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Archive for January 21st, 2013

At first glance, I thought it was Santa

Monday, January 21st, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — lightweight, feel free to ignore ]
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It isn’t Santa. It’s the image from Raffaello Pantucci‘s piece, Islamists in Africa emerge as threat to West, for the BBC. Raff’s a recently-minted Senior Research Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute.

Cognitive #FAIL on my part. Wishful thinking, perhaps?

Empirical Studies of Conflict Site

Monday, January 21st, 2013

For those studying war, insurgency, irregulars or terrorism ESOC will be extremely useful – and depending on your area of research, possibly invaluable – as a resource.

Small Wars Journal had this to say about ESOC:

.…ESOC identifies, compiles, and analyzes micro-level conflict data and information on insurgency, civil war, and other sources of politically motivated violence worldwide. ESOC was established in 2008 by practitioners and scholars concerned by the significant barriers and upfront costs that challenge efforts to conduct careful sub-national research on conflict. The ESOC website is designed to help overcome these obstacles and to empower the quality of research needed to inform better policy and enhance security and good governance around the world.

The ESOC team includes about forty researchers (current and former) and is led by six members: Eli Berman, James D. Fearon, Joseph H. Felter, David Laitin, Jacob N. Shapiro, and Jeremy M. Weinstein.

The website is organized by countries and research themes. The six country pages are: Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The content is structured according to five themes: Demographic/Socioeconomic, Geography, Infrastructure, Public Opinion, and Violence. The website currently hosts about 45 ESOC data files, over 35 ESOC peer-reviewed publications (with replication data), and ten working papers. The ESOC team has also posted links to many external data repositories and external readings that have proven useful for analysis. The website will be regularly updated with new micro-level conflict data and contextual information, as it is compiled and submitted by ESOC researchers.

One caution: based on my source who was one of the folks gathering data for part of this project, as with all quantitative method research, there are hidden qualitative decisions in who did the counting, how and by what yardstick. If you are drawing conclusions about big picture trends in insurgency or irregular warfare across periods of time you are good to go. If your research is sharply confined to a specific and narrowly defined historical case study (say one campaign, a battle, one district – whatever), then drill down into ESOC’s data and methodology to the granular level before drawing a conclusion vice your sources and data outside ESOC.

Fair and balanced, eh?

Monday, January 21st, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — Guardian reporting on Gaza and Mali, weighed in the balance and found wanting? — with Fox News for company ]
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I frankly don’t for a moment buy that Fox News is fair and balanced, but then I don’t know if any news source is, so let me try to be a little even-handed here myself, and take a gander at a couple of recent Guardian headlines, using my SPECS format to display them:

I’m not the first one to juxtapose these two headers — there’s a site called CiF Watch that monitors the Guardian (specifically) for signs of “antisemitism, and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy” and it brought these two Guardian posts together with the comments:

The contrasts in language, tone and narrative focus between a report by Harriet Sherwood on Israel’s November conflict with Hamas and a recent Guardian report on the French war against Islamists in Mali represent an exquisite illustration of the paper’s egregious double standards. …

In Sherwood’s report, the deaths of Palestinian children represent the overwhelming narrative focus. The fact that the IDF was attempting to target Hamas terrorists is only mentioned in the strap line, and even then is qualified with the word “believed”.

In the report by Hirsch and Hopkins, on the other hand, we are informed via the headline that militants are killed, while the deaths of Mali children are only noted at the end of the strap line.

On the one hand, I appreciate this kind of close reading as an analytic technique, while on the other I can’t really expect editors to check previous possibly comparable events to make sure their treatment of breaking news is immune from this kind of criticism.

That’s a quandary, IMO — but not yet a quagmire.

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Forget the question of whether Fox News is more or less biased than the Guardian – or should I call them Faux News and the Grauniad? — and just think again about our passions, about how they can blind us, and about how that blindness can manifest in emphases, in choice of words or images — in so many conscious and unconscious ways.

We need to deploy considerable mindfulness if we are to explore, read, filter, balance and comprehend the world around us — with anything like the nuance required for making wise (rather than lop-sided) choices…

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Sources:

  • Mali conflict: militants killed as French air strikes pound rebel camps, Jan. 13, 3012
  • Gaza: four children killed in single Israeli air strike, Nov. 18, 2012


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