Keeping the Rabble in Line

Banging on about representation: The would be media lens

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Iraq Body Count: A problem of monicker

There's quite a debate going on over on the Medialens message board. It concerns the relative merits of the organisation: Iraq Body Count, or IBC. The crux of the issue is its methodology - which is flawed. However, the biggest issue seems to be the easy appropriation of the figures by many media organisations and politicians. This is in part, a problem of language.

The site is called "Iraq Body Count": the sort of 'grubby' business of picking through the carnage, giving the impression of the actual physical counting of the deceased [out in the field as it were] This is palpably not the case, as readers of the methodology would know. As the IBC website makes *clear[ish]*, the figures arrived at are a result of compiling a list of the "reported deaths" - and that these have to be reported by more than one news agency. Therefore, we can see the obvious flaws in this methodology...AND the flaws in the naming of the site. Initially designed to reveal the actual human cost of conflict, and to prioritise the actual deaths of those that "we dont bother to count" IBC served a useful purpose, I mentioned them myself. However, the site, and its [very low] figures are being appropriated in order to minimise the true likely figures of the Iraqi dead. Perhaps the site should make it more clear that in fact, it is merely a count of the "Media's reported Iraqi deaths"...has less of a ring to it, but is more accurate. Perhaps IBC are victims of their own "success" [if success is an appropriate phrase in this context] but there is demonstrably a problem at this juncture. If the original intention was to highlight innocent Iraqi deaths, and US/UK governments complicity in them - and there is no reason to suspect this was not the authors laudable aim - then they are being cruelly used by the very people who are largely to blame for the carnage. IBC is, in many ways, hoist by its own utilisation of a name to which it cannot realistically lay claim.

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