Skip to main content

Did 1.2 million people really move out of Greece in just one year, 2010?  This article is a case study as to how quickly sensational "news" with no basis in reality can spread across the Internet, from one "reputable" news outlet to another, without any fact-checking or verification, turning a falsehood into a "fact" in the process.

Recently, an article featured in the British newspaper The Guardian cast attention to the growing wave of immigration from Ireland and from Southern Europe, particularly Greece and Portugal, as a result of the ongoing economic crisis those countries have been experiencing.  This article has drawn a lot of attention and has been repeatedly referenced in subsequent news articles, as well as Facebooked, tweeted, blogged, and otherwise shared from person to person, as a result of one attention-grabbing statistic that it cited.

As originally reported by Helen Pidd of The Guardian, the economic crisis in Greece has led to a mass exodus from the country.  Citing statistics from the World Bank, the article stated that 1.21 million Greeks—a figure amounting to 10.8% of the country’s total population—emigrated from Greece in 2010.  Included in this figure, according to The Guardian, again citing World Bank statistics, were 4,886 physicians, or 9.4% of the country’s doctors.

This statistic, not surprisingly, attracted a lot of attention.  Numerous reputable media outlets in Greece and abroad repeated this statistic in later articles on the issue of emigration out of Greece, contributing to the recent media narrative that has portrayed Greece as a newly impoverished country.  Indeed, even the Daily Kos posted an article recently, announcing that 10% of Greece's population left in one year.  This startling statistic, however, raises some important questions: did 10 percent of Greece’s population truly leave the country in one year?  If so, where did this mass flock of migrants travel to and why has seemingly no one noticed tens or hundreds of thousands of new Greek immigrants flocking to Australia, Canada, Germany and the United States, among other countries?  And if this many Greeks left the country in 2010, what would the emigration figures be for 2011, a year in which the economic crisis in Greece worsened compared to 2010?   These questions, however, were not addressed in any of the articles which followed the original report in The Guardian, all of which unquestioningly repeated this figure and reported it as fact.

The statistic of 1.21 million Greek emigrants comes from the World Bank’s Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011.  Statistical information about immigration inflows and outflows from most of the world’s countries has been compiled by the World Bank in its Factbook, and figures on the total immigrant and emigrant stock of each country, as well as the “brain drain” resulting from the migration of doctors and those who are highly educated, are provided for each country.  According to the Factbook, an emigration stock of 1,210,300 people is listed for Greece in 2010.  In addition, the figure of 4,886 physicians having left Greece is cited, specifically for the year 2000 (and not 2010, as originally reported in The Guardian).

How were these statistics calculated, however, and do they actually mean that over 10% of Greeks left their country in just one year?   The Factbook drew upon a number of different statistical samples, and according to the Factbook, data for OECD countries (including Greece) came from the OECD’s International Migration Database.  An examination of this database, which is freely available online, turns up an interesting result: no migration data is available for Greece (and a few other OECD member countries)!

If the World Bank is citing OECD statistics that are non-existent, then where did the figure of 1.21 million actually come from?  A hint can be found on page 17 of the Factbook, which states that some of the data that is published was constructed for modeling purposes, based on a variety of assumptions that were made in order for the total worldwide immigrant stock to add up to the total emigrant stock.  Even so, that does not reflect whether the statistics cited actually reflect the annual migration of people into or out of any particular country.

Further evidence of the peculiar nature of these statistics is evident by looking at the migration figures published for other countries.  For instance, the Factbook lists 3,540,600 emigrants from Germany in 2010.  If we are led to believe that over 1.2 million Greeks left Greece in 2010, then it would follow that according to the same statistics, over 3.5 million Germans left their country that same year, or that similarly, over 2.2 million Portuguese citizens, 1.7 million French citizens, 4.6 million Britons, 2.4 million Americans and close to one million Dutch citizens left their countries, all in that same year.  Surely, such a worldwide population upheaval—and particularly one afflicting some of the world’s wealthiest countries—would make the news and draw some attention.

Yet, it was only the statistic of 1.21 million Greeks purportedly leaving Greece that was mentioned in The Guardian, and that statistic has been repeated on numerous occasions since then.  Suspiciously, the same article by The Guardian cited migration statistics for Portugal and Ireland from different sources—namely, Ireland’s central statistics office and Portugal’s foreign ministry.  The figures for these two countries were far less startling than those cited for Greece: an estimated 50,000 from Ireland and a similar amount from Portugal.

Not mentioned in any of the press accounts is the fact that the Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011 was the second edition published by the World Bank.  The first edition, published in 2008 and readily available on the Internet, provides migration statistics based on 2005 figures.  And interestingly, the 2005 figures for every single country listed in the Factbook are remarkably similar to those of 2010.  For Greece, an emigrant stock in 2005 of 1,218,233 persons—or 11% of Greece’s population that year—is listed.  Should we be led to believe that another 1.2 million people left Greece in 2005, long before the start of the economic crisis to which this mass exodus has been attributed?  For that matter, should we believe that nearly 4.1 million Germans left Germany and another 4.2 million Britons left the United Kingdom that same year, again based on 2005 statistics?

This matter required further investigation, and one logical source was the Greek population census.  Indeed, a census was conducted in Greece in the spring of 2011, and preliminary figures were announced in July 2011.  According to these preliminary figures, Greece’s population did indeed decline compared to 2001, when the previous census was conducted: 10,787,690 people were counted, a decline of 146,409.  Certainly, if the country was experiencing a mass population exodus in the order of millions of people, it would be reasonable to expect that the decrease would be much larger.  But as it turns out, even this relatively modest decrease can be explained—and the explanation has much more to do with factors such as the statistical methodology that was employed, as well as a reportedly large number of Greeks who abstained from participating in the census.

According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority, the 2011 census, in accordance with new European Union directives, utilized a different methodology than that which was employed in previous censuses.  Instead of counting anybody who happened to be in a particular location at a particular time, the 2011 census focused on the de facto population—those who live permanently at a location and who were present at the time of the census.  Such a statistical method would rule out, among others, the many immigrants who have arrived in Greece in recent years but who are not permanent legal residents of the country.  It also would not count Greeks who may be spending time abroad but who are not permanent residents of another country, such as students.

As stated by the Hellenic Statistical Authority, as a result of this different methodology, the results of the 2011 census cannot be directly compared to those of previous censuses.  In addition, as reported by the Greek daily newspaper Eleftherotypia and other Greek press outlets soon after the release of the preliminary census results in July 2011, there was a reportedly high abstention rate amongst Greeks from the census, and coupled with the unexpected decline in population, the Hellenic Statistical Authority has launched a follow-up study to examine the accuracy and completeness of the original census figures.  Other potential factors to which a decline could be attributed include the rapidly aging Greek population and the country’s low birthrate.  Notably though, the press accounts did not attribute the small decline in Greece’s population, as recorded by the census figures, to mass migration out of Greece.  Indeed, the tone of the coverage of this issue could be described as one of surprise: surprise that Greece’s total population reportedly declined in the ten-year period between 2001 and 2011!

If the Greek census figures, flawed as they may be, are not revealing a massive wave of Greeks abandoning the country, then how can we determine what the true migration figures are, and how many people, in reality, have left the country?   As it turns out, the numbers are far smaller and much less shocking.  The same Guardian article reported that Greek immigration into Australia, one of the most popular destination for Greek migrants, has totaled a mere 2,500—but even that number has been disputed.  The Greek newspaper Proto Thema, in an article published on December 31st, quoted Sandi Logan of the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, who stated that only 12 immigrants arrived in Australia this year from Greece as part of the country’s General Skilled Migration program.  The same article also quoted the Greek-Australian newspaper Neos Kosmos, according to which 1,500 Greek-Australians who had gone back to Greece in recent years but maintained Australian citizenship returned to Australia.  Indeed, according to another article which appeared in The Guardian on December 21, 2011, only 134 Australian visas were granted to Greeks in the first six months of 2011, in an immigration process described by the newspaper as “stringent.”  Out of these, all but 15 were granted on family grounds, while an additional 102 student visas were granted as well.

Similarly stringent processes exist for Greek citizens who have sought to emigrate to the United States, as only 62 Green Cards were issued by the United States government in its annual lottery to individuals from Greece in 2011 (visas are also offered through other means, but requirements remain stringent).  Finally, while Greek immigration to Germany (to which immigration would be a simpler matter, being that both Greece and Germany are European Union member-states) increased by 81 percent in 2011, the total figure for the first six months of 2011 was 4,100—a far cry from the millions who have supposedly left the country.

