33 Dead Americans is a Tragedy, 33 Dead Iraqi’s is a Statistic

While I won’t discount the horrific nature of yesterday’s incidents at Virginia Tech, I’m fairly annoyed by the media coverage surrounding it, considering the level of violence that continues to rage in the Middle East, claiming exactly the same amount of civilian lives a day in Iraq. While I don’t think Americans would on a conscious level weigh a white Westerners life as more important than a brown Middle Easterners, the media has made some serious subconscious decisions for us. The majority of news pages appear as the CNN does, asking how, why, and the amount of terrible violence inflicted by ‘crazy Asian loner guy’:

CNN’s Main Page:

Yet on the same day, 20 Iraqi policemen & recruits were reported executed and a bomb in Baghdad killed 13 (that’s 33 total deaths — the same as the VT shooting — if you’re keeping track). Yet you have to get to the ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ page of CNN and BBC News respectively if you care to update your Iraq body counts (the CNN’s World page even has it’s front page article as a feature piece on the ‘World Reacts’ to the Virginia Tech Shootings):

BBC’s Middle East Page:

CNN’s World Page:

“One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic,” spoken by Joseph Stalin is an apt statement for the 1940’s; it’s modern day equivalent may be “One Western death is a tragedy; a million Third World deaths is a statistic”.


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  1. Ablogistan says:

    33 people were killed at Virginia Tech, 33 Iraqi’s on the same day.

    While I won’t discount the horrific nature of yesterday’s incidents at Virginia Tech, I’m fairly annoyed by the media coverage surrounding it, considering the level of violence that continues to rage in the Middle East, claiming exactly the same amo…

  2. Kit says:

    plus 33 Iraqi dead isn’t all that much. That shit happens like every single day there. VT is not known for having crazy people shoot shit up. I am glad that people can’t blame American culture for this, that is always too easy of a scapegoat.

  3. Budda Magoo says:

    Screw you fucktard.

  4. alex says:

    good point. it’s very strange for a country to have the power to provoke a civil war in another country, and to have chosen to do so. now it’s called “THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ”

  5. timmy242 says:

    Kit and Budda – You are missing the point entirely.

    Do you really think just because people die in droves every day in Iraq that it’s any less tragic, in a day to day sense? Families in Iraq have been going through what the VT families are going through every day since the war began. Think about that. Every day scads of people are killed (guilty and innocent) and it is no less a tragedy just because one group happens to be in a war zone and another group happens to be on an American college campus. Get another reality check, yours seems to have bounced.

  6. alec says:

    The point of this article was basically one of how American’s (and Westerners in general, since this post includes the BBC) can orientalize and have a certain dissonance for actions we’re involved in halfway across the globe. The inherit statement behind this is the media is a lot more involved when it’s closer to home and involves Americans — whether this reflects deeper racial, ‘foreign’, or economic divisions is a personal perspective.

    I’ve already gotten a few ‘this is too soon’ IM’s. And to that, I have the following sarcastic statement: How dare you raise the issue of how we value other humans? White Americans are dead!!

  7. Kit says:


    The point is not whether or not the VT shootings are more or less tragic. The point is whether or not the VT shooting is more newsworthy than the Iraqi dead. It is no less tragic when someone dies in a car accident, but it is far less newsworthy than either events. You won’t see a paper in New Zealand with the headline: 4 dead in car crash in Bumfuche, Indiana, but the families involved will still have lost their loved ones.

    As sad as it is, people dying in Iraq is approaching the car crash level of normality.

  8. alec says:

    Kit: What would you envision the media coverage would be if it were say, 23 illegal immigrants? or 23 children? or 23 soldiers?

  9. alec says:

    And by 23, I meant 33.

  10. I dunno about you guys, but I woulda found it pretty difficult to keep a straight face when this gook came running at me with a machine gun.

    Also, check out our regular Bill Shakespeare’s engrish paper, Richard McBeef

  11. Kit says:

    Alec: 33 illegal immigrants going to school? I think it’d be pretty big news. I mean there were brown people that got shot by this dude. I don’t really think race is a big factor in this news coverage.

    So many people die everyday in Iraq, it sucks, we should call attention to it, but we can’t be surprised that it no longer shocks us. Soldiers dying in Iraq used to be a huge deal because it was rare, now it’s no longer front page news.

