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Was Right Wing Press Mainly to Blame for UK Public’s Ignorance of Iraqi Deaths?


The stunning graphic above was put together by Melanie Patrick, but was the right wing press primarily responsible for the level of ignorance depicted above?

The best way to answer would be to expand the ComRes poll to ask respondents how they self identify on the political spectrum or to ask which sources of information they consider most trustworthy (Guardian or Telegraph? BBC or Fox News?). Of course, the corporate media will, predictably, not be very interested in exploring the question, much less taking corrective action against public ignorance. That came across loud and clear in this exchange with a BBC "journalist".



Below are some results from Lexis Nexis showing that whether readers relied on the liberal Guardian or the right wing Daily Telegraph, the sources they were bombarded with about the Iraq War came from the pro-war establishment. At both ends of corporate media spectrum, any rational discussion of the human costs of the war was a tiny percentage of the Iraq war coverage. 



"Lancet AND Iraq" / "Iraq Body Count" 

since Dec 1, 2004 just after publication of the first scientific study on Iraqi mortality published in the Lancet. A second study was published in the Lancet in 2006. A third scientific study was published in the New Engand Journal of Medicine in 2008, and usually compared to the 2006 Lancet study when it was reported.



The Guardian……………62 / 61 

The Daily Telegraph……15 / 20 



"Rumsfeld AND Iraq" since Dec 1, 2004 



Guardian…………………523 

The Daily Telegraph……228 



"Tony Blair AND Iraq" since Dec 1, 2004



Guardian………………..3679 

The Daily Telegraph…..2290 





The results are so lopsided in favor of Officialdom that it hardly makes sense to even conclude which newspaper was worse according to this metric. Discussion of the human cost of the war was cleary a tiny percetage of each newspaper's Iraq war coverage. It is worth stressing that what matters here is the comparison beween mentions of the death toll versus mentions of Officialdom. The numbers may not be exactly the same using different search engines (Google, or the search engines right on the newspaper websites for example). Some online content in each newspaper, which did not appear in print, is probably also missed above but that would add to all the counts.

Here are a few other questions that would be very revealing to have the UK public answer as follow up to the ComRes poll:

1) "How many Iraqis did Saddam Hussein's government kill while it was in power between 1979-2003?" 


2) "How many Syrians has Assad's government killed since uprisings began against him in March of 2011?" 



The amount of coverage an issue receives obviously matters, but answers to these questions would also highlight the type of coverage. Western leaders are consistently presented as, at the very worst, flawed, foolish (maybe even corrupt at times) but fundamentally well intentioned and certainly not murderous. In contrast, official enemies are often depicted as the very personification of evil, so much so that anything negative about them can be accepted as true.

For example, Nicholas Noe claimed in a UK Observer op-ed that Mao was responsible for "hundreds of millions" of deaths. That whopper not only made it past Observer editors, it took several weeks of pestering to get them to correct it as I explained in a blog post last year.  

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