Based on this evidence, it is safe to say that immigration out of Greece, while on the rise, is far, far below the millions who supposedly departed the country.  This assumption was confirmed by The Guardian, which recently published a retraction to their original article, stating that according to the World Bank, the figure of 1.2 million accounts for the total “stock” of Greeks living overseas as of 2010 and not the number of Greeks who left the country that year.  Indeed, this statistic shows a decline in the number of Greeks living abroad between 2005 and 2010.  Additionally, the retraction also corrected the year cited for the statistic of 4,886 physicians who migrated out of Greece, from 2010 to 2000, though even this is not fully accurate.  According to the study from which the World Bank figures for the migration of doctors were derived, these figures, similarly to the migration statistics, account for the total number of doctors who were medically trained in a particular country (and who are not necessarily originally from that country) and who are now practicing medicine overseas, and not how many doctors emigrated from a country in that particular year.

Furthermore, the “brain drain” statistics cited by the World Bank for Greece (9.4 percent of Greek-trained physicians practicing overseas, and a 12 percent emigration rate of Greeks who have completed tertiary education) seem far less alarming when compared to the same statistics from countries such as the United Kingdom (12.4 percent of British-trained doctors are practicing medicine overseas and there is a 16.7 percent emigration rate for those with tertiary education), Canada (22.2 percent of Canadian-trained doctors are practicing overseas), or Ireland (57.8 percent of Irish-trained doctors and 29.5% of those with tertiary education reside overseas).

Indeed, for all the fretting over Greece’s brain drain, it should be noted that this is a problem faced by some of the world’s wealthiest countries, which are destinations for immigrants (including those from Greece) in their own right.  For example, it was reported by Britain’s Express in 2007 that the United Kingdom’s largest visa consultancy firm announced that visa applications for Britons seeking to relocate overseas had increased from 300 per week in 1997 to 4,000 per week, and that most of the applications were being submitted by young professionals and skilled workers aged 20-40.  Similarly, The Independent reported in 2007 that Germany’s Federal Statistics Office recorded 155,290 Germans emigrating in 2006, the highest number since Germany’s reunification in 1990 and equal to the levels experienced in the aftermath of World War II.  As in Britain, those who were leaving consisted largely of young and highly-educated individuals.

Despite the fact that The Guardian issued a retraction, the damage has been done.  The story of 1.2 million Greeks leaving Greece in a single year has been picked up by reputable news outlets in Greece and all around the world, attaining factual status in the process.  This reality is indicative of three very serious issues.  First, it is demonstrative of the utter lack of responsible journalism in contemporary times.  News outlets and many journalists are simply uninterested in taking the time to verify and confirm figures, even those that seem outrageous (as in the case of the reported mass exodus from Greece) and which are rather easy to verify.  Second, it is indicative of how, in today’s 24/7 electronic media environment, misinformation and falsehoods can very quickly become authoritative “facts,” spreading from one website and news outlet to another within minutes and being repeated frequently enough to attain the aura of truth.  After all, The Guardian and Daily Kos and Skai are all reporting it, so it must be true, right?  (To this, I will also add the unquestioning acceptance of these stories on the part of much of the audience—as evidenced by the comments left by readers on numerous websites which publicized this faux-story).  Third, this story is reflective of the hysteria which has been a common feature of much of the news that has been reported out of Greece in the past two years—ranging from stories about the country descending into widespread rioting to stories about scores of Greek mothers abandoning their children as a result of no longer being able to afford the cost of raising them.

In all cases, these news stories have been short on hard statistics and factual evidence that has been thoroughly vetted for accuracy, but they have been heavy on sensationalism and hysteria and sheer irresponsibility.  In the end, even when a retraction is issued, it is relegated to the fine print—the shocking (and inaccurate) headline remains, and in the end, irreversibly alters the recorded history of our times as a result.

Originally posted to Dialogos on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 03:26 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  A month or so ago someone wrote a diary here (22+ / 0-)

    called "The Circle Jerk of Attribution". It was basically bemoaning the fact that far too much of our so called "journalism" these days is simply googling for the headline and copying the results. The web comic xkcd had a similar concept that showed a cycle of how a "fact" gets recycled thru enough layers and becomes it's own verification.

    "What profit a man, if he gain the world, but has to pay taxes on it?" Paul 8:36

    From the Gospel of St. Ron Paul in the Teachings and Misunderstandings of the Words of Adam Smith

    by ontheleftcoast on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 03:36:04 PM PST

  •  A model? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee, JBL55

    Well, it worked so well in Flight of the Phoenix, didn't it?

