Wednesday: April 09, 2003

how many versions of the war are there?

When one side has a thousand times more casulties than the other, it's not a war, writes Sven Egil Omdal. He repeats what Europeans have been hearing since the war began: in the US, the war is reported uncritically. Iraqi civilian victims are barely mentioned. Language is twisted till the New York Times titles its interactive specials poetically: "The Ballet Behind Battle. The Choreography of a Mechanized Assault." (username: readanonymously, password: anonymous) The Los Angeles Times, apparently sceptical to the war, only presented a single article on civilian victims in the past week (on April 2), according to Omdal. (Idleworm, on the other hand, has almost nothing but links to reports of civilian tragedy. And a couple of excellent simulations.) I can't find links to the polls they keep referencing in the media here: 2/3 of Americans now believe that the UN found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and 50% think that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11 attacks. Add that to surveillance, Bush's refusal to sign international agreements to fight climate problems, to handle international war crimes and attempted blockage even of an anti-torture treaty, and America's starting to sound way too similar to some of those dystopic sci fi books.

35.76% of yesterday's visitors here to jill/txt were from the United States. Please, tell me: is it true?

Posted by Jill at April 9, 2003 08:53 AM.


On April 10, 2003 11:43 PM, the entry "War, war never changes..." at identity linked to this entry.

Excerpt: Daddy why do people go to war? Once upon a time there were cannibals, now there are no cannibals any more. --Mark Knopfler...... [read more]

If your blogging software doesn't do trackbacks, you can send one manually using Kalsey's SimpleTracks. The Trackback URL for this post is http://huminf.uib.no/~jill/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/178.


On April 9, 2003 10:44 AM Dale Emery wrote:

It's truer than I want it to be. But please know that there are many people here in the US who do not support what our government is doing "in our name." I'm hoping we can find a suitable President 19 months from now, and start to undo the damage.

On April 9, 2003 09:09 PM Alan McCallum wrote:

I sit her trying to talk to you, as honestly as I can. I don't want to be offensive. I really like your blog in general. What I really do not understand is the European dislike for the US.

In Oz sections of the media were giving more credence to Al-Jazeera than the military briefings. Why?

It seems to me that here, and probably in Europe too the really fundamental challenge to our/your way of life has been seriously underestimated.

And it is a mistake to think that people supporting the war do not have anguished nights thinking about casualities. ALL of the casualities. A good case could be made that these casualities might have been much less or even zero if the UN had properly stood up to Saddam years ago.

Anyway I am not going to bore you or rave on, but at some point awful things have to be done. The question is: when?

On April 10, 2003 01:50 AM Alex wrote:

The media-influenced statistics that are appearing may or may not be true.

The primary TV, radio, and print media are doing their best to print the sensation and the drama of "American Troops doing things" often at the expense of fact checking or prudence-- to the point where one day the paper will read, "Chemical weapons found" and the next day: "No chemical weapons found."

It's been going on since well before the war started and it's impossible to read statistics about "The American Public has been misled by the media to such a degree that more than 50% of these suckers believe..." without thinking, "Wait a second! These statistics are coming from the same source that yesterday reported Iraq had surrendered when today it's reporting that the hardest fight is yet to come..."

So what does it mean that quite a few Americans are willing to suspend their rational beliefs long enough to soak up the 6 o'clock news? That they're willing to voice their media-biased opinions for national polls? That they're happy to wave flags and trust the government to do what's right?

I'm not sure it means anything. Maybe it just means that the majority of Americans still believe what mass-media says, that they're happy to talk about their opinions regardless of how those opinions were formed, and that they believe the people in charge know what's best.

Nobody's ever accused Americans of being media-saavy critical thinkers, after all.

On April 10, 2003 01:54 AM Norman wrote:

It helps to understand people's reactions to ANY issue if you keep in mind our species' genetic make up. The "nice" tendencies we evolved were directed at our immediate group. The "nasty" ones were directed at outsiders.
As societies grew in size, we 'educated' people to attach our "nice" attitudes to ever broader categories. In Australia [and I believe elsewhere in Western Society too] optimistic views of human nature have resulted in many of our better "community related" characteristics being weakened.
Meanwhile, we still have plenty of "others" out there to hate, and the US is an especially easy target, for envy, fear, hatred, and/or any other negative emotion.
As an organiser of the Anti Vietnam War Committee in NSW, I was often staggered by fellow "senior" activists' complete lack of knowledge of the factual background. For them, it didn't matter. Anti-US was enough.
It's possibly even worse this time. People cannot understand how someone like me, who has criticised US actions for decades, could "change sides". The possibility that you could base your stand on specific circumstances was beyond them.
Never forget, we're geneticly programmed to think [i.e. believe] not to think [i.e. analyse]

On April 10, 2003 09:02 AM Jill wrote:

Alex, that's a really good point that the reports that X% of Americans believe things that presumably are untrue come from the same unreliable sources...

And Norman, yes, there is a lot of blind hatred of the US that is not founded in anything but belief and a need to hate. In the last peace rally I attended I saw a seven year old girl holding a hand-drawn American flag with a Nazi symbol instead of the stars. I asked her what it meant (nicely, she was a child) and she said "that I don't like bombs". Then I asked her parents and they were clueless. Wellmeaning perhaps but for goodness sake. They seemed to think that Americans are Nazis because, well, you know, the Nazis were kind of involved in a war you know. Stupid hate is incredibly stupid.

I guess I'm torn because while I think that the blanket aggression against America is no better than Bush's black and white aggression against many other countries (as I wrote when I argued against the idea of boycotting American goods) I also find reports of what appears to be happening in America - not just the violent solutions to problems, but the surveillance and the refusal to participate in non-violent international cooperation - extremely disturbing.

But who knows what to believe. All the sources have reason to be untrustworthy.

On April 10, 2003 06:26 PM chuck tryon wrote:

I have to admit that I'm deeply troubled by the actions that have been conducted by the United States in Iraq. What troubles me most is Bush's apparent disregard for the international community, the fact that he feels he has been "called" to deliver "liberty" to Iraq, the Middle East. I recognize that Saddam was/is a tyrant, but I'm also troubled by the increasing tendency toward sacrificing rights to privacy and free speech here in the US, as this article suggests: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/09/international/worldspecial/09TERR.html
The increasing paranoia in the United States seems to contradict Bush's stated claims. The points Alex makes about the mainstream US media are right on target. You'll hear one hour that the US has found possible chemical weapons, but two hours later (in a smaller headline), they'll retract that statement. Just yesterday, a colleague had a student say that he believed Saddam was responsible for 9/11, so I've seen the misinformation machine at work, and it really saddens me. Like the above commenter, I am hoping to see a new president in 2004, but based on the beliefs and values of my students, I'm not that hopeful.

On April 11, 2003 04:21 AM Norman wrote:

You're right about the problem of trusting sources, Jill. But much more information is available than many are willing/able to research. An often overlooked problem is persuading people to examine anything which might weaken their dearly held beliefs.
As a kid, I was often puzzled by friends' obfuscation when their beliefs in God were threatened. Later on, it was colleagues' obstinate refusal to accept the possibility of a flaw in Marxism. In today's world, God & Marx may both be on the ropes; but those who blindly followed them can be just as dogmatic about their new found "faiths".

Post a comment

Remember personal info?


This is an individual post in jill/txt, Jill Walker's blog. There's more on the front page!


Powered by
Movable Type 2.661

Dr Jill Walker, Dept of Humanistic Informatics, University of Bergen