  12. alec says:

    Banker: [17:01] bleojaz: its the worst excuse for engrish i could ever imagine
    [17:01] bleojaz: this dude definitely didnt put prose before hos
    [17:02] bleojaz: he let the hos get to him and then forgot how to write prose

  13. Re: McBeef-
    anonymous_banker: its the worst excuse for engrish i could ever imagine
    anonymous_banker: this dude definitely didnt put prose before hos
    anonymous_banker: he let the hos get to him and then forgot how to write prose

  14. Omestes says:

    The difference between this, and dead Iraqis, and a car crash is intention. Dead innocents always is murder, while a car-crash is an accident, there was no intentional party willfully murdering another. This comparison doesn’t belittle the tragedy at Virginia Tech, but it does serve to emphasize our priorities.

    Why should this shock us? The news is a parade of massacre, and not just American caused ones. Death is losing some of its edge, which might be, in-part, a causal explanation of the ease some of us experience in slaughtering civilians. Human life gets cheaper and cheaper, the more common place death becomes.

  15. Kit says:


    My only point in comparing car crashes with Iraqi dead and the VT massacre is to illustrate that that which is common place is no longer news. Accidents, such as plane crashes, are news if they are rare.

    While it is disturbing that the deaths of innocent Iraqis due to violence is not news, my position remains that the reason it is not news is due to the fact that it occurs every single day, like car crashes, while shooting massacres occur more on the order of airplane crashes.

  16. Ryan says:

    Don’t mean to pile on, Alec, because I think your fundamental point is a really good one — not all of the victims in the VT shooting were white.


  17. alec says:

    Ryan: I know not everyone shot or killed were white. I wasn’t using race to exemplify the difference on the American side, but more on the Iraqi side (aka Middle Eastern, Muslim, brown) to provide either insight or thought about differences in media coverage or personal levels of empathy/sympathy.

    Kit: My examples weren’t meant to be in a school environment. I meant, say 23 blacks and latinos died in gang violence throughout America today, or 23 illegal immigrants died trying to cross the border, etc etc…

  18. […] Prose Before Hos » 33 Dead Americans is a Tragedy, 33 Dead Iraqi’s is a Statistic “One Western death is a tragedy; a million Third World deaths is a statistic” (tags: news) […]

  19. RootyB says:

    1) 33 deaths in the middle east might be newsworthy if it was somehow different from every other day. You don’t see ”

    2) Would you somehow expect news ABOUT the USA to not be the one widely reported IN the USA?

    It’s not every day that a single gunman takes out 33 people in the USA.

    It always cracks me up how many people feel slighted and pissed off that “the United States doesn’t care about the rest of the world.” In situations like this, there’s zero reason for the deaths in Iraq to be front-page news, from a strictly business standpoint. Even from a “what do our readers care about” standpoint, 33 deaths in the middle east is business as usual out there. If they suddenly had a day with ZERO violent deaths, that might be news. Call CNN to complain when that happens and they don’t make it front page news. 😉

  20. Tesko says:

    Shit happens. End of story.

  21. Anonymous says:


  22. […] more people are shot, beheaded and blown up every single day in Iraq than were shot at Virginia Tech yesterday in the “deadliest shooting […]

  23. Lindsey says:

    This ENTIRE conversation is sick and disturbing, have you ALL lost every sense of humanity you may have possessed? Are you ACTULLY debating which is more tragic?
    Sick Sick Sick

  24. thepoetryman says:

    Nice my friend. Posted a poem regarding this incident and another is forthcoming according to my muse. She is insisting! You link is in yesterdays post. Thank you.

  25. thepoetryman says:

    I believe, for the most part, the debate is centered on the hypocrisy. If one approaches the V Tech incident with the correct amount of candor one can see the many shades of difference, or indifference, as it were.

  26. Lindsey says:

    Fuck that. It is ALL tragic and it pisses me off that someone who is so worldy, and SO esoteric (note sarcasm) in thought has NO compassion. Don’t lump me in your category of “americans”. Is anyone saying the holocaust is any less tragic? No. Is anyone less affected by “the war”? No. But DAMMIT this happened here. IN America, and our country is slowly realizing that we are not invincible. Don’t belittle this cause it IS tragic. Hell you know what trumps all this? Darfur. Have we really reached a point where we are quantifying which death or which tragedy is MORE tragic. I can hear it now like children on a damn playground:

    “our tragedy is worse than your tragedy.”
    “No it’s not.”
    “yes it is.”
    “No its not.”

