I’ve recently added some “controversial” feeds to my news reader (by which, I mean political and religious-themed topics) to broaden my knowledge base. I’m intentionally trying to add feeds that give arguments from opposing viewpoints (ie. conservative vs. liberal, intelligent design vs. science, etc) in the hope that some median truth might come forth. Like Scott Adams, I really don’t have enough information to form an opinion about most of today’s “hot button” topics, so I felt like this might be a reasonable course of action to remedy the situation.
Today, I was reading an article on TomPaine.com by Robert Dreyfuss (Iraq: Game Over) detailing how the recent election in Iraq which propelled the Shiites into control and left the Sunnis out in the cold will eventually plunge the country into civil war. I was okay with the article until I got near the end. Dreyfuss writes: “For Bush, the results present an almost excruciatingly difficult problem. The White House will begin to look ridiculous as it touts Iraq’s scandal-plagued, fraud-ridden election as the birth of democracy” (my emphasis).
My first reaction was: Scandals? Frauds? I hadn’t heard about any of this. But that’s okay, I thought. I don’t always keep up with these things and the media rarely reports anything particularly relevant anyway. I might be willing to concede there was a recent story about the corrupted elections. But wait. Something is missing from Mr. Dreyfuss’s article. Where is the supporting evidence for his claim? One would expect such an inflammatory claim to be linked with some kind of source material. Scandalous, fraudulent Iraqi elections might be common knowledge in his circles, but it sure isn’t to this simple programmer.
So off to Google News I go. I type in “iraq election fraud” and out comes a huge list of articles on the subject. For simplicity, I only looked at articles on the first page of the search result. After all, I’m just a simple programmer, not a pundit looking for the slightest justification for his point of view.
The top few articles do indeed announce Iraq Election Fraud (Fraud claims amid Iraq election coalition talks, Iraq Election Fraud in Favor of Groups Backed By Iran Regime, and Iraq Election Fraud Allegations Probed). This starts to ring a bell. Reading further, one finds that the losing Sunnis are the ones claiming election fraud. Reading futher, one finds absolutely nothing to substantiate their claim. In fact, most often, after the opening sentence that says “Sunnis are taking to the streets claiming election fraud,” the rest of the article talks about Iraqi violence and unrelated topics.
Okay, so somebody cried “fraud!” because they’re a sore loser. No big deal. Happens all the time. It’s human nature. In this case, somebody took them seriously, so the UN started looking into the election. Well, it turns out that more recent news articles (UN: No reason to rerun Iraq election), state that the UN found that the election was not at all fraudulent. The UN elections official, in fact, said.. let me get this right.. the election was “transparent, credible and good.”
So going back to Mr. Dreyfuss.. what da hell is he talking about?? His article was posted on December 22, while the articles that the UN found the election A-OK didn’t start appearing until December 29. So presumably, the basis for Mr. Dreyfuss’s inflammatory statement is “Sunnis are taking to the streets claiming fraud.” NOT: “Sunnis are taking to the streets because X, Y, and Z cases of fraud were found and verified.” This mild extrapolation of facts leaves me wondering if Mr. Dreyfuss is, well, full of crap.
At the very least, it leaves me wondering if it will always take this much research and effort for me to get real information from articles about politics and religion. But hey, it gave me something to write about on this otherwise boring pre-New Year’s workday.