The popularity of sites like StrategyPage and Debkafile mystify me. The latter provides interesting data mixed with large quantities of disinformation; the former provides great jokes and often interesting data — mixed in with nonsense.
This month, about 26 people a day are dying from criminal and terrorist violence a day in Iraq. That’s a bit lower than the death toll in northern Mexico, which on a bad day (like last November 3rd) saw 58 people killed. The police are generally helpless, hundreds of thousands of middle-class Mexicans have fled the border region, often to the United States (if they had dual-citizenship, which many do). Those without money must hunker down and wait for someone to win this war. The drug gangs show no signs of weakening, although the army believes that it can prevail in the next year or so.
As with much of StrategyPage’s coverage of Iraq, this is not just wrong but bizarre.
- No source given for the data.
- It compares a typical or average day in Iraq (no period specified) with a single peak (or high) day in northern Mexico.
- The numbers are not per capita. Iraq’s population is aprox 30 million; Mexico has 106 million.
According to iCasualities, dead from fighting in Iraq to date in 2008 are 5,781 (17,108 in 2007). This includes civilians and Iraq Security Forces, but only those reported in the news. Actual numbers are probably far higher.
What about Mexico? From a news story that cites the StrategyPage report as a reference: “Report: Mexico More Dangerous Than Iraq“, Newsmax, 15 December 2008.
At least 7,000 people have been killed in a two-year war between the Mexican government and major drug cartels along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the University of San Diego Trans-border Institute.
It’s not misinformation on personal blogs that makes the Internet such an unreliable source of information, but the folly presented as facts on purportedly authoritative sites.
Also the slow or non-existent process of feedback. Bad encyclopedias or almanacs go out of business. Will StrategyPage post a correction? If their accuracy does not improve, will it role on the Internet fade?
Change will come when…
- readers on the Internet prefer accuracy to feeding their preconceptions, or
- when writers on the Internet feel responsibility for what they post, or
- more of the major nodes (centers of influence) like the Instapundit feel responsibility for the links they post.
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Other posts about the Internet: does it make us smarter or dumber?
- Cable Cut Fever grips the conspiracy-hungry fringes of the web, 7 February 2008
- Resolution of the Great Submarine Cable Crisis — and some lessons learned, 8 February 2008
- What do blogs do for America?, 26 February 2008
- The oddity of reports about the Iraq War, 13 March 2008
- Euphoria about the Bakken Formation, 10 April 2008
- The Internet makes us dumber: the Bakken euphoria, a case study, 15 April 2008
- Does reading Debkafile make us smarter, or dumber? , 15 June 2008
- A Congressman ignites a netstorm about Twitter, 9 July 2008
- Proposed legislation prepares the way for war with Iran!, 25 August 2008
Plus posts on the FM site about the great US Armada sailing to Iran!
My other posts about this rumor
- More rumors of war: our naval armada has sailed to Iran!, 9 August 2008 — Tracing the origin of these rumors.
- Update on the rumored armada sailing to Iran, 13 August 2008 — With updates from Stratfor and Debkafile.
- A US naval armada is en route to blockade Iran and start WWIII (the story gets better every day), 14 August 2008 — More details from one of the bloggers who shot this story into cyberspace, and an official US denial.
- UPI reports on the multi-national armada sailing to Iran, 15 August 2008
- Stop the presses: no naval armada has sailed to blockade Iran!, 20 August 2008