In October 2006, The Lancet, a respected British medical journal, published a shocking article claiming that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion. The article–curiously released just before midterm elections in the U.S.–helped fuel the public outcry against the war that hurt the Republicans in the election.
Now we learn it was all bogus. Jeff Jacoby summarizes the details here. The statistical methodology used to gather and analyze the data was badly flawed, and the funding for the study carried serious doubts about it’s political objectivity. The authors clearly had a political agenda in view in conducting the study. Jacoby concludes:
The claim that the US-led invasion of Iraq had triggered a slaughter of almost Rwandan proportions was a gross and outlandish exaggeration; it should have been greeted with extreme skepticism.
But because it served the interests of those eager to discredit the war as a moral catastrophe, common-sense standards were ignored. “In our view, the Hopkins study stands until someone knocks it down,” editorialized the Baltimore Sun.
Now someone has, devastatingly. But will the debunking be trumpeted as loudly and clearly as the original report? Don’t hold your breath.
There was a day when journalists could get by with this kind of slanted reporting. But those days are gone now. The more this kind of shoddy research is offered as “news,” and exposed as fraudulent, the less confidence the public has in the media’s product.