Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 17, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

BOTULISM IN IRAQ....Remember that vial of botulism that David Kay's team found in Iraq? Almost immediately we heard from experts who told us to watch out: botulism bacteria is found in nature and is essentially harmless, while botulism toxin is a deadly weapon. Which was it?

Answer: it was the bacteria. Matt Yglesias finds this suspicious:

Long story short: There's no threat here. This raises the question of why, exactly, Kay's team and the gang at the White House are trying to convince people that there is. Politically speaking, obfuscation is an effective strategy on this subject, since it's easy to get confused between the botulinum B bacteria (not dangerous, found in Iraq) and the botulinum A neurotoxin (dangerous, not found in Iraq). I myself made this mistake, but I'm not a biologist and I'm certainly not a biowarfare expert. This tactic -- saying things that are true in such a way as to get people to believe things that are false -- has become a prominent feature of the administration's public relations strategy on a number of fronts and, frankly, it stinks.

Yep. This is the "technical lie" that I talked about a few weeks ago, and it's the reason you can't take anything this administration says at face value.

As for why they did this, the answer is obvious: they just wanted to get the word "botulism" into the news reports. Even if the media reported the story 100% accurately with all the appropriate hedges and cautions, it's still a win for the administration. All that mattered is that 300 million Americans heard the word "botulism," and 90% of them didn't hear anything else.

But they didn't lie, did they? I wonder if St. Peter would agree?

Kevin Drum 6:14 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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