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June 11, 2003

LOOTING UPDATE: Howard Kurtz writes:

We're used to journalists being misled in the famous fog of war, but this is ridiculous.

Everyone in journalism makes mistakes, especially routine mistakes the misspelled name, the mangled title, the wrong date. In this case, though, the press told us that, in a crushing loss for western civilization, 170,000 artifacts were stolen.

The actual number: 33.

Yes, some of the booty was later returned, but 169,967 items? Maybe Don Rumsfeld was right that TV kept showing the same vase being carried away over and over.

And here's the worst part:

We're sure various news outlets have mentioned it, but certainly not with enough frequency to correct the impression left by the earlier hyped reports. This hasn't exactly been a staple of cable TV. The news business has just sort of moved on without even murmuring an apology.

Yep. And that means that a lot of us will trust them a lot less, next time. That said, this AP estimate of Iraqi civilian deaths (3,240) is probably in the ballpark, though with Saddam's fedayeen fighting in civilian garb, etc., the notion of a separate tally for civilian deaths becomes somewhat, well, notional.