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 03:53:23 PM PST

  •  The most shocking thing to me in this post (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee, ChadmanFL, Cliss

    is that the Guardian gets called out. Doesn't that violate some DKos rule?

    The important thing isn't if Greeks are leaving Greece, but if their money is.

  •  My husband is a physician (11+ / 0-)

    We left the USA because there were no jobs for people of his specialty and age. He is over 65, and although it is against the law people in his age group are put at the bottom of the applicant pile.

    In the US people are delaying surgeries because if hard times. These surgeries may have been elective, or they may people who  no longer can pay for healthcare. The number of surgical specimens in the US are down by a third over what they were before 2008.

    IN 2010 we looked into the prospect of relocating to Ireland. Locum tenens jobs were readily available then in Ireland. We recently checked with head hunter firms there. These jobs in Ireland have totally dried up. In fact when we checked head hunter firms in New Zealand we were told not to apply because they were inundated by physicians of my husband's specialty from Ireland.

    One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." -- Plato

    by Jane Lew on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 04:34:14 PM PST

    •  Very true (7+ / 0-)

      Thanks for your comment, Jane.  I think your story is indiciative of the fact that this is a systemic problem that many countries...the United States, Ireland, Greece, and others, are all facing.  The unfortunate thing, however, is that there is now so much pessimism and negativity in Greece that many people think that "everything* is better, more just, and less corrupt overseas, and these perceptions do feed into the actual migration out of the country.

      Your comment also reminded me of a couple of articles I read a little while back about the tens of thousands of Americans who are seeking medical treatment overseas, in "third-world" countries, simply because they cannot afford to pay for treatment here in the States, or their insurance (if they are insured) is refusing to pay for necessary treatment.

      •  I can not say too much now, but (5+ / 0-)

        we are looking at a place that specializing in "medical tourism."

        All the physicians are British or American trained.

        The interesting thing is that the pay for physicians is not that much less than it is in the US owing to the high costs of dealing with the private insurance companies. Considering the much lower cost of living in this country, the effective pay is better than the US.

        One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." -- Plato

        by Jane Lew on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 06:25:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  you've got a bad link: (6+ / 0-)

    The Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011.  I think there's an extra "h" in the code.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 06:18:58 PM PST

  •  That's some good investigatin', there. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neo11, DRo, JBL55, hannah

    The neat thing about the Internet is that you can do this sort of thing; the neat thing about this post is that you spent the time and effort doing it. Most cool.

  •  It's clear we ALL have to be fact-checkers. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JBL55, Egalitare, neo11, ozsea1

    Disgusting.

    Who the hell has the time?!

    Great post, neo11.

  •  Common sense needs to kick in at some point (9+ / 0-)

    And Mark Twain once said, "Nothing is so rare as common sense."

    10% of a nation is supposed to have pulled up stakes in 12 months...and gone where? (This is what finally led to the retraction as the diarist points out.)
    And what would be the impact of 10% of the population leaving in one year have on the nation they leave behind?
    Can you say AUSTERITY? DEPRESSION? Would there be falling rents for residences and businesses, a massive contraction of the market to adjust to 10% less demand? You know, everything the banksters want Greece to do right now so they can get their precious bond slices paid off?

    Or, if you like your economics another way: labor shortages that would at least reduced the unemployment rate to eye-squinting levels, coupled with RISING wages for those left behind (you know, that free market stuff where a commodity (like labor) that gets to be in short supply has its price go up? Cf. 1973, oil). Rising/soaring wages and falling rents would attract IMMIGRATION by the ton, would it not? An explosion of "Hellas as a Second Language" courses (HSL)?

    Since neither of these 2 are happening, common sense would suggest (in a LOUD voice) that a 10% population loss was not happening either.

