Twain once famously characterized three categories of falsehood: There are lies, @#$@#% lies, and then statistics. If he lived today, he'd probably add a fourth category--media reports. Things are going horribly in Iraq right? We're losing right? Bloodshed and violence abound right? Well, if you get your info from the dinosaur media you'd sure think so....but not so fast. Do you know how many people--American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, and civilians--have been killed each month for the last six months? Do you know there's a trend? And it's NOT up!
Consider this from My Election Analysis: (Hat tip: The American Mind)
81, 76, 50, 49, 43, 25
What are these numbers? This week’s Powerball winners? A safe deposit combo? (snip)
No, they’re the number of troops that have died in hostile actions in Iraq for each of the past six months. That last number represents the lowest level of troop deaths in a year, and second-lowest in two years.
But it must be that the insurgency is turning their assault on Iraqi military and police, who are increasingly taking up the slack, right?
215, 176, 193, 189, 158, 193 (and the three months before that were 304, 282, 233)
Okay, okay, so insurgents aren’t engaging us; they’re turning increasingly to car bombs then, right?
70, 70, 70, 68, 30, 30
Civilians then. They’re just garroting poor civilians.
527, 826, 532, 732, 950, 446 (upper bound, two months before that were 2489 and 1129).
My point here is not that everything is peachy in Iraq. It isn’t. My point isn’t that the insurgency is in its last throes. It isn’t. My point here isn’t even to argue that we’re winning. I’m at best cautiously-pessimistic-to-neutral about how things are going there.
My only point is that, at the very least, people who complain that good news coming out of Iraq gets shuttered by the press aren’t crazy. I’m a regular denizen of the right-leaning blogosphere (though I spend about half my daily routine with left-leaning sites), and I was unequivicolly shocked when I saw this. Completely the opposite of what I’d expected. My non-scientific sample of three friends, all of whom are considerably more bullish about the prospects in Iraq than I am, revealed three people similarly surprised by these numbers.
I’m guessing if I polled people on this site regarding the direction those numbers were going, and people didn’t answer strategically (eg figure I was up to something from the question words), no one would predict any of those numbers were on a downward trend, or were even flat.
Again, my point isn’t that we’re winning. My only point is that if the data you’ve received left you completely surprised by these numbers, what does that really say about the completeness of the data you’ve received?
Incidentally, these statistics are compiled by the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank.