Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Pity the truth

Let us stand up for liberty, and firmly deal with brutality, that all the children of the earth may celebrate the seasons in their own proud fashions.

But the ends do not justify the means, do they? So let us not sully the truth in this fashion nor engage in artifices of cheap propaganda.

Mr. Kristof, the influential New York Times reporter posted today on his Facebook page:

"Some people don't understand why Egyptian demonstrators remain so determined to keep on protesting. Take a look at this video, apparently showing the police shooting a lone, unarmed demonstrator in cold blood. That's the kind of brutality that the protesters want uprooted from their state, and I think they have a point. Don't you?"

Let us dissect the journalist’s message here: “….apparently showing the police…..”.

Apparently? So it is not confirmed? But then, if it’s not confirmed, then surely, one may not use it to talk about the brutality of the regime?

But that is precisely what our journalist does.

“This may not be true, but if it is, it’s pretty awful. Things that are awful are, well, awful, and we really can’t tolerate them. Long live the demonstrators”

All this without clicking on the link for the video.

Let us do that now (http://www.casavaria.com/cafesentido/2011/02/07/7525/video-egypt-police-shoot-unarmed-demonstrator-in-cold-blood/).

The text reads:

A video from Alexandria reportedly shows Mubarak’s police force shoot an unarmed pro-democracy demonstrator in cold blood.

Again, the key word is “reportedly”, used early on, and then quietly ignored.

“Mubarak’s police force”? A force directly under the control of Mr. Mubarak? Or is it because Mr. Mubarak is the President of Egypt and must therefore take responsibility for all actions (and inactions) of the police forces in all the towns of Egypt? If that’s the case, then it’s also Mubarak’s army which is not shooting at the protestors? And Mubarak’s hospitals which are treated the wounded?

“Pro-democracy”? How does anyone know that, on the basis of given information? Maybe it’s someone who’s kid brother was molested by a police officer. Maybe it’s someone who has had a couple of bottles of whisky (or distilled coconut juice) and has his nerves turned into those of the Nemean lion. Maybe it’s someone who can’t stand Mr. Mubarak. Maybe it’s someone who has been brought up in a public school imagining that it is noble and glorious to die for the fatherland. Maybe it’s someone who has been threatened with violence to his lover, in case of non-compliance. Maybe it’s someone who has no prospects, but finds the notion of the cameras of the community pointed at him as he walks forward, with the chants of the crowd behind him, to be a rather engaging one.

Anyone who has attended a football match in a football loving land knows what the screams of the mob can mean, to what they can lead.

Unarmed demonstrator? How does anyone know that, on the basis of given information? Did the young man just walk through an international airport? What does “armed” mean? Having a rifle or a pistol or, at any rate, a largish, very visible, sinister-looking knife? What about all those suicide bombers who strap things to their waists, or to their ankles? Things which go “boom”? If an Afghan-looking man walks up to a US military post in Afghanistan, with lots of people standing behind him, cheering him on, with obvious anger towards the regime to which the military openly owe allegiance, there is a good chance that the man will be shot, if he does not stop his advance towards the post, perhaps after a warning shot.

“Cold blood”? This term is also used by Mr. Kristof. How is this cold blood? In the video can be heard a lot of confused shouting and be seen a burning tire. All this in a context of violence and hatred over the past weeks, much of it directed against state actors. At what point would the policeman have fired and the shot not considered being in “cold blood”? When the lone man walks up to them within suicide bomber range? Knifing range? Throttling range?

The video clearly shows the man shot by the police, without any violent provocation whatsoever.”

Note, of course, that the video does NOT “clearly” show police, or even people dressed up in some sort of uniform, shooting anyone. It shows people with guns, it shows a man lying on the concrete, probably shot, but not who did the shooting.

Rights groups and anti-government activists are saying the video is now clear evidence for all the world to see that the Mubarak regime has held onto power by the use of lethal violence and totalitarian measures.”

Which rights groups, which anti-government activists? And what of us who do not see this as “clear evidence” for the 30 years of Mubarak’s regime having being one steeped in lethal violence? Are we to have the mob march against us?

Tonight The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof reported to CNN that watchdog groups have talled at least 297 deaths so far resulting from the regime’s violent crackdown on unarmed demonstrators

So Mr. Kristof of the NYT told CNN (so he’s working for the NYT and CNN? Are they not competitors? Or do they have shared financial interests? Does not say much for an independent media, unfortunately) that certain watchdog groups (unnamed here, for reasons……for reasons not stated here) have etc.etc..

Talled? What does that mean? Noted, maybe, from the context?

297 deaths from violent crackdown on unarmed demonstrators? So, in each case, they checked that the deaths were caused by the regime and that the demonstrators were unarmed? Somehow, this sort of rigorous data analysis is not something one associates with “Mr K told CNN that some unnamed groups said that…”.

And the fact that Mr. Kristof links to a page which in turn refers to Mr. Kristof suggests that the independent-lines-of-evidence paradigm is not in play here.

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