    This reminds me of the 1982 Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon. How many civilians were displaced by the invasion, fleeing north toward Beirut to escape the rampaging Israeli tanks and armies? According to the Lebanese government and the PLO (which had de facto control of the southern half of the country to use as a staging area for night raids and daylight missile shooting into Israel, and the reason for the invasion in the first place) the first day saw almost 50,000 civilians fleeing the fighting. After a week, did you know almost 600,000 refugees had been displaced?
    These were official government & PLO estimates and were therefore duly reported and repeated by AP, UPI, Reuters, et. al.
    Mind you the reporters printing these numbers were in Beirut, the closest they could get to the front. They could have gone out to the suburbs to see the massive camps set up to house the refuges...except there were no camps. They could have gone to the Beirut airport to see flight after flight of UN-sponsored cargo planes landing with food and medicine for the newly homeless, displaced by the scourge of war...except there was no airlift.
    They could have gone down to the docks to see and film the freighters unloading food, supplies, even educational materials for the children, to supply the bereft refugees ringing Beirut in their tattered camps...except there was no sea lift.
    Thats because the 600,000 figure endlessly repeated, printed (and for all I know incorporated into dull speeches at the UN) was a fiction. Particularly when you figured out the total population of Lebanon was 3 million....and that the total population of southern Lebanon that was invaded was less than 300,000....and that when the invasion came it was the Israelis who had the refugee problem.
    Yes, 10s of thousands of Lebanese fled TOWARD the invading Israelis seeking succor and hope and in particular ESCAPE from the oppressive mis-rule of Arafat and his minions in Lebanon.

    (Hint to reporters: refugees always flee AWAY from the nastiest bad guys whenever they can and TOWARD those they believe will make their lives better/safer.)

    These sort of messes SHOULD be easier to check in the Internet age, but as the diary points out, the Internet is a door that swings both ways...and the need for fact checking lives on.

    Shalom.

    "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

    by WineRev on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 02:41:51 AM PST

  •  Good work (and a spelling niggle) (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JBL55, Iberian, neo11, Cliss

    Immigrants come into a nation and emigrants leave a nation, I believe.

    I would assume, and only assume, that there is yet another possible explanation for the wildly inflated numbers, and that is that the World Bank is counting the same people twice or three times. From a financial point of view, labor and wage is the concern rather than physical persons, and it's possible that they are tracking, unconsciously or intentionally, migrant labor and unskilled labor, and, of course, just predicting.

    Of course, though, this is how myth gets made, and how history gets curved. These things have to be pushed the other direction, vigorously.

    Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

    by The Geogre on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 03:08:47 AM PST

  •  Holmes said it best (6+ / 0-)
    I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

    The original reporter had a narrative: Greece is falling apart, so its people are leaving. The 1.2 million emigre figure supported the narrative, so it had to be true, regardless.

    Or, to quote a much lesser literary figure than Conan Doyle's creation, "I want to believe."

    Radarlady, hearing those words as Jeremy Brett spoke them...

    •  This is a case showing that Holmes was wrong. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neo11

      Here we have people looking at "data" without having a sensible theory to test it against.

      The data was wrong -- but real. They were numbers in a book. The problem was that the reporter had a narrative -- not a theory. He took the data as it was because it fit a story, a story that isn't internally consistent and doesn't predict the consequences of the number.

      Remember, Doyle was a writer of the romantic era, a man who had so little respect for science that he may have perpetrated the Piltdown man hoax. The Holmesian theory of knowledge is and was common among some scientist -- but it's terribly, terribly wrong.

      Some "theories" are worse than nothing -- and some theories are better than data.

  •  A lie travels halfway around the world before... (6+ / 0-)

    the truth has pulled its boots on.

  •  Statistics (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JBL55, decembersue, neo11, ozsea1

    Humans are just not wired for statistics ... and few get educated in using them. A couple of great books can help The Drunkard's Walk (fooled by randomness) is a good start.

    The stat that gets me is the Foxxcon suicide stats in China. The only number that gets cited is the number of suicides, with no attention given to the size of the workforce or the actual suicide rate in China. At 22.3 per 100,000, you would expect Foxxcon to have about 200 suicides a year company wide (900,000 employees). This expectation is actually higher than the number of actual suicides I have seen published. Not arguing work force conditions, just statistical reality.

    Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. - JFK

    by taonow on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 03:25:55 AM PST

    •  The point I believe wasn't statistical. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1

      The suicides were intentional communications -- not abnormalities to be statistically analyzed, but one off shots with intentionality.

      It's a mistake to analyze communications with those kinds of statistics; you have to analyze their informational contents, which involves analyzing how expected they are in context, not merely how likely they are in a semi-Newtonian way.

      If I shoot myself in my boss's office, you can't look at the overall suicide rate, but the rate of suicides in my boss's office.

  •  Exhibit A: NYT's Judith Miller (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare, flavor411, neo11

    Real journalism requires more than repeating what someone else said, as this diary beautifully illustrates.

    Thank you!