    How about this: IT ALL FUCKING SUCKS.

    Don’t take away from it. Are we as Americans not allowed to grieve? Is NOTHING sacred? Why can’t we be human beings together and see it all for what it is: SICK and TRAGIC, all lof it. The whole entire world is falling apart and all we can do is cry ourselves, we should cry for the species.

    I am so damn mad I can’t even think straight.

    Some dude is pissed off at life, severly disturbed and decided that he needed to go on a killing spree and doesn’t even have the balls to man up to what he did. Maybe one day I’ll have the broad perspective to see him for more than a cold blooded killer but right now, all I can think of is the lives lost and the manner in which it was done. It isn’t worse than anything else, but it is just as bad as anything else. LET PEOPLE MOURN IN PEACE – there are SO many insitutions that are angering me right now. The media turning this into a circus, blaming authorities and the president of the college for not having a crystal ball and stopping it. If the media new so damn much then why didn’t they step in?

    “Oh, no, we’ll just stand here with our mikes and say the same thing over and over again and then when we get some solid info we’ll critique those involved and talk about how it SHOULD have been handled”

    yeah well hindsight 20/20 and ya know what, if you know so much then YOU do it. Or, Better idea: Just report the news and shut the hell up.

    THEN there are people claiming that we don’t have a right to be upset? F U C K you. I am so mad I could spit. Seriously. Where do people get off? What, is it more humanitarian these days to NOT grieve this loss simply cause there is MORE loss in another country. I mourn it everday, for everyone. Beyond bombs there are starving children, raped women, kidnapped kids, slave trades that whore girls out to brothels, people beaten by those they love, it goes on and on and on and you know what? It is ALL tragic.

    And the world will try to capitolize on it. Who’s gonna buy the rights first? HBO? Lifetime? Warner Bros? Who’s gonna put his guns on Ebay first?

    Oh now I know that everyone will say something about how my perspective is so negative…but how could it not be? It happened not even three days ago and ALREADY the main thing is no longer the main thing. There are debates about what should get more tears. There are claims that more could’ve been done. And worst of all there is apathy. Has it all gotten that bad that there is no more compassion to go around? Are we all so consumed by our own tribulations that for one moment we cannot stop?

    And a girl walks into this office today to pick up her settlement check and bitches to me that she didn’t MAKE enough money off of her accident. And I wanted to yell, “Hey, no one shot your kid at school yesterday so I think your doin pretty good”

  27. cboostrom says:

    referring to first comment by kit – “im glad people cant blame america for this” – are you aware that the shooter lived in the US from the age of eight? moreover american gun culture and the ease with which anyone who pleases can obtain a gun is what allowed him access to the weapons. i am not saying that american culture is exclusively to blame, but we do have to ask ourselves why such incidents continue to take place in our country – 19 in the last decade to be exact.

  28. Kit says:

    Did someone shoot your kid yesterday? If so, I am sorry to hear that, losing a loved one is obviously a terrible terrible feeling, especially when the loss is untimely and violent. I have lost friends to guns, it’s impossible to describe the pain and shock.

    If not, who are you to talk? Why do you feel worse about these kids than the kids in Iraq that died yesterday?

    I don’t mean to be rude or inconsiderate, but I don’t understand why people grieve more for one stranger than another when they both are innocent and both die untimely, violent deaths.

  29. Kit says:

    cboostrom: Yeah, when I posted that, they hadn’t released the info that he was here since 8. I guess you can blame American culture. Did you know though that worst school massacre in US history was caused by dynamite? Not to say my tragedy is bigger than yours necessarily, but I just mean that if people want to kill people they don’t need guns.

    Not to imply that I think American gun policy is particularly rational. I think we should force people to take classes and learn how to use guns before we let them have one. I don’t know if that would have helped in this case particularly, but if the kid was as fucked up as his English major peers said, the gun instructors might have picked up on that. In any case, I think it’d be a good idea in general.

