Effective PR

When I first went to Sudan, the most oft-quoted statistic I heard was that 200,000 people had been killed as a result of the fighting. This was according to the UN – and the “as a result” part was extremely important, since it took into account famine and disease that was caused by the persistent levels of insecurity.

A little while later, this statistic, at the insistence again from the UN, was upgraded to 300,000 (highly speculative and simply taking account of the fact that the first statistic came from circa 2005).

Now, we are hearing, on almost every newstory that quotes the 300,000 figure, that the government believes the number to be closer to 10,000. Of course, we’re actually talking about apples-and-pears here, since the UN statistic considers those that died “as a result” of the fighting, whilst the government figure doesn’t. But that’s never mentioned.

Now this is effective PR. I know some government PR hounds in Sudan, that were lobbying very intensely to prevent this wild guess of 300,000 people being branded about as though it were the de facto truth. The fact that they have now managed to get, everywhere, western journalists to include the 10,000 figure as well is pretty impressive.

But that just goes to show how PR works. You only need one established media outlet to report the figure, with a certain amount of authority, and then everyone is doing it.

The same way that everyone now compares the size of Darfur with the size of France, even though a much closer approximation would be Spain.

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