Spinning the Lancet, Redux.


Richard Horton writing in Comment is Free gives his response to the BBC's uncovering of the lies and spin that came out of our Government upon publication the Lancet figures for deaths in Iraq.

Immediately after publication, the prime minister's official spokesman said that The Lancet's study "was not one we believe to be anywhere near accurate". The foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, said that the Lancet figures were "extrapolated" and a "leap". President Bush said: "I don't consider it a credible report".

Scientists at the UK's Department for International Development thought differently. They concluded that the study's methods were "tried and tested". Indeed, the Hopkins approach would likely lead to an "underestimation of mortality".

The Ministry of Defence's chief scientific advisor said the research was "robust", close to "best practice", and "balanced". He recommended "caution in publicly criticising the study".

When these recommendations went to the prime minister's advisers, they were horrified. One person briefing Tony Blair wrote: "are we really sure that the report is likely to be right? That is certainly what the brief implies?" A Foreign Office official was forced to conclude that the government "should not be rubbishing The Lancet".

The prime minister's adviser finally gave in. He wrote: "the survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones".

How would the government respond?

Would it welcome the Hopkins study as an important contribution to understanding the military threat to Iraqi civilians? Would it ask for urgent independent verification? Would it invite the Iraqi government to upgrade civilian security?

Of course, our government did none of these things. Tony Blair was advised to say: "the overriding message is that there are no accurate or reliable figures of deaths in Iraq".

His official spokesman went further and rejected the Hopkins report entirely. It was a shameful and cowardly dissembling by a Labour - yes, by a Labour - prime minister.

Credit has to go to the BBC for uncovering this, but where has the 'story gone' - and why was it kept so quiet for the 'Unhappy Aniversary' of the Liberation of those dead lucky Iraqis?

The BBC ran the story online on Monday the 26th of March, after 'Iraq Week', after the Question Time Iraq Special and all those Newsnight segments on the cost of the war.

Yet the BBC tell us they received the information on 14 March 2007 - Twelve days before they broadcast it.

- Wouldn't all that debate and discussion that took place on the BBC throughout "Iraq Week", in the 12 days between receiving the information and publishing it have been better framed against the context of what appears to be the most accurate estimate of civillian deaths in Iraq?

- Isn't the obvious parallel between the spinning of the Lancet Report and the spinning  of what the government was being told by it's own experts about the intelligence on WMD [as opposed to what they told us] worth pursuing?  One is, after all, the consequence of the other...

- Shouldn't the relevant Government Ministers be hounded untill they come before parliament, or on camera to account for the discrepancy between what their own experts were telling them about the validity of the Lancet study, and the lies and spin they fed us?

It would appear not. 

More from medialens on 'Burying the Lancet' here and here.
[via anon, in the comments on the previous post.]

As I pointed out at the

As I pointed out at the time, even the BBC just gave this news item the minimum coverage: about 5 minutes, time enough to read out the basic facts crisply. There was not the slightest attempt to analyze the implications, or to discuss why government spokesfolks would have so blatantly contradicted their own scientific advice. The BBC then devoted far more time to telling us that there was no news in the murder of Bob Woolmer! Apparently one dead Englishman far outweighs the better part of a million dead Iraqis - even when our government is directly responsible for those deaths (meaning that each and every one of us British voters is indirectly responsible).

Although most of the British

Although most of the British public seem blissfully unaware of this, the BBC - or BBC spin - is very much part of the problem. From September 2002, BBC news was reflecting similar headlines to The Sun. Initially, I though the news readers were being ironic, but it became obvious that people were actually believing this stuff.

Now, it seems, BBC radio and TV news will be believed no matter what they say. Time for a "gesture" regarding licence fees? I mean... we are currently paying through the nose to be misled!

why on earth should anyone

why on earth should anyone be surprised that the BBC toes the government's line?

This is a typically British kind of control mechanism. The BBC is obliged to be "balanced", it depends on a licence fee which the government can increase...or not, and politicians can grant access....or not.

 How do you think the ruling classes have kept their grip on this country for centuries without ever coming near a revolution?

"Yet the BBC tell us they

"Yet the BBC tell us they received the information on 14 March 2007 - Twelve days before they broadcast it."

Post GIlligan it is possible that something as sensitive had to be stood up by the most through checking. We should be grateful that they have released the information .

Whilst quoting Horton's piece there are two points missed

"This Labour government, which includes Gordon Brown as much as it does Tony Blair, is party to a war crime of monstrous proportions. Yet our political consensus prevents any judicial or civil society response. Britain is paralysed by its own indifference."

.... and the very first sentence which probably doesn't apply to readers of these pages ...

"Our collective failure has been to take our political leaders at their word."

...although we are all aware of people that do.

Britain is paralysed by its own indifference - shurely time for another march on the Citadels of Power ?

Agreed that it was good for

Agreed that it was good for the BBC to finally publish this. But the fact that it appeared two weeks later suggested that it was no longer "news", but "current affiars?" Different departments?  Perhaps control of the media came from the US, and Blair started to use it via the BBC from 2002 onwards. Why do the employees of the BBC tolerate this?They have become the major agents of the oppressors of freedom of speech (and thought...).

Almost on topic What is

Almost on topic

What is happening ahead of the Al Jazeera memo trial. Is it still for April 18

I saw in the Times that Clarke and Kilfoyle have been interviewed about the AlJazeera memo but no decision by the Crown Prosecution Service. Presumably this would be clarified befor the trial.


Is anything  know anything about this?

Will Pollard

some stories for OhmyNews
also blogging as a fansite for Dan Ffroomkin

Maybe Blairwatch can write

Maybe Blairwatch can write to the head of BBC news on behalf of your readers to ask why there was a 12 day delay between FOIA discovery and broadcast of the facts occured? Especially considering the timing of the 4th aniversary of the Iraq invasion and occupation, with all the coverage from Iraq that entailed.