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“Grim milestone” hyped

Posted by Richard on December 26, 2006

A couple of weeks ago, I warned you that the 90% of American media outlets that give the rest a bad name were preparing to hype another Iraq death toll milestone — "the momentous occasion when the number of Americans killed by al Qaeda is eclipsed by the number killed because of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Halliburton/oil." Editor and Publisher had predicted it would happen by Dec. 19, and I’m sure many in the MSM were chagrined as Christmas approached, and the toll in Iraq remained short of the 9/11 toll of 2,973.

On Christmas Day, it happened. Within minutes of learning about death number 2,974, AP had a story out, updated several times since as the toll climbed further:

NEW YORK (AP) – In a span of a few hours, 2,973 people were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In a span of 45 months, the number of American troops killed in Iraq exceeded that grim toll as the war continues.

The milestone in Iraq came on Christmas, nearly four years after the war began, according to a count by The Associated Press.

Based on a quick check with Google News, I’m guessing the story has appeared over a thousand times on media websites alone. The latest AP rewrites have buried the "grim milestone" aspects deeper in the story, maybe in response to criticism. Charles Johnson called the first version "disgusting and ghoulish beyond belief," and suggested:

Write to the Associated Press and tell them what you think about this.

I suspect I was correct in predicting that no one would mention how long it took for the number of combat deaths in World War II to eclipse the number killed at Pearl Harbor (2,403). I actually did a bit of research on this, but with not much success. I found casualty numbers for specific major combat operations, and a Navy document showing casualties by year, but that’s too coarse. My best guess is that U.S. combat deaths in the Pacific theater surpassed the December 7 toll some time between the Battle of the Java Sea in late February and the fall of Bataan in early April — so, roughly 3 or 4 months.

I doubt if anyone noticed at the time. In 1942, American journalists were too busy reporting actual war news. Plus, they were on our side.

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3 Responses to ““Grim milestone” hyped”

  1. C said

    I appreciate your insights and think your points are valid. My spouse, a Marine, knows that there is a terrible underreporting of the news (in fact 90% of the good stuff does NOT get reported because it is, as reporters have said, “Not news”.) The bottom line is will the story sell. The profit is found in sensationalism and sadly, death tolls seem to sell. The public deserves better.

  2. Doug said

    Exactly! Consider this a manual trackback – I had, before reading your article, illustrated something similar. But you captured the essence of the post precisely.

  3. Anonymous said

    Thank you both for your comments. And, C, please extend my thanks to your spouse for serving.

    I think there’s more to it than trying to profit from sensationalism and death tolls, though. The same things sold in the 40s — but back then, reporters hyped German and Japanese death tolls and bad news instead of ours.

    And look at how they report the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If they’re just interested in sensationalism and profit, why aren’t we getting extensive coverage of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, complete with pictures of the killed and injured, their wailing relatives, and terrified neighbors?

    No, I think much of the American intelligentsia — and that includes most journalists — reject the values of America, Israel, Western Civilization, capitalism, reason, and the Enlightenment… and thus are consciously or unconsciously quite sympathetic toward our enemies.

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