Many have pounced on the sleazy storythat appeared onSunday's front page on veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan and committing murders.
The story failed basic journalism, as the Times attempted no comparison to the general population, which would have potentially made the story marginally useful, either showing that you were more or less safe with a veteran living next door. But the Times big finding, that 121 veterans either committed a killing in this country or are charged with one, is by itself useless, a single data point floating in space without context. Can one imagine the Times just spouting out a raw number of murders committed by illegal immigrants without context? The left would rip them apart for such journalistic sloppiness in the service of pursuing a politically incorrect question.
The Wall Street Journal was the latest to editorialize, this morning, that the story was not only invidious towards veterans, but statistically worthless as well:
"The Times didn't try to establish a causal relationship between war service and homicide. It didn't even try to establish a correlation. The 7,000-word article contained no statistics on the size of the veteran population, or on the prevalence of homicide either in the general population or among young men, who are disproportionately represented among active-duty and recently discharged service members.
"Various commentators performed their own back-of-the-envelope calculations, including Ralph Peters of the New York Post, who estimates that if the Times figures are accurate, recent war vets are only about one-fifth as likely to be implicated in a homicide as the average 18- to 34-year-old.
"The Times acknowledges that this is no scientific study. It says it probably undercounted the number of homicides by war veterans, since it based its count on news reports. It does claim to have found a large increase - 89% - in the number of homicides attributed to servicemen or recent vets since October 2001, compared with the previous six-year period.
"But there's the real rub. The Times is purporting to test a media stereotype by measuring its prevalence in the media. As a Pentagon spokesman put it, that 89% spike could have resulted form 'an increase in awareness of military service by reporters since 9/11.' Or, to put it more bluntly, the Times hasn't necessarily proved that the stereotype is true - only that it is a stereotype."