    "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another." ~ George Bancroft (1800-1891)

    by JBL55 on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 04:50:20 AM PST

    •  The Judith Miller Problem (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neo11, ozsea1

      As various remarks in a number of the posts on this thread indicate, the quality of journalism in the world is not good and largely reflects the interests and mind-sets of those doing the hiring.  It also reflects a very serious deficiency of training in the sciences, especially human biology, mathematics, and statistics.

      Clearly, the Judith Miller case is a more extreme example of what can go wrong when the government itself looks to plant misleading information and some in the media are more than too happy to oblige for personal gain.  To an extent it is the extreme aberration that encapsulates the the overall problem.

      The fact that Ms. Miller's reputation as a journalist was destroyed in the process is of limited usefulness compared to addressing the problem that was made clear in excellent article by neo11 regarding the origins of the Greek emigration story.  Bad journalism, regardless of the reason can quickly permeate the internet and become embedded as common wisdom.  However, it does emphasize the role such facts play in creating the aura of authority surrounding various falsehoods and the damage they can cause.

      Given the slant of journalism to push those stories of most value to the interests of their owners, it can certainly be expected that such an inherent bias leading to misleading to its journalism will continue.  To its credit the Guardian at least published a retraction, a formality that many modern "news" outlets don't even bother with.  Nonetheless, as neo11 notes, the damage is largely done nonetheless.  

      This situation was magnified many times by in the "climate gate" "scandal", which turned out to be a very big non-scandal, but once certain political elements have latched on to such a "fact", it takes a life of its own in the body politic, since the mere continuous repeating of a big lie as Goebel's noted is an excellent propaganda tool.

      This leads to the question of what can society do to address this problem, which as we all recognize has social and political implications far beyond this particular story.  At its heart is what can the public to trust as sources of factual content and how can true authority as well as false narrative be recognized.

      Although the answer, should from a scientific perspective is trust nothing,  However, from a practical perspective this is not a workable solution, because unlike in science where all are dedicated and steeled with an intellectual honesty and there is a determination to search for truth in the natural world constrained by consistency of prediction despite one's preconceptions, other activities and intentions are not so constrained.

      One comment above drew attention to Wikipedia as being potentially highly prone to this kind of error.  To an extent this is certainly true since anyone can edit.  However, it is also true that anyone can edit back and there has grown around this wonderful enterprise an entire series of protocols and methods for handling contention with regard to facts.

      The point that needs to be emphasized here is that the solution to the problem of shoddy journalism is the need for the broader public of readers and consumers of this information to create and support Wikipedia like enterprises that provide a perpetual place for fact checking and fact contention in an open and critical way so that it becomes harder to propagate bad journalism.

      We all have a role to play in this and to a large extent the Daily Kos itself is directed toward this end, although I believe it is not yet well enough organized to fully take on the challenge in part because it isn't yet big enough and well enough integrated to do this.  Consequently, we all have to listened to the very many Kos railings against the reporting in the MSM, without really building the kind of culture that would make such reporting and punditry built around falsehood  more and more difficult.

      I might suggest and would look forward to participating in a community-wide effort to establish more of a Wiki-Pedia and community series of reference database to links and information that begin to address this very serious problem in our society and our culture, first from within Kos, probably more importantly beyond KOS thorugh links and organization outside of KOS, so that it can be more readily used as a resource by those who champion truth over false, but politically expedient narratives.  Surely, there must be other technically minded souls within the KOS community like myself with an interest in seeing this done.

      In an ideal world, this would be the province of government, which is in essence the glue the holds civilization together.  However, sadly in our society there needs to be organization like KOS to actually get the job done.  Nonetheless, there are many useful and important sources of fact within government websites and these need to be drawn upon as well.  The KOS community has linked to these numerous times in the past.  Likewise, there are many non-profit organizations working outside or with government that can better facilitate such an enterprise, given the divided and transitory nature of political will.  The public frankly needs more resources to check and monitor "facts", independent of the media and of government, and especially of corporations and other more inherently biased sources of "fact".  

      I think that unless those of us in KOS who recognize this as an issue step up collectively and begin to organize and mobilize to produce a more integrated web-apparatus to challenge falsehood, we can expect to continue much as we have done before.  However, if we can build a more integrated effort to "fact check" that does not revolve around  to do fact checking, such as "politi-fact" which has a very checkered record, then we will prove relatively less effective in addressing this problem.

      If we were to succeed, this will truly make it harder for republicans, who's nearly entire game consists of using the media to synchronize the wackiness that comes from false narratives to exploit others.  

