/03 at 05:05 AM • permalink

 

    1. J F Beck, for Lichter, see here.

      Posted by Tim Lambert on 01/03 at 06:36 AM • permalink

 

    1. Sometimes I wonder if Tim only posts on the Lancet study to draw our one-issue moonbat Tim Lambert out of the woodworks…it works perfectly every time.

      Posted by PW on 01/03 at 07:01 AM • permalink

 

    1. Lambert, the 98,000 figure is not even remotely a fact. Today Tonight apparently presented it as such. That is not journalism. End of story.

      Posted by Crispytoast on 01/03 at 08:29 AM • permalink

 

    1. Lambert

      It’s statistical tripe.  The casualty ratio in war is about 7 wounded to every 1 death.  Where are the 700,000 wounded?  Where are the mass graves?  100,000 bodies just don’t disappear.

      It seems that you’re simply incapable of disbelieving it because it neatly fits into your worldview.  Do you jack off at the thought of 100,000 Iraqi deaths caused by eeeeeeevvvilllll MerriiiKKKaaannss?

      Posted by murph on 01/03 at 10:30 AM • permalink

 

    1. Sometimes these Iraq stats remind me of the old joke about Polish airliner crash (a Polish airliner crashed into a cemetary yesterday.  Rescue workers have so far recovered 1200 bodies…).

      Posted by Mr. Blue on 01/03 at 11:35 AM • permalink

 

    1. “Wilbur, the Lancet team took a random sample from the entire country. It is dishonest of you to pretend otherwise.”

      Random? Is that why they left out the sample they didn’t like?

      Posted by Wilbur on 01/03 at 12:47 PM • permalink

 

    1. Here is some refutation, offered by yours truly, Mr. Lambert:

      http://randombirkel.blogspot.com/2004/10/study-by-british-medical-journal.html

      http://randombirkel.blogspot.com/2004/10/lancet-continued-from-below.html

      http://randombirkel.blogspot.com/2004/10/okay-here-is-some-more.html

      These were published within hours of the Lancet’s posting of its results and make many of the same criticisms as others above, with a couple of exceptions. For example, were you aware the Lancet used an infant mortality rate 500% that used by UNICEF only a year or so before. That tidbit is in the final update, all the way at the bottom of the first post listed above. And that The Nation magazine criticized the Lancet’s methodology RE: infant mortality during the Clinton administration.

      Perhaps the Lancet was right. But they darned well didn’t prove it. Not even close. It was just another MSM cudgel against Bush during the election. Good work that.

      Posted by Birkel on 01/03 at 07:42 PM • permalink

 

  1. I saw a program some years ago about research into some primates’ language recognition or at least their learning capacity. The star performer chimpanzee was named – by the researchers – Nim Chimpsky.

    Posted by blogstrop on 01/03 at 07:54 PM • permalink