Cutting through the bullshit.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Loaded questions

They’ve really gone and done it this time. Ordinarily, the Gallup poll questions are not that bad. But Joseph Carroll reports that in their 11-14 June survey of 1007 American adults, they asked, if you can bring yourself to believe such a thing,

33. Who do you think is currently winning the war against terrorism -- [ROTATED: the U.S. and its allies, neither side, or the terrorists]?

This is as bad as that bogus Newsmax push poll I wrote about earlier. To answer it at all, you are sucked into a whole swag of unsavoury admissions. America’, anthropomorphised by the interrogative pronoun who, is at war. It has allies and they are on one side in this war, which is being waged against terrorism, the other side. The war itself is not a form of terrorism. It doesn’t matter which of the three options respondents choose, or even if like 2% they express no opinion, it still entails buying into the whole twilight zone worldview where a question like that could make sense.

If it’s of any interest under the circumstances, an all time low of 29% said America was winning, while an all time high of 50% said neither side was winning.

It actually gets worse, because the next question asks

34. Do you consider [the war in Iraq/Afghanistan] to be part of the war on terrorism which began on September 11, 2001, or do you consider it to be an entirely separate military action?

This question frames the war as ‘in Iraq/Afghanistan’. That’s a very neutral and journalistic way of putting it. Or is it? The war just happens to be taking place in those countries. America and its allies wouldn’t be fighting against Iraq of Afghanistan – it couldn’t be a ‘war on’ or a ‘war against’ those countries. The reason it is in those countries is that the respondent and the audience for the media treatment know who the enemy is. It’s the terrorists. They’re the ones at fault. They’re the ones who forced us to follow them to their lairs in Afghanistan and Iraq, endangering the innocent people of those countries. Any damage to them is ‘collateral’. Alternatively, the democracy myth can be activated. Afghanistan and Iraq harboured those horrible terrorists, so the people who live there are responsible and deserve whatever befalls them.

Furthermore, the question places an exact date on when the war on terrorism began. By an uncanny coincidence, it was the very same day as those airliners crashed into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nothing could possibly have preceded it. That was the first blow. That was the provocation. A completely innocent America was forced against its will to enter this war on terror in a struggle for its very existence. You’d think it was Israel, which is always innocent, only retaliates, and is compelled to do so unwillingly on each occasion to prevent another otherwise inevitable Holocaust.

It is somewhat reassuring that only 43% reckoned the war in Iraq was in fact part of the war on terrorism, equalling December 2005 lowest proportion ever. But this time they also asked about the war against Afghanistan, and 65% thought the war in Afghanistan was part of the ‘war on terrorism’.

Opinion polls that ask loaded questions like these, along with the media reports of the results, are actually part of the propaganda campaign to ‘manufacture consent’ for the US government’s military adventures. And not only that. They reinforce the myth that the US is under attack by a ruthless and implacable foe, motivated by an irrational hatred of the very essence of America. And that helps to instil the kind of fear that makes it possible for the government to enact legislation like the USA Patriot Act and make other incursions into hard won civil liberties, including, significantly, those that facilitate dissent and self organisation.

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