Reader: Headline, facts inaccurate

Posted: Monday, September 03, 2007

One of the most insidious of political tactics is known as "astro-turfing." Astro-turfing is the practice of attaching one's name to a widely distributed identical opinion piece and sending the same as a letter to the editor as if one wrote it themselves.

There's even a well known Republican National Committee program dedicated to generating such identical letters, ('attach your name enough times and win points towards nifty "prizes").

Alaska papers, along with newspapers all over the country, have been deceived by this shameful practice numerous times.

One of the more famous examples was a 2003 boilerplate piece that purported to assign totally incredulous progress to G.W. Bush for his "leadership" in various domestic and foreign policy arenas. This supposedly originally thought out "opinion" was sent to hundreds of newspapers all over the country by numerous supposed letter writers and Alaska wasn't spared the ignominy of falling for it.

The latest, and one of the more egregious examples, is a replication of a mass e-mail that attempts to trivialize the sacrifices of our soldiers by erroneously and fraudulently attempting to compare Iraq to Washington, D.C.

The persons repeating this fraud and the editors of the Clarion who assigned and approved a headline to that same letter drawing attention to what the headline writer gullibly called "sobering" statistics should rightly be ashamed. Those so-called sobering statistics are not only factually inaccurate, they are unusually disparate and thus, in every respect, utterly invalid.

Even if one were to assume the statistics supplied are correct we would see the conclusion is in error. We are asked to forget that more than 2,112 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq in the last 22 months, yet simple math reveals the deception.

160,000 troops/100,000 = 1.6

2,112/1.6 = 1,320 deaths per 100,000 troops

And as if one could draw any logical analogy or comparison, the FBI reports 35.4 murders per 100,000 D.C. residents in 2005 and 29.06 per 100,000 residents in 2006.

In the last two years there have been at least 2,490 deaths among coalition troops with 524 killed by weapons fire, which still would work out to be a rate of 164 a year per every 100,000 troops. How it is that the letter writer and the Clarion think we can misrepresent and trivialize those deaths while totally dismissing at least another 2,000 deaths in that same time period is unthinkable.

What is far worse is indirectly stating there is an acceptable number of American lives lost in support of what was an illegal invasion and the ongoing illegal occupation of Iraq.

Like it's no big deal, as if more than 4,000 coalition troop deaths, tens of thousands coalition wounded, the several hundred thousand civilian deaths and the utter displacement of many millions of people is of no consideration or consequence whatsoever.

It's long past the time public debate should have moved beyond such shameful deceits and craven manipulations. Regaining America's honor demands it of us all.

Paul Zimmerman


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