Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Polling the Surge: Mass-Debating, O’Handjob and Bollocks

Note: this post is a 'three-pager'


A CBS News poll released on Monday this week shows that 29 percent of respondents now believe that the surge is having a positive impact, an increase of 10 percentage points from last month” (emphasis added).

Hmmm! What’s happened that has prompted this pretty significant shift in opinion?

Has sectarian violence dropped-off significantly? No.
Are any parts of Baghdad now safe for correspondents to walk around without body armor and massive military escort? No.
Is electricity now available from the grid for more than 1-hour a day? No.
Has the Iraqi “government” finally been able to accomplish something, anything? No.


























These were the goals of the “surge” that began in February and that was supposed to show a positive impact almost immediately, but soon thereafter the White House claimed that results wouldn’t be forthcoming until after June when the full “surge” force would be wholly deployed.

It seems sectarian violence has dropped off a bit in Baghdad (which is supposed to be a major aim of the surge) but some of that has to be attributed to the established summertime cycle of such activity.
Of all its intended goals, the “surge” has had only a marginal impact on just this one aspect of the situation, which clearly illustrates that it is in fact a tactic and not a strategy as Bush and his mouthpieces try to claim.

So, why the significant increase in the perception amongst some that “the surge is having a positive impact”?

Well, Bush’s clueless mass-media echo-machine might have something to do with it:


(Time Cover Dec. 11, 2006)






















The usual suspects have all been trotting-out to Iraq on carefully orchestrated DoD junkets and returning with boilerplate reports of progress without providing anything more than anonymous anecdotal “evidence” from “the troops” and “the commanders”.

But what may have driven this change in perception more than anything else has been the significant promotion of the Brookings Institute’s “scholars” Michael O’Hanlon/Ken Pollack recent (July 30) New York Times Op-Ed entitled: “A War We Might Just Win.”

From Media Matters:

“On July 30, Pollack appeared live during the 9 a.m. ET hour of CNN Newsroom and the 5 p.m. ET hour of CNN's The Situation Room, as well as MSNBC's Tucker and National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation. O'Hanlon appeared on the July 30 edition of MSNBC's Hardball and the July 31 edition of CBS' Early Show.”

In almost every appearance in this media blitz O’Hanlon (and Pollack) were introduced by the presenters/interviewers as “skeptics of the war”, without any evidence--because there is none.

The only skepticism these two have ever expressed has been with regards to the “management” of the war, not the war itself. (A summary of their public record that refutes their “skeptic" status is available here).

Over the next two weeks the usual suspects have done the media rounds, trumpeting the same “skeptic” reference without challenge except perhaps from John Stewart (a comedian it should be noted, NOT a journalist or ‘expert’) in an interview with Bill Kristol who was particular in referencing O’Hanlon/Pollack and the invented “skeptic” qualification as proof of their veracity and thus proof that the “surge” was making progress.

The key to this media blitz of course is the combination of claiming that O’Hanlon/Pollack are “critics” of the war, and the publication of their optimistic Op-Ed in the supposedly “liberal” New York Times---thus the implication of an impartial view (one has to disregard the fact that the NYT gave full uncritical reign to Judith Miller’s White House-directed WMD propaganda and the fact that O’Hanlon/Pollack “criticisms” have been limited to complaints that the occupation force could have used more troops and more bombs should have been dropped for Bush’s “strategy” to have succeeded—which would have stopped all the liberal-Democrat whining).

(Interestingly after all the media appearances, Glenn Greenwald asked O’Hanlon directly about his “war skeptic” credentials, which O’Hanlon directly refuted:

“As you rightly (emph.) reported -- I was not a critic of this war. In the final analysis, I was a supporter.”

O’Hanlon has since countered this confession on NPR’s On Point by saying “I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time rebutting Mr. Greenwald because he’s had frankly more time and more readership than he deserves” which of course is a rebuttal that might sway a six-year old desperate to pee in the middle of an argument about cooties, but surely wouldn't convince an adult--excepting adult journalists, of course!.)

In contrast there has been no significant coverage of Anthony Cordesman’s assessment of the surge--try "cordesman surge" on Google(Web) and on the first page there' are no hits from any major media outlets, nor on the second page either (or the third).

Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic Studies and International Studies was on the exact same trip as O’Hanlon/Pollack, yet arrived at an entirely different conclusion! There has been no consequent invitation of other “talking heads” appearing in the mass media expressing analyses that run contrary-to, or even being partially questioning-of, the rosy views of those being so heavily promoted (all two of them).

It is small wonder then that the “surge” has enjoyed its own surge in the perception of its success. But this improvement seems to have occurred amongst the apparently perennial ‘29-per-centers.’

If Bush’s surge ishaving a positive impact” why then hasn’t Bush’s overall performance figures or his “handling of the campaign against terrorismincreased? After all, hasn’t Bush constantly connected each to the other?

On the subject of the surge, it seems clear to me that a carefully orchestrated media campaign specific to the “surge” has had a positive domestic effect on the GOP’s hardcore base in terms of this singular issue, but not enough to persuade the overall majority in this or other related issues.

This ‘bump’ on a singular issue speaks volumes about media manipulation and media compliance with the administration’s message, and also about the desperation of the GOP and their most ardent supporters in trying to find some positive amongst all the negatives.

With one day left in the month, American casualties in July are the lowest since the troop surge began in February", reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin, "and civilian casualties are down by a third.”

I would remind David Martin that a reduction in American casualties was not supposed to be a measure for “progress” in the surge—in fact the DoD cautioned that they were expected to rise somewhat--but God-forbid that the CBS National Security Correspondent would actually remember that (and in this report he cites no figures, military OR civilian presumably because he's been told they don’t really matter-- "we don't 'do' body counts"--official!).

U.S. officials attribute that to the dismantling of networks which make roadside bombs and to American soldiers protecting the local population. It would only take a few spectacular attacks to reverse those trends, but even critics of the war strategy are encouraged.”

So although ‘networks” make and use IEDs they have been apparently “dismantled”, BUT if they show up again well then… ummmm…I guess the ‘networks’ won’t have been dismantled, would they?

Still, the important thing is that “critics of the war strategy are encouraged”—based in the fact that they proclaim themselves “encouraged”. And who are these “war critics”? Why none other than O’Handjob and Bollocks!

"For me, gut instinct, just piecing all of the information together subjectively, I thought we should give it a few more months into 2008," O'Hanlon says.”

How telling! “Gut instinct” and “subjective” analysis from a longtime proponent and supporter of the disastrous and illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq has been dutifully given pride of place in the CBS article entitled U.S. Observers Note Progress in Iraq”—and it is but one of many simlilar by other serious news organizations.

Quite accidentally, David Martin partially gives the game away when he finishes with:

That is exactly what the American commander Gen. David Petraeus wants — continue the surge into next spring and then start a gradual withdrawal back to the pre-surge troop level of 130,000 by the end of 2008”.

What Petraeus wants is to become a four-star general with all the benefits. He serves “at the pleasure” of the President and does what Bush wants.

What the GOP Administration wants is to stall and then use the inevitable policy change that will come from the 2008 elections—no matter how slight those changes might actually be---to claim that “progress” was undermined and their certain “victory “ thwarted, if only those meddling kids hadn’t interfered!.

So it is small wonder then that the CBS poll has shown its own surge in the perception of the “surge’s” supposedly “positive impact.” Certainly CBS has done nothing to provide any counterpoint or context, nor have any of the other major media outlets done anything to impartially inform the public before asking their opinions.

This is yet another very clear example of why media matters, and how by not just re-iterating but actually building from the party propaganda, mass media influences public opinion in a way that serves private political agendas and polices.

Fortunately in this case only the most intransigent one-third has been persuaded to reverse their perceptions—not with facts, mind you, but through a campaign of propaganda. But it certainly substantiates the methods of Karl Rove and Frank Luntz, whose only purpose and justification is to manipulate whoever they can for their own and their paymasters’ benefit.

This one-third may once again change their opinion as time drags on, but in this latest propaganda initiative abetted by the mass media there must be reasonable hope in GOP circles that all is not lost and that they can still shape “reality”—at least enough to mitigate their current losses and who knows, perhaps even turn the tide that currently runs against them.

Although the majority of the public has certainly changed and acquired a healthy skepticism, it is evident that the mass-media is still as blatantly partisan or as willfully blind as ever. They are still providing hand-jobs to a corrupt administration, and still presenting complete bollocks to the public.

Note: “Bollocks” is an Old English term (from around the 15th Century) that originally referred to the irrelevant bloviating of priests from the pulpit.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Of course to me the surge (escalation) made no sense ... good money after bad.
But as usual I misunderestimated the sheer mendacity of these guys:
* do the surge
* keep telling people it is working
* delay resolution of Iraq mess till '09
* blame democrats etc for losing the war just when we were starting to win
* it is working ... brilliant!
Sad.

5th Estate said...

anon...maybe I should follow your format and save everyone a bit of time :D

Yes indeed the "surge" IS working--as a selaying tactic to be exploited during the next few election cycles (wait! Do we HAVE election cycles any more? )

Carl said...

O'Pollack admitted their junket was paid for by the Pentagon.

Archer said...

Thank you 5th, excellent work.

Clearly, the entire freakin' world is just holding its collective breath and grimly hanging on until the Bush years are over. Not much of a strategy, I know, but is it possible that journalism is doing the same thing and that in 09 we might see the MSM "retreat to reality" as the mid-nightmare paralysis fades and the birds begin singing again? Or is the corporate sellout so complete that what we are witnessing now is simply the up close, slow motion death throes of a once proud giant, now twisted by greed, toxic and poisonously angry that its days of unquestioned supremacy are coming to an end?

Red Tory said...

Another case of the "big lie" and the lying liars who lie, I'm afraid. The surge was bullshit from the outset, the military has being lying about its progress since it began, the interim assessments by so-called "experts" and "critics" are delusional lies for the most part, the media's retailing of their lies, er, I mean "good news" has been done under false pretenses and now we learn that the the administration has been lying about the forthcoming Iraq report as being solely the work of Gen. Petraeus (and Crocker), but rather that it will doubtless be self-serving lies from the Army compounded by those of administration officials that will then be broadcast with uncritical enthusiasm by corporate media hacks. Time to fire up the motorized goalposts! Again.

Ain't life grand in the Bush Imperium?

5th Estate said...

Archer... thank YOU for dropping by (as you've kindly done before) , and thanks as well for fraking ME out with your comment: yeah there really doesn't seem to be much movement in the media back to informed cynicism and reasoned independent analysis.
I mean, it seems like the pendulum swung wildly in one direction and then got stuck there. It is worrisome.
Still, on the bright side, how awesome would it be to witness the self-inflicted destruction of the world's greatest power, first-hand and in "real time" for once? :D

5th Estate said...

red...

forsooth!

The 2008 elections will provide a very interesting milestone (I'm NOT predicting a Dem landslide by the way) and a very interesting accounting (both real and imagined).
I sincerely hope and the next 18 months unfold that you will be able, in your respectably whidely references blog, to say to Canada's equivalent of US GOIP supporters--"OH YEAH!? WE:: LOOK WHAT YOUR IDEAS DID TO THE US, YOU DIMWITS!"

It's the only thing the US has to offer to anyone this days--an example.