Friday, June 25, 2004

The Bush Terror Report: feeding the ignorant masses

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Errors on Terror
Among other things, the center took over the job of preparing the government's annual report on "Patterns of Global Terrorism." The latest report, released in April, claimed to document a sharp fall in terrorism. "You will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage declared. But this week the government admitted making major errors. In fact, in 2003 the number of significant terrorist attacks reached a 20-year peak.

How could they get it so wrong? The answer tells you a lot about the state of the "war on terror."

Credit for uncovering the report's errors goes to Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist, and David Laitin, a Stanford political scientist, who are studying patterns of terrorism. Mr. Krueger tells me that as soon as they looked at the latest report, they knew something was wrong.

All of the supposed decline in terrorism, they quickly saw, resulted from a fall in the number of "nonsignificant" events, which Mr. Krueger and Mr. Laitin say "are counted with a squishy definition." Even the original report showed significant attacks — a much less squishy category — rising to a 20-year high. And the list of significant attacks ended on Nov. 11, 2003, but there were several major terrorist incidents after that date. Sure enough, including these and other omitted attacks more than doubled the estimated 2003 death toll...

... Mr. Krueger, a forgiving soul, believes that the report was botched through simple incompetence. Maybe — though we can be sure that if the statistics had told the administration something it didn't want to hear, they would have been carefully checked. By the way, while the report's tables and charts have been fixed, the revised summary still gives little hint of how bad the data really are.

One of the key memes Strauss taught the Neo-Cons was that the masses were ill-suited to the truth. Better to tell them what will best serve their true interests, interests that only their betters can know.

This meme runs deep in the Bush Administration. They communicate stories to reassure the masses, while preserving "truth" for those (all loyalists) best able to handle it.

Al Gore would say this isn't very democratic. He'd be right.

No comments: