Archive for October, 2008

Strong evidence of distortion in media’s portrayal of Syrian invasion

Some of you may have read recently (source, source, source, source, source, source, source) that the United States broke international law on Sunday by violating the sovereignty of a UN member nation (Syria) without the necessary UN sanction and without the appropriate legal and moral criteria necessary to justify such an attack without UN sanction.

As an exercise, I decided to look at how the mainstream U.S. media covered the incident.  For the purposes of this exercise, I took mainstream media to consist of: CNN, FOX News, LA Times, Washington Post, NPR, USA Today, NY Times¹ and Time Magazine.

At approximately 4pm this afternoon, I conducted a google news search on the issue and filtered out all U.S. mainstream publications who had written on the issue of the U.S.’s illegal raid into Syria.  The following pieces were generated by Google and the results of what they are saying to the American populace is frightening.²

US forces staged attack in Syria, US official says
CNN – 53 minutes ago
AP journalist sees bodies of seven men at funerals Monday Four helicopters crossed Iraq border, two landed, witness tells AP WASHINGTON (CNN) — The US
US Official: Syrian Strike Killed Al Qaeda Target
FOXNews – 2 hours ago
AP A US strike on a network of foreign fighters in Syria killed its main target — an Al Qaeda coordinator who was wanted for sending foreign fighters,
SYRIA: What’s behind US raid?
Los Angeles Times, CA – 19 hours ago
US forces on Sunday afternoon apparently crossed the Iraqi border to launch a commando raid in a Syrian town that left at least eight people dead.
US Helicopter Raid Kills 8 Inside Syria
Washington Post, United States – 8 hours ago
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Ernesto Londoño CAIRO, Oct. 27 — A US helicopter raid into Syria on Sunday killed eight people, prompting a sharp condemnation from
Syria Accuses US Of Attack Near Iraqi Border
NPR – 21 hours ago
by Corey Flintoff, October 26, 2008 · There are conflicting reports over an alleged US military strike in Syria near the Iraqi border.
Syria accuses US in deadly helicopter attack
CNN – 22 hours ago
(CNN) — The US military said it is investigating claims from Syria that US helicopters based in Iraq killed eight people and wounded another Sunday in an
News roundup: Global stocks down; US attacks target inside Syria
USA Today – 7 hours ago
Stocks are down around the world, with Japan’s Nikkei index falling to its lowest level since 1982. “Investors are bracing for another volatile week,
What’s Behind the US Military Raid on Syria?
TIME – 2 hours ago
By Nicholas Blanford / Beirut Monday, Oct. 27, 2008 Sunday’s surprise raid by helicopter-borne US troops in eastern Syria raises at least three key
8 reportedly killed in US raid inside Syria
Los Angeles Times, CA – 23 hours ago
Syrian news sources say the attack also wounded 14 people near the Iraqi border. US military representatives do not deny the raid.

Some Key Distortions:

  • Of the nine unique pieces put forth by the U.S. mainstream media, 8 of the 9 fail to mention that there were several reports of children being killed by the U.S. attack.  The only piece to mention the alleged killing of children was FOX News and they mentioned it only to discredit such claims.
  • Of the nine unique pieces, 3 questioned whether the raid even took place (usually describing the incident as “Syrian claims”).
  • Of the nine pieces, not one mentions the illegality of the raid (although one does mention one quoted source’s opinion that the raid could be a violation of U.S.-Iraqi bilateral agreements).
  • Of the nine pieces, only three highlight the legitimate grievances of the Syrian government.
  • Yet, every single one of the nine pieces mention “foreign fighters” or attacks against Iraq as legitimate justification for crossing border and launching an attack on Syrian civilians.

Below is a graphical representation of the distortion of the event by the mainstream U.S. media.³



¹ Google News Search did not generate any pieces at 4pm for the New York Times.

² The titles of some of the listed articles have changed since the data was scraped from Google News.  The hyperlinks generated by Google News and listed above are unchanged as are the article headlines.  Any change in article headlines between what is listed above and what is linked to is a result of the publication in question changing the title sometime between 4pm and 9:35pm EDT.

³ While the articles themselves were scraped from Google News at 4pm, the analysis of the content of each article did not take place until 9pm EDT and thus the analysis above does take into account any changes in text which may have occurred between 4pm and 9:35pm EDT.

It should also be noted here that this post was originally going to be about the distortion of the Syrian incident as seen by the North American mainstream media rather than merely the American media.  However, at 4pm EDT Google News failed to generate any mainstream Canadian news publications that filed their own reports on the invasion (i.e. did not just buy a wire service report).

The National Post’s unholy obsession with Passchendaele

The National Post & other CanWest papers have now published multiple reviews of Paul Gross’ epic WWI picture Passchendaele. Their interpretation and obsession with Passchendaele is peculiar because none of the reviews seem to be particularly thrilled with the movie overall, but at the same time, they all seem to spare no energy praising the fawning and glorious portrayal of Canada, the Canadian military, militarism, Alberta, and the valour of combat in Passchendaele which were precisely the parts of the picture which I had the most difficulty with.

Now, it’s one thing to be obsessed with a movie that one believes to be of superlative value and merit. I certainly have movies of my own where I am guilty of precisely this and so it would be hypocritical of me to begrudge any reviewer of any movie the same leeway. However, neither Nigel Vhannaford of the Calgary Herald nor Chris Knight of the National Post see the movie in this way. On the contrary, both men hated Passchendaele for precisely the reasons that most of the audience in my movie theatre seemed to enjoy it and yet they praised it for the two-dimensional parts that promoted blind jingoistic nationalism and uncritical patriotism.

For instance, Knight of the National Post takes a poke at Passchendaele for not focusing on praising the province of Alberta (where much of the movie is set) enough for his liking. Passchendaele – which, admittedly, is similar to the Hollywood movie Pearl Harbor insofar as the picture takes its name for a particular battle/event that is not necessarily central to the plot – also gets slammed by Knight for not focusing enough on the glorious war and instead focusing too much on the inter-personal relationships between the main characters.

Knight writes: “Some cross-cutting between the home front and the European theatre might have helped remind us that there’s a war going on. Instead, the only clue is the behaviour of the local head of recruitment.”

I mean, it’s just madness, shear madness I say! It’s almost as if this meaningless war between the inter-related royal families of Russia, the U.K. and Germany which began over nothing isn’t the all consuming event for every single human on the planet every waking hour of every day as Knight had in mind. Knight’s disappointment that “the only clue” that we’re at war in the movie is by the behaviour of certain people in the film is borderline childish with the refrain “you mean we don’t get to see blood and guts more often” replacing the more common teenage boy obsession with wishing he got to see more breasts and asses “more often”.

But as ridiculous as Knight’s review of Passchendaele is, it pales in comparison to Vhannaford’s review.

Vhannaford went so far as to title his review “Gross’s Passchendaele does teach one thing – patriotism” which obviously lets the cat out of the bag as to what he sees as the movie’s key virtue.

Vhannaford’s critique of Passchendaele borders on Puritanism when he writes (I kid you not):

“But, it’s not all in the film — no U-boats or mutinies for instance, that would explain why it was so important so many Canadians should risk so much to kick the Germans out of Passchendaele, and why they deserve their place in the national narrative.

“What was exhaustively covered were the dynamics and dilemmas of a handful of Calgarian families circa 1917. Gratuitously so, in fact. We suspected teen sex went on in those days, but now we know. And in a doctor’s office, by George.

Anyone who’s seen the movie will know which scene Vhannaford is referring to above. Anyone who has not seen the movie would likely think from the above passage that the scene in question is like something out of the American Pie franchise.

Not to be outdone though, Vhannaford concludes his review with this jingoistic and demonstrably false assumption:

“If all people get from this was that Canadian troops were the best of the best and saved the day for the British Empire in 1917, and there was once a place called Passchendaele that should be spoken of in awed tones, it was a well done thing. For, on this kind of shared understanding of history is patriotism based.”

So, by his own words, Vhannaford would be happy if moviegoers got nothing from the movie except how great Canada, Canadian troops, the Canadian military and the salvation of the British Empire was. The only problem with this – other than the fact that Vhannaford couldn’t bring himself to mention the anti-German hysteria which gripped Canada during WWI and which was a significant part of the storyline (indeed it was perhaps the most significant part of the storyline) – is that the Third Battle of Ypres (AKA the battle of Passchendaele) was not the salvation of the British Empire any more than it was a significant military victory. The movie and Vhannaford both gloss over the fact that any military significance of an obscene number of Canadians dying only to capture a shelled out and destroyed hamlet called Passchendaele was erased and undone in less than a fortnight by the Germans the following year who were able to easily re-capture the village.

The battle of Passchendale, in short, was significant only for the same reason that Postmodernism was significant: for its sheer absurdity.

But instead of attempting to understand the battle’s full historical context, Vhannaford and company would rather turn Canadians into mere Saraphim for the Canadian state and thus it’s no wonder they both hate and love the movie. They love the movie because — like the six-winged Seraphim angels in Christian mythology whose sole job is to uphold God’s Throne and do nothing else other than continually sing his praise for all of eternity – they see Passchendaele as instilling this same kind of uncritical praise for our secular god: the Canadian state. Conversely, they hate the movie because it dares to suggest at times that there are other things in life worth doing than praising and upholding our secular god’s throne.

What’s in a name?

For some time now, the way that the Paulitics blog has been desplaying given my monitor’s resolution has been bugging the heck out of me.

I know that I could just change my resolution, but the problem is that I know, for a certain percentage of readers, the way that the blog’s title appears will continue to look like this:

Originally, when the blog was in its original format, the “Paul’s Socialist Investigations” portion of the title was actually included as a subtitle.  I changed the title of the blog to the full “Paulitics: Paul’s Socialist Investigations” when I switched over to the contemporary format since it does not support any kind of subtitle.  As such, I’ve made the decision to revert the name of the blog back to simply “Paulitics” at least for the time being due to my unfortunate OCD with regards to the overlap of the “s”.

In the coming days and weeks, readers may also notice some corresponding changes to the sidebar as well. In an attempt to present a more professional look, the varied and amateurish-looking resource buttons on the sidebar will be replaced something more uniform and professional-looking.  The most popular resources (political images and polls) and the “about me” links will stay put while the other resources will be accessible through an “other resources” button to reduce clutter and match all of the new, uniform buttons.

As always, comments and feedback are both welcome and desired.

3 statistics about the 2008 election you’ll never see in the media

With the 2008 federal election behind us, many pundits (myself included) are being faced with reality that the election did not turn out as we projected.  Having under-estimated the projected level of support for the Conservatives and over-estimated the projected level of support for the NDP and Greens; and with the NDP only gaining about 1% in the popular vote and the Green vote utterly collapsing by more than 1/3 between the last polls and election day, it seems that many progressives have been made to feel sorry for themselves.

As such, the triumph of the Harper Conservatives over the ‘progressive’ forces in this country has been a common theme  explored ad nausium by the mainstream media.

This notion is both interesting and straightforward.  Indeed the only problem with this post-election theme is that it’s completely unsupported by the facts.

If anything, this election should be noted as being exemplary of exactly the opposite.

This election, if nothing else, was a stentorian vindication of the long-term trend witnessed in Canada since the 1974 general election AWAY from liberalism and conservatism and toward progressivism.

A while back, I pointed out the long-term trend in Canadian popular support away from the neo-liberal/neo-conservative, ultra-capitalist parties (of which, I took to include Liberals, the Conservatives, PCs, Alliance, Reform Party, Social Credit, Ralliement créditiste, Confederation of Regions, and other small third parties) and toward the more moderate and/or progressive capitalist parties (which I took to include the NDP, Bloc, Greens, Communist Party, CAP, CPC-ML and other small third parties).  I am pleased to say that not only has this trend continued, but that it has also continued in every region of the country without exception.

In 2008, in every region of Canada without exception — West, Ontario, Québec, Atlantic & North — the combined ultra-capitalist parties (Liberal and Conservative) decreased in popular support.  Meanwhile, in every region of Canada, the combined more moderate or progressive parties increased their popular level of support.

The public’s appetite for laissez faire capitalism and vicious cuts to social spending as instituted by the Conservatives of today and the Liberals of yesteryear is clearly declining.  The only question is, how much longer can these two warring factions of the capitalist class continue to operate as separate parties before they are forced to ‘unite the right’ once again amidst the rising tide of public opinion against their policies.

And that is something that the mainstream capitalist media or their conservative apologists just won’t let you contemplate.

The immorality of voting

The relatively inconspicuous task of voting doesn’t seem to arouse much suspicion of a moral dilemma in most people — myself included. Virtually the only thing all of our party élites seem to agree on is that everyone should vote no matter who it is that they vote for.  It seems to most people therefore, as not only a relatively innocent act, but even as a moral obligation.

Wendy McElroy sees it differently.

In this entirely engaging and interesting recent talk, Ms. McElroy gives a compelling argument exploring both moral and other reasons why we shouldn’t cast a ballot (or why we should spoil our ballots) in certain elections.