    I agree with you that America needs to chickity check itself before it wreckity wrecks itself. I just think that blaming guns is a little too simplistic, not that I know what to blame.

  30. alec says:

    Lindsey: I think thats the grander point of this whole discussion. I don’t think we’re trying to belittle anyone’s real pain related to the Virginia Tech shootings. Yah it sucks, yah it’s terrible, but it’s happening every FUCKING day in Iraq, and most of it is related to our presence and happens to INNOCENT civilians.

    Conclusion: Everyday, something like the Virginia Tech massacre happens in Iraq.

  31. J-Sizzzle says:

    I don’t like this Kit fellow. He seems to have an excellent grasp of how those sick journalist bastards work. Kitstopher, you also have an awful keen sense of what is quote-unquote “Newsworthy” and what is quote-unquote “Not.” Are you one of them? Either way, I say we string this asshole up by the nutsack! Am I right fellas? Let me know and I’ll get the string ready…..

    PS This is a good website to illustrate what is newsworthy in wartime (Note that the lead story is still in our collective mamories, while the secondary story nobody has ever heard of…..):

    http://frontpagearchive.com/Viewer.aspx?img=34041233 (requires PDF viewer)

    PPS Alec, when you moving to London and why? I promise not to ditch you by going to Nice and working until midnight the next time your here.

    PPPS Kit, come to London and crash on Kristine’s and my couch for two months.

  32. Kit says:

    It’s interesting that waaay at the bottom they talk about a plane crashing in Venezuela. Also, what’s a pot-sitter?

  33. J-Sizzzle says:

    I imagine a pot-sitter is what you would get if greg did some baby-sitting. SNAP!

  34. J-Sizzzle says:

    Also, scratch what I said before. There are two secondary stories in there that give a perfect example of news value. One, US continue to support missions in Cambodia. Two Idi Amin siezes power in Uganda. Both come after the lead Charlie Manson convicted. Both are obviously larger, more important parts of history and obviously, Nam and what Idi Amin did in Uganda are greater tragedies than the Manson killings. But the Manson killings still were a tragic event that the media jumped on and chose to put top of their newspapers, and you know what, though Manson only killed seven people, that story still a big part of history because of its nature as a unique singular event. The Amin story and the Cambodia story were both just pieces in the larger tragedies that were Uganda and Nam. Just like 132 people dying in Iraq on April 17 is part of the larger tragedy that is the war in Iraq. But as a singular event, it has little historical value (unless it becomes a major turning point in the war for either side). The singular event of VTech will be remembered historically because of its uniqueness, and that’s why the press do what they do and beat the story into the ground, because they are supposed to be writing the first rough draft of history. Also, that Venezuela thing was weird, wasn’t it? I gotta’ get up in the mornin’, so peace.

  35. hamsterloveday says:

    Americans are privileged in life and in death. While all murders– American, Iraqi– are devestating, the loved ones of Americans have privileges that the Iraqis do not. Americans get to ask tough questions to university leaders about their responses to the massacre and to their governmental representatives about gun control. Additionally, they have numerous media outlets to express their opinions and create future change. They get to bury their children/husbands/wives/friends and grieve in peace. Iraqis, on the other hand, die without affair, nameless, their bodies perhaps unrecovered. In most cases, there is no one asking questions about their rape/assault/murder. Perhaps we prefer not to know.

  36. Kit says:

    That’s a good point hamster. I was reading CNN and I saw that they had a little mini-bio for each of the VT victims and it was really moving. But this another example of the privilege American dead get, the 1000s of dead Iraqis will never have their story told, and it’s a shame. I think if even 1 percent of the stories were heard, maybe that could humanize the horror that is going on over there.

  37. […] piece serves as a follow up piece to 33 Dead Americans is a Tragedy, 33 Dead Iraqi’s is a Statistic, which raised the point that while the Virginia Tech tragedy was a tragedy, these death tolls are […]

  38. […] posts, a lot of frequent visitors, and plenty of controversy. We were featured on Wonkette for our reporting on the media’s coverage of the 33 people who died at Virginia Tech and the 33 that d…, Crooks & Liars for our take on Rush Limbaugh’s racism, and constantly do well on Reddit. […]

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