Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

‘Surge’ Count

When it comes to describing President Bush’s plan for increasing U.S. troop levels in Iraq, a turn of phrase can mean a lot. A database search of media coverage for the week of Jan 10-Jan 17 conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, found that the word “surge” — which is favored by war supporters — showed up in 18,118 stories, about twice as often as “escalate” or “escalation” (10,112), which conjure up bad memories ofVietnam. More loaded terms, those highlighting the negative implications of the policy, trailed “surge” by a factor of about 13-to-1. In the Google search, the word “gamble,” for instance, appeared in 1,350 stories in connection with Bush and Iraq. “Last chance” appeared in another 1,098 stories. Perhaps the most negative Vietnam-era term of all also showed up in the press. “Quagmire” appeared 1,044 times in the Google search. Additionally, the football phrase for a last-ditch effort in a losing game, “Hail Mary” or “Hail Mary pass” appeared in 334 stories. But journalists and TV pundits also coined a play on that term, calling Bush’s policy a “Hail Maliki pass” (227 stories), a reference to the Iraqi president on whom his U.S. counterpart has pinned much of his hope for surge success. Read More