Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A devastating analysis of "analyst" Sylvia Longmire

I've earlier bumped into some writing by Sylvia Longmire, which I had a gut-level reaction of dislike to, given the alarmist hyperbole from someone who shows no indication of actually having set her foot in Mexico or the U.S. border, two areas she writes about.

Now Tom Barry of Center for International Policy has an absolutely devastating review of Longmire, which I strongly recommend as a warning against the so-called "intelligence experts" popping up to inform or rather misinform the public (in contrast to Barry's excellent blog,, which is among the most informative on the subject).

Read the column here.


  1. Even more interesting: Longmire actually reacted to the column. So we might see an animated discussion in the aftermath of its publication :-P

  2. Many thanks for the update! I can't say Longmire comes off any better in her response. Words have consequences, to be sure the written as well, and when you write stuff that she does, you will have to face it.

  3. I do share a lot of the issues that Barry has with 'computer-bound' analysts, but I supposed that is a frustration that people who work in the field have in common.

    I think Barry isn't so much taking on Longmire because he has a particular disliking of her as a person or professional, but because she's an example of an information flow that is increasingly spun (either directly or indirectly through these 'think tanks' on security and transnational issues) by the Department of Homeland Security. The problem with these consultancy agencies, is that they make it increasingly difficult to discern between (relatively) neutral information and intentional spin for policy purposes, for journalists and even more for the public...

    Then again, it's a challenge we'll always have to face as journalists. I supposed it would be good if we, as media professionals, did a little more background checking before we reach out into the punditocracy ;-)

  4. Indeed - and moreover, they all reinforce their narratives simply by reading each other's... narratives. May we not fall in the same trap!:)

  5. That's EXACTLY what drives me crazy about drug-war analysis: it's a closed loop. Sensationalist A quotes Sensationalist B's quote of Sensationalist C's interpretation of Sensationalist A's remarks, and all of a sudden one guy's paranoid whisperings has turned into a page full of "citations" that are really just the same damn thing over and over.

    And it is quite clear that Longmire tailors her alarmist reports to the needs of her audience, who are more interested in feeding their own panic and justifying extremist security measures than the truth.

    This is a modern kind of "crying wolf" that actually obscures the real nature of the threat.

    I had to laugh when I read her describing the Mexican-American War as "an attack" along the lines of Pearl Harbor and 9/11. The US attacked Mexico on false pretenses because we thought they looked weak and they had something we wanted to take from them.