Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Tim Blair cherry-picks for cheap point-scoring

It would now appear to be okay for conservative and right-wing pundits to cite the Iraq Body Count (IBC) project as a realistic tally of Iraqi war dead. At least, that’s the impression one might take from a post at Tim Blair’s blog, in which he favourably cites IBC figures.

Then again, it may simply be a case of Blair cherry-picking a convenient number in order to score a cheap political point off one of his perennial hate-objects, Kevin Rudd, for “his repeated support for the bogus Lancet figure.”

Blair has, of course, consistently held the Lancet (Johns Hopkins) study on Iraq war mortality to be “bogus”. But if the Lancet figure is bogus, what might Blair make of Iraq Body Count’s tally, given the IBC people themselves openly concede:

Iraq Body Count (IBC) compiles data from news reports to provide a baseline number of confirmed fatalities, but it should be noted that many deaths will likely go unreported or unrecorded by officials and media.

IBC’s tally, then, will understate the death toll virtually as a design effect of their methodology. It may also be noted that IBC, unlike the Johns Hopkins study, does not attempt to capture ‘excess deaths’ from flow-on health effects of the war.

So, maybe Rudd’s support for the Lancet study is not so wide of the mark after all.

Further, perhaps it’s Blair himself who “needs a correction.” Being opinion editor for a major daily newspaper, he should at least have some competence on the topic over which he’s dissing on a public figure.

But let’s face it, such considerations are decidedly off Blair’s radar. It’s fairly evident by now that he couldn’t give a rat’s arse what the actual Iraq war civilian toll might be.

Blair’s blogging activity has always been heavily reliant on name-calling and schadenfreude. ‘Disinformation’ is, however, perhaps too strong a word for what Blair actually does, since no-one with any sense would trust in the veracity of someone who notoriously has no interest in fairness.

And anyway, from his readers’ perspective, his function has always been to pad out a ‘conservative’ narrative with a kind of quasi-cool schtik. It’s a vaudeville, more than anything else.

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