Monday, January 1, 2007

Of Iraq and Arbitrary Numbers

The media have been abuzz with the news that the 3000th American soldier dying in Iraq. And before that, they were abuzz with the news that more American soldiers died in Iraq than the number of those who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. And before that, it was another "milestone."

But have you really wondered why the media fixate on the numbers they do? From a purely political standpoint, it's meant to undermine the war effort. Since they can't seem to get the President to kowtow to the allegedly superior anti-war mindset, they'll do their best to turn the tide of public opinion against Bush. And it's worked. Because many Americans are "too busy" to stay up on the events in Iraq, and most media outlets don't do that well on foreign news coverage, we have to dig for the truth many times.

But there's another reason. With each new "milestone" comes a story. And if there's one thing the media have to have, it's a continuous stream of news, especially in the 24/7 news environment we find ourselves in today. They do the same thing with polls they conduct. By creating news, they never run out and it bolsters the power they have over their audience. After all, since they're creating the news, they can control what is reported and how it's reported. (On a side note, if the media are supposed to be tools of the Bush Administration, how come there's so much negative reporting on the war in Iraq?)

Overall, though, I don't buy into the notion that we have to keep track of the number of deaths in Iraq and make a big deal about the next "milestone." It's not that I don't value the lives of those who are serving this country. Actually, it's because I do that I don't believe their deaths should be reduced to numbers by the media. Does the 1st person killed in Iraq mean any less than the 3001st? To most people, the answer is no. To the media, they don't even consider the former to be important in the now, and the latter will be important only until the next body count comes in.

Way to support the troops, media folks!

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