      However, organized and however useful, like Wikipedia it is not an enterprise that anyone can do on their own, it will require both an army dedicated to constructing it and defending it and an army dedicated to using it most effectively and extending into communities beyond our own.

      I believe that perhaps such an effort can start by identifying a few fields of inquiry, such as voting, registration, and elections, as well as perhaps around a few subjects of most interest to KOS readers, where the community could start to organize such an effort.  Much is already there, its just presently hard to use most efficiently.  

      For example, we need to have a way of keeping a scorecard on journalists and news outlets, so that falsehoods can be both documented and the pattern of repeatedly pushing misinformation can be more directly made apparent to readers.  Much like sports fans keep track of their favorite baseball stars.  We need more Artificial Intelligence agents to be developed within the site to help automate this process to help structure, relatively unstructured data.

      Looking beyond KOS resources, clearly, scientific organization are useful places to start, but again there are so many and so diffuse and seemingly randomly directed that as they currently stand, they are less than useful toward this end.   The KOS site could do much more toward this by establishing a directory of tags for blog items that others might then use to better organize directories to factual content on particular subjects.  These need to have a timeline in terms of the content as well as sufficient detail to permit cross-discipline integration to emerge.  What should emerge are protocols and methods that permit a larger community to get involved in the effort.

      I think the first step is for the KOS community to think about how best to reorganize and distill by "factualizing" the content of so many good posts in its current archives so that these facts can be readily and more forcefully, if by no other than shear weight alone, brought to bear, when they are needed to rebut nonsense.  As good as it is, and I think it is great, the problem with KOS and so many other forward leaning sites, is that so much good content quickly becomes lost in the steady stream of new information and ideas, that it can not be used to build more progressive narratives in the public mind as to what the facts actually are.

      This will also allow us to look critically at our own perceptions and answer whether or not our community has effectively responded to challenges of fact in the past.  Sadly, republican misinformation still is way too much the standard of business as usual in the "news" business.  If we truly want to see that change, then we must better organize to deal with it, lest the truth not reach the minds it needs to reach.

      So whether it be detailed information concerning migration patterns, climate science, or weapons of mass destruction, voting patterns, etc., we as a community will be far better prepared to organize against the spreading of falsehood in our society.  The wonderful thing about such an effort, like Wikipedia is that one can learn so much in the process that life becomes truly exciting and very much worth living. Who knows, we might actually make the world a better place as a result.

  •  I love Greek mythology (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA, neo11

    but this doesn't fit under that rubric.  Nice diary.

    A petty criminal is someone with predatory instincts but insufficient capital to form a corporation.

    by stlsophos on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 05:06:33 AM PST

  •  Reminds me of a highly rated diary (4+ / 0-)

    here at DailyKos not so long ago about how millions and millions (the numbers were fuzzy, as they tend to be when totally made up, but in the range of 5 to 6 million a year) were leaving the USA.  Because of poor dental care, or something like that.

    Again, where did all these people go?  Mexico is the only plausible desination, and that seems just a TAD unlikely.

  •  Great analysis (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neo11

    Thanks for digging deep!

  •  Completely Off-Topic (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tle, lonemorriscodem, Iberian, neo11, Russgirl

    But being the provincial American, I was recently fascinated by the massive population upheavel that accompanied the end of Feudal principalities that marked the beginning of the modern states, in this instance the birth of modern Turkey and Greece post WWI entailed the involuntary migration of Turks and Greeks:

    The "Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations" was signed at Lausanne, Switzerland, on the 30th January 1923, by the governments of Greece and Turkey. It involved approximately 2 million people (around 1.5 million Anatolian Greeks and 500,000 Muslims in Greece), most of whom were forcibly made refugees and de jure denaturalized from their homelands.

    NeoCons' view on torture: if it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for anyone!

    by clone12 on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 06:49:07 AM PST

  •  That's interesti- SQUIRREL! (0+ / 0-)

    Sorry, can't finish reading your diary.  Gotta go read about the latest item on the Obama socialist agenda.  And the new ice age that's about to happen.

    I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

    by tle on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 07:10:24 AM PST

  •  As fast as someone like the diarist can debunk (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neo11

    bad data, the people who make stuff up that get into media through poorly researched articles, FB, Twitter, Faux Nooze and other outlets can simply stay ahead of the debunking and make lots of people believe a lot of real shit isn't really real.

