Monday, October 19, 2009

Washington Post Headlines and Abstracts V

I am again complaining about a headline and abstract at www.washingtonpost.com

Flow of terror recruits increases

Westerners, including Americans, attend camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan despite U.S. strikes.


This time I honestly clicked the link, because I was alarmed by the headline. I was not expecting to complain. The article contains no evidence or assertions about terror recruits who are not Westerners. The headline does not note this. To me it asserts that the total flow of terror recruits has increased. The abstract/subtitle of the article did not make me understand that this is not asserted in the article. I read the text on the front page of www.washingtonpost.com as saying

Total Flow of terror recruits increases

and in addition

Westerners, including Americans, attend camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan despite U.S. strikes.

Not

One of many different flows of terror recruits increases

or in other words westerners, including Americans, attend camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan despite U.S. strikes.

Also and separately, the claim that the flow of westerners has increased is not supported by any solid data in the article. Various anti-terrorist officials say that the problem they are paid to fight is getting worse. I think that this is not news. Imagine a headline "Various officials say that the problem they are paid to fight is getting worse." I think that one is more boring that "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative" It is like the headline "Sky Blue." Journalists should critically examine statements which have the implication "so our budget should be increased."

Amazingly, this time, the headline is not "sky blue but not in the UK," since UK anti-terrorists say they have successfully cracked down on terrorist recruiting. The story in the article is mixed with claims of increased flows from Germany, and, maybe, Holland, France and Belgium and reduced flows from the UK. The firm German claim is not supported by figures. They don't say (and have no way of knowing) that they have recently discovered terrorist recruiting because terrorist recruiting has increased or because it was going on without their knowledge before.

Remind me, where were the 9/11 hijacker pilots recruited ?


I think the correct headline would have been

Westerners, including US residents, attend terrorist training camps.

or to stick to 6 words as in the original headline

Westerners attend terrorist training camps.

That headline would be justified by the article which describes the cases of Westerners who attended terrorist training camps.

Note that I don't use the word "Americans." The article contains no assertion based on evidence that a US citizen has been in a terrorist training camp, since John Walker Lind and Jose Padilla finished their training. There was a guy who appeared in a video with text claiming he was an American. As the actual reporter Craig Whitlock reports, the guy didn't speak no one heard his accent and only al Qaeda knows if he is really an American. The specific cases now before the courts concern US residents one of whom is an Afghan citizen and one whose citizenship is not stated. I'm all for welcoming immigrants including those who don't bother to naturalize themselves (for one thing I am a very welcome un-naturalized immigrant in Italy) but the word "American" is conventionally (and improperly) used in the USA to refer to US citizens. That way we insult citizens of all other American countries, but we don't confuse each other.

Finally this time I don't see clear anti Obama bias, just sensationalism.

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