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June 10, 2003
HOWELL RAINES' AMERICA: A VISIT TO THE BLOGOSPHEREBy
The Mudville Gazette is pleased to present a new series from cub reporter Howell Raines. "Howell Raines' America" will focus on under-reported segments of American society, with a focus on those things that make America great. Today Raines investigates the world of Web Loggers; ironically a segment of society that some would suggest helped hasten his ouster from a previous job.
After some little research, I discovered these blogs to be fairly evenly split, with approximately half being right wing extremist hate sites and the remainder being more moderate, mainstream pro-Al Gore sites dedicating to righting the wrongs perpetrated on this country in the wake of the 2000 election and the subsequent "war on terror". Although we were able to track down thousands of the right wing conservative neocon pro-war bloggers, we could locate very few moderates. Presumably this is due to the fact that they must remain anonymous due to fear of retribution.
After some effort and a payoff to AOL, I was finally able to set aside some time to visit with a group of these middle-of-the-road Bloggers. This past Sunday morning I found myself in the basement of a nice suburban Boston area home, being entertained by "Bill" as we awaited the arrival of his fellow internet "columnists."
HR: "Bill", you run a highly successful weblog...
Bill: Which one?
HR: Oh, you have several? I was referring to "I Hate Bush"
Bill: Yea, that one. It gets a lot of hits from people who think it's a gay porn site though. I mean, a hit is a hit, so whatever works.
HR: So you have other sites?
Bill: Oh, several. "Bushaterz," "Bushwakkerz," "Bushnazi," "Suzy Cataloni for Homecoming Queen"... A lot of people visit 'Bushaterz' because they think its anti-bus though.
HR: Suzy Cataloni for Homecoming Queen?
Bill: What? Who said that? I never heard of that.
HR: Well you sure are busy. How many Blogs do you produce?
Bill: Well...I'm not really sure. I've forgotten a few. And also it's not all about the blogging. I also go out and comment on the right wing hate Blogs. This lets the wackos know they aren't in control and also brings traffic to my Blogs.
HR: This is why you have to use a false name then, for fear of being targeted by these hate groups?
Bill: Yeah! False names, actually. If I was the only one commenting on the Nazi sites I'd look foolish, I think. So I use several different names throughout the thread.
HR: Ahhh... good tactic. Kinda like what The Party does on voting day. You'll go far. Say, when are your fellow Bloggers going to arrive?
Bill: Oh, any minute, I'm sure. Hopefully soon. My folks are due home from Church here soon...
HR: Oh, this isn't your place? I assumed you were making money with all these Blogs...
Bill: Oh no! I mean, I've got the PayPal things and all...and once someone got me an "Adult Books Online Gift Certificate" from my wish list...
HR: So how did you get started Blogging?
Bill: Mrs. Yablonski's Computer 203 class at Kerry-Heinz High. The whole class does Blogs as a graded project.
HR: Ahhhh... sounds like an excellent teacher...
Bill: She's cool. She taught us a lot about what's wrong with America today. And this one time we each entered all our Blogs in a contest, then voted for each other and ourselves in our other Blogs. It was cool. I won.
HR: Wow! With that integrity level you could go far in the newspaper business too...say, are there really any other Bloggers?
Bill: Naah. I'm the only one. Sorry.
HR: That's okay kid. You remind me of me. Hey, are there any other moderate bloggers at all?
Bill: I met one in a chat room once. But you can't believe everything people tell you on line...
HR: Wow. You really work hard at this. Do you have time for a girl friend? Or whatever?
Bill: Yea! I got a girl friend! You don't know her 'cause she goes to another school across town...
Well, Bill's folks came home and he made me sneak out because he wasn't allowed to have people over when they weren't there. But I'll always remember that I was the first to interview a possible future President of this great land of ours.
I'm Howell Raines, and that's Howell Raines' America. Good day.
Posted by / June 10, 2003 7:20 AM | Permalink
Fetch the comfy chair!!! And when I say you'll need the comfy chair, I am being totally serious. I... Read More
Bet y'all thought I forgot my promise to do a roundup of entries to the Not-Quite New Weblog Showcase pseudocontest, didn't you? Fear not: here it is. To cut to the chase: I simply had to give the ultimate victory Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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