    And quoting authoritative sources like The World Bank lends an air of credence that the bad information simply doesn't deserve.

    Nice work neo11.

    Republicans are like alligators. All mouth and no ears.

    by Ohiodem1 on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 07:27:57 AM PST

  •  This is the kind of analysis I (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neo11, angry marmot, saluda

    love to see here. It really shows there's still reality-based thinking here.

    [insert pithy sigline here]

    by terrypinder on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 07:29:20 AM PST

  •  Guardian has real problems (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neo11

    The figure for Greek migrants is the figure for Greeks known to be living abroad - not the migration movement for any one time period.

    The Guardian has serious problems with innumerate journalists.  This article on the UK site full Facts summarises the issue and links to the Guardian readers Editor column on this.

    Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

    by saugatojas on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 07:38:01 AM PST

    •  Guardian is notoriously unrealiable (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neo11, Cliss

      Having worked in foreign news for Danish Broadcasting for a good while Guardian was one of the papers we were always hesitant on quoting.
      Actually it is a problem for all the big British papers that their relation to facts has deterioated greatly. They used to be on par with the largest US ones in their foreign reporting, but has fallen very far from that, and I'm sorry to say that Guardian is probably the sloppiest, save the tabloids (which don't do that much foreign reporting anyway).
      As the Guardian is the leading British paper of the left and takes pride in finding different stories and angles than the rest this is really too bad. But we actually more or less stopped quoting their solos...

  •  When you look at groups that have migrated en mass (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neo11, saluda, Russgirl

    from overseas to the US in past eras, the conditions are usually very different than what's going on in Greece now.

    When huge quantities of Norwegians were coming to Minnesota in the 19th century, they were escaping turmoil and religious rebellion and feudalism, but they were also lured to Minnesota by cheap land which had just been stolen from the Indian populations. It was a combination of opportunity at the destination, and misery in the point of origin, that got them to uproot themselves. It takes a lot to get someone to leave their country, particularly when the journey is so far, and so expensive, and so permanent.

    Jobs are fairly tight for newcomers in many EU countries even if the overall unemployment rate might not be as bad as the US, so where would they go? They're sure as heck not coming here, where immigration has slowed dramatically.

    Even within the US, people out of work or hurt by this recession have little in the way of mobility, and no compelling argument to move. It makes little sense that Greece would be much different.

    •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cliss

      Conditions are different.  It's an expensive journey, but moreover, nowadays, it's a journey without guarantees.  There isn't any new "gold rush" or "land rush" that I'm aware of, and most countries are having their own economic difficulties.  Not to mention the fact that immigration restrictions (at least for Greeks seeking to leave the EU entirely) are quite stringent.  

  •  Most Impressive (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neo11

    Your researching on this is outstanding. I only wish it were not such a rare thing to encounter similarly stringent and dedicated analysis from our "newspapers of record."

  •  Anecdotal, perhaps, but my wife is Greek and... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hannah, neo11, billlaurelMD

    ...has hundreds of friends and relatives still there, and remains in contact with most of them (we spend a small fortune on Christmas cards alone). None of them have emigrated, nor have they noticed any of their friends or neighbors doing so.

    That being said, among the younger folks, if you dangled a US or EU college admission or a halfway decent job in front of them, they'd leave home in a second.  

    •  Very relevant (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      billlaurelMD

      These sorts of anecdotal examples are quite relevant, because if you take such examples from many different people who have friends and relatives in Greece, a pattern emerges.  The pattern is that people aren't leaving en masse!  In fact, on my end, not only is everyone that I knew in Greece still in Greece, but one person who did come to the United States (he had previously lived here) looking for a job, actually ended up returning after not finding anything here in three months of searching!

      That said, it is true that the younger folks would leave if they had an offer to study or work overseas, but even this isn't new.  Greece, for a while, has had large percentages of its young people studying at foreign universities.  One statistic I read a while back and which I wish I could track down again had only one country in the world (Thailand) "exporting" more of its students.  Of course, studying overseas doesn't necessarily mean they will stay overseas, especially since economic conditions, to varying extents, are difficult all around.

  •  Good diary. Btw, the '62 green cards' number (0+ / 0-)

    is not quite right. 62 Greeks got their green cards as a result of the annual lottery per your link. However, green cards are also given via other programs and clearly more Greeks got them. Although we are probably talking about a few hundred people so it doesn't matter in the big picture.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site