Greetings! You are reading an article from The Mudville Gazette. To reach the front page, with all the latest news and views, click the logo above or "main" below. Thanks for stopping by!
April 20, 2005
Why Bother?By Greyhawk
I believe there's a shared characteristic among military bloggers - not exclusive to us and perhaps not even completely universal among us, but one that explains our motivation for the approach we take to blogging - in fact the very reason we bother to do it. That characteristic is an appreciation (some might claim obsession is the more accurate term) for accurate information.
This same fixation likely applies to the majority of bloggers (or at least the majority of those who are successful by any measure) but there's a unique aspect to it in the milblog community. Accurate information is life-or-death to military folks. That's not an exaggeration of the importance of information, it's literal. Wrong coordinates on a grid and artillery lands on the good guys. Wrong number of MRE's delivered and people don't eat. These are concrete examples of what I'm talking about.
On the other hand, there's the reality of ambiguous information that we must process as part of our decision making too. What's tomorrow's weather? How many enemy fighters in this town? How's their morale? The known unknowns that the Secretary of Defense noted recently (inviting the derision of those who found the statement incoherent).
Most of us with any time in service know the difference between the known knowns and the known unknowns, so the result is a low tolerance for inaccuracy of easily verifiable facts, spinning of truth, lies by omission, or outright lies. Since in war the result of these is potentially the same (dead friends) it's often a comparatively meaningless exercise to attempt to determine which of the above reasons accounts for the bad info. Being wrong happens, but being wrong for any of the wrong reasons is unforgivable.
All of this by way of explanation for the frustration most military folks experience when seeing bad reporting from the front. Was it agenda driven? Was it just sloppy work? Is truth being stretched for the benefit of a 'better story'? The answer may provide insight, but that's secondary to the basic fact that the information is wrong.
Still with me? Great. Recall now that I said at the start this motivation isn't exclusive to military bloggers and perhaps not even completely universal among us, but I think this is something close enough to common thread running through all milblogs - whether they're simply recounting life as it really is at camp or on patrol, or whether they're choosing to dismantle the latest slanted media reports on the war.
This is all by way of explanation to the non-military reader. It's why I might seem a bit harsh on reporters who publish stories about soldier blogs from Iraq without said story including one of the hundreds of examples of such. Likewise I'll demonstrate little tolerance to those who refer to every failed insurgent attack as 'increasingly sophisticated'. (If each such claim were true the terrorists would by now be firing weapons with their pinky fingers extended and die while delivering Shakespearean soliloquies.) Will these specific inaccuracies get people killed? Probably not. The second example - an opinion masquerading as fact - has potential to erode public support of the war, the first is simply not right. But both flip my bullshit detector to the "on" position.
Does it matter? Who knows. The pack of lies the media foisted on the world under the banner of "Abu Ghraib" certainly has and will, and the unraveling of those lies here isn't widely known. The forces of history aren't shaped by what I write here, but I do think the milbloggers as a group have had some impact on the tone of the coverage of this war. I have seen overall improvement in that media coverage - be that due to post-Iraqi election reality, a "truce" declared for a period in-between American elections, or just a downturn in overall coverage I can't say.
But I do wonder how Vietnam might have ended if soldiers been able to blog back then...
Posted by Greyhawk / April 20, 2005 6:49 PM | Permalink
Greyhawk clearly explains one of the motivaitons behind Milbloggers, