Politics, Technology, and Language

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

Archive for February 5th, 2007

Pilotless drone

Posted by metaphorical on 5 February 2007

An angry reader calls the SF Chronicle to complain about a photo caption, and the paper puts it up as a podcast, with no apologies or explanations. Pretty classy, and hilarious.

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Was there a massacre of innocents in Najaf?

Posted by metaphorical on 5 February 2007

Journalists can handle ambiguity, but we don’t do well with uncertainty and vagueness. Case in point: we don’t know what happened in Najaf the other day, so we’re just not writing about it very much in the U.S., and when we do, we’re not doing so very thoughtfully.

The Asia Times is reporting a “massacre”:

Pilgrims massacred in the ‘battle’ of Najaf

By Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

NAJAF, Iraq – Iraqi government statements over the killing of hundreds of Shi’ites in an attack on Sunday stand exposed by independent investigations carried out by Inter Press Service (IPS).

Conflicting reports had arisen on how and why a huge battle broke out around the small village of Zarqa, just a few kilometers northeast of the Shi’ite holy city Najaf, which is 90km south of Baghdad.

One thing certain is that when the smoke cleared, more than 200 people lay dead after more than half a day of fighting on Sunday. A US helicopter was shot down, killing two soldiers. Twenty-five members of the Iraqi security forces were also killed.

Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now coverage uses the “massacre” word, but with a question mark: “Battle in Najaf: Is US-Iraqi Claim of Gunfight with Messianic Cult Cover-up for a Massacre?” The show did an extended report last week, which you can take in via video, audio, or transcript, but it doesn’t have anything much more conclusive than the lede:

There are new doubts about the US and Iraqi claim that the hundreds of people killed in a battle in Najaf over the weekend were members of a messianic cult. Journalist Patrick Cockburn of the London Independent reports the official story might actually be a cover-up for a massacre.

The general idea is this: the official story is that a religous cult attacked an Army checkpoint, and the Army fought back.

Cockburn says the “cult” was a group of pilgrims and may have gotten itself involved by accident:

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