Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for December 9th, 2006

When “oversight” means “overlook”

Posted by metaphorical on 9 December 2006

If you enjoyed the Orwellian absurdity of Newt Gingrich using an event dedicated to the freedom of speech to argue that we scale back our right to free speech in the “war” on terrorism, recently mentioned here, then you’ll be a big fan of a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that apparently sees its job as that of explaining to the public that no oversight is needed. This, despite the NSA’s unknown number of warrantless wiretaps an unknown number of American citizens. Wired News reports:

Bush ‘Privacy Board’ Just a Gag

WASHINGTON — The first public meeting of a Bush administration “civil liberties protection panel” had a surreal quality to it, as the five-member board refused to answer any questions from the press, and stonewalled privacy advocates and academics on key questions about domestic spying.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which met Tuesday, was created by Congress in 2004 on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, but is part of the White House, which handpicked all the members. Though mandated by law in late 2004, the board was not sworn in until March 2006, due to inaction on the part of the White House and Congress.

The three-hour meeting, held at Georgetown University, quickly established that the panel would be something less than a fierce watchdog of civil liberties. Instead, members all but said they view their job as helping Americans learn to relax and love warrantless surveillance.

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When is a murder not a murder? When it happens in Iraq

Posted by metaphorical on 9 December 2006

Does the American media overreport bad news coming out of Iraq? It’s hard to say, when the main source of information underreports the bad news. The magazine Editor & Publisher notes that

the Iraq Study Group report [asserts] “there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq” by the U.S. military. “The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases,” the report continues.

Looking at one day, the report found undercounting of violent attacks by more than 1000 percent.

“A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack,” the report explained.” If we cannot deter mine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn’t hurt U.S. personnel doesn’t count. For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence [officially] reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence.

“Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals.”

Orwell would put it more strongly: Whoever controls the news controls the policy.

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