A recent study
[*1] indicates that one person, repeating the same thing over and over, is almost as effective as multiple people saying the same thing.
The studies found that an opinion is more likely to be assumed to be the majority opinion when multiple group members express their opinion. However, the study also showed that hearing one person express the same opinion multiple times had nearly the same effect on listener’s perception of the opinion being popular as hearing multiple people state his/her opinion.
Take, for instance, the statement “we’re losing in Iraq.” which, of course, started before the Iraq war even began. It slowly gained traction, and now it’s the majority opinion. The vast majority of reports we hear from the mainstream media is a context-free body count (“4 U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb” followed by “38 Iraqis were killed by a suicide bomber.”) Drip, drip, drip. The overriding context within which these stories are reported is “Democrats say ‘the surge’ has failed.” Of course, at this writing, ‘the surge’ isn’t yet fully in place, let alone doing what Gen. Petraeus wants it to do.
But occasionally, if you look in the right places (which sadly does not include most of the mainstream media) you can find stories which go against the grain. This story in OpinionJournal[*2] for instance shows what winning in Iraq looks like:
I lost my head somewhat and ran at the rampart to look over the top but was thankfully tackled and stopped. The visiting sheiks crowded into the community hall. Mr. Chalabi never ceased talking to the TV camera, demanding help for the village. The second shell landed closer and behind us and fine yellow earth-dust floated over us. The sheiks were herded outside as a direct hit would have killed them all. It seemed the enemy had hit the structure before, maybe even had its GPS coordinates. The chaos intensified, the fighters now ducking from incoming fire. It was frustrating not to see the full picture. Two U.S. choppers flew overhead toward the opposition. The third mortar detonated, quite close this time, perhaps some 30 yards to the left, behind shuddering mud-brick structures, making my clothing flicker in the blast and my breath drop out. The tank fired again. The sheiks ran around ascending their SUVs with help from villagers. I counted three shells in all but some say six landed. It was hard to tell in the confusion. Suddenly a shout rose up and the fighters danced up and down below the ridge and came running down to us laughing. They’d destroyed one of the targets, it seemed.
. . .
We later found out, though, that the combined sound of gunfire, added to by bodyguards, had impressed the attackers–they apparently feared the presence of a much bigger force. They stopped, at least for now, which gave us the chance to leap into our vehicles, with Mr. Chalabi in his blue Parisian suit and poplin shirt pleading to the last in front of the cameras, before being bundled off to safety.
As we drove away from the village along the raised earth road, I looked back to see perhaps a hundred SUVs, a mile long, belting along behind carrying the elders. An Iraqi Army Humvee with mounted machine gun charged past us to the front. They’d been helping to guard the last bridge to Baghdad. But now, one felt, the villagers could guard it handily. They no longer felt isolated and forgotten by the world, as the television sets showed this night all over the Mideast.
Winning doesn’t mean that the bad guys are all killed. Winning doesn’t mean that crazy people don’t do brutal things. Winning means that the good guys beat the bad guys most of the time.
Winning also means that these stories of victories in Iraq get out. It is here where we are losing the war. The stories are there, but you have to want to find them.
And so, we’re losing.