I am a regular voter, and I do plan on voting this Tuesday in the Canadian federal election, but the argument presented by Ms. McElroy is not silly.  In fact, Ms. McElroy’s argument is serious enough that I believe every responsible voter must address the argument one way or another even if one plans to continue voting in the future.  Ms. McElroy approaches her argument from a peculiar version of the anarchist school of thought rather than the Marxist and socialist schools of thought which I tend to emphasize here at Paulitics.  Unfortunately, however, this brand of anarchism is anarcho-capitalism which I strongly disagree with.  That said, I assure my regular traditional leftist readers that there is no element of pro-capitalist rhetoric in this particular conversation and I believe that regular anarchists, Marxists and left liberals can and should all give Ms. McElroy’s argument a serious airing.

Ms. McElroy’s arguments about voting as legitimizing élite-controlled democracy — or what we leftists used to more commonly refer to as bourgeois democracy —  I find very compelling.  On the other hand I was relatively unconvinced by the implication in her argument that voters who elect a government remain morally responsible for the authoritarian acts of said government even if they later withdrawn any moral or political support from the candidate or party in question.  For me, activism, agitation, disruption, organization and other subversive acts in between elections can absolve a voter from the moral culpability of electing an odious government into power.

But, nevertheless, I strongly encourage any regular Paulitics reader and any potential voter to listen to Wendy McElroy’s talk below before they consider voting.

It’s a beautiful day! The sun is shining, birds are singing, a powerful Neo-Nazi is dead

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

Sometimes good things happen to good people.

And then sometimes, the only thing better than when good things happening to good people is when very bad things happen to very bad people.  Today is just one of these days.

The Independent has just reported that Jörg Haider, arguably Europe’s most famous and powerful admirer of Adolf Hitler, was killed earlier today in a (hopefully painful) car accident.

On occasions like this, I like to consult the social networking website for user’s comments on the passing of an individual and, as always, reddit never disappoints to deliver a gem of a comment.  This one coming from a user called “ours”.


User: ours 1 hour ago[-]

“I like the small of dead nazis in the morning… smells like… victory.”

Wikipedia editor censors Paulitics… again

Longtime readers of Paulitics may remember the incident during the 2007 Ontario General Election where right wing wikipedia editors tried to censor the Paulitics polling resources from the “external sites” section of the Ontario election wikipedia article.

The grounds for this move, of course as you may recall, were completely flimsy.  At first the argument was that there were already too many linked websites (even though there were fewer sites for that election in progress than there were for the as-of-yet to be announced 40th Canadian federal election wikipedia article).  The second argument was that my web page is partisan and highly opinionated (even though I didn’t link to ANY of my commentary and despite the fact that people of all ideologies use the Paulitics polling resource as their source for polling data).  Then, finally, the reasonable argument was made that I, as the owner of the blog, couldn’t continue to fight the edit war by reintroducing my site since that was a conflict of interest.  I accepted this argument and, at this point, a good Samaritan (Nick J Boragina) stepped in and went to bat for me.

Now, after well over a year being listed on the 40th General Election wikipedia article, some wikipedia user (I don’t know who) has removed Paulitics from the list of sites doing polling work and refused to include Paulitics among the sites that do seat projections (despite the fact that Paulitics was the #1 most accurate seat projection site for the 2007 Ontario election).

Is there a good Samaritan who will go to bat for me once again on Wikipedia?

Multiple new polls: If Tories continue to collapse like this, they won’t form government

With three polling firms now reporting in confirming this fact, it is now clear that the governing Conservatives are, for the first time in this election campaign, facing some real trouble.

Since September 27th, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have dropped 4.8% in the Paulitics Polling Resource.  What is more, this precipitous drop has now been confirmed by each of the big three polling firms which release daily tracking polls.

As the calculation illustrated right demonstrates, if the Conservatives continue on their current trend, it seems to me unlikely that they will form government even if all of this loss in support goes to the NDP, Greens and/or Bloc and not to the Liberals.


If the Tories don’t get a majority, thank the Bloc not the Grits, Greens or NDP

Having just finished a massive update to the Paulitics National Polling Resource, the Provincial/Regional Polling Resource, and the Seat Projection Meta-Analysis, there is one fact that has become abundantly clear:

If the Conservatives don’t get a majority, we should thank Gilles Duceppe’s Bloc Québecois, not the Dion Liberals, the May Greens, or Layton’s NDP.  Of all of the data uploaded this evening, the astonishing rise of the Bloc in Quebec (pictured below) is perhaps the most impressive.

Because of the Bloc’s rise, the Conservatives have dropped 10% in Quebec since September 13th.  In other words, 1 in 3 Tory supporters in Québec have abandoned that party since September 13th.


home page polling resource

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