t on Wed, 31 Mar 1999 14:11:34 +0200

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Syndicate: Milosevic NEAR Hitler

I mentioned (in previous mail) the use of historical atrocities as
legitimisers, in political argument. Because WWW includes a large number
of texts, it is possible to make frequency assessments, and this can be
done with a high-reach search engine. They are indicative only: a
complete assessment would require that each text was analysed.

I used Alta Vista, because it gives counts for Boolean expressions. I
searched for the frequency of the combination Milosevic with Hitler.
This is given as a ratio of the count for Milosevic alone. To assess
whether this is specifically related to Milosevic, I did the same for
the Irish Prime minister Bertie Ahern. Note that many documents from the
last few days are not yet in the index.

The frequencies of the combinations are surprisingly low. "Milosevic
NEAR Hitler" gives only 83 pages: that is 1 in 388 of all pages with the
name Milosevic. Milosevic is NEAR Stalin, in only 1 in 1149 of the
pages: NEAR Pol Pot, in only 1 in 1787. Bertie Ahern scores zero: his
name is never near any of these three.

With the Boolean operator AND, all pages are included which include the
name Milosevic with another name. The frequencies are still low. One
time in every 49 pages Milosevic is named together with Hitler. But even
Bertie Ahern appears with Hitler in 1 in 126 pages. Milosevic and Stalin
are together, in 1 page in 94. Milosevic and Pol Pot, 1 in 290. For some
reason Bertie Ahern is named more often together with Pol Pot, once in
189 pages.

But the general pattern  is clear. Milosevic is linked in texts to
symbols of historical atrocity, more often than a "neutral" western head
of government. However the difference is less than you might expect,
only 2 to 3 times more often. Also the symbols have an internal order:
first Hitler, then Stalin, then Pol Pot. I have used a very simple
search. It is possible to automate this type of count. However, I think
the general pattern will be the same, certainly in the sequence of the
symbols. As I indicated in previous mail, negative legitimisers are
culturally determined. Culturally memory is ultra-selective.

Hitler made a famous remark, when discussing the intensification of
anti-Jewish campaigns... "Who remembers the Armenians?" Partly because
that remark is so often quoted, many people do know about the Armenian
genocide. But who remembers who ordered it? Who was the "Hitler" for the
Armenians? That is not considered culturally relevant, so it is not
emphasised. So too with Milosevic and Hitler, or Saddam and Hitler:
these are comparisons specific to certain cultures at certain times. No
moral judgment can be derived from them.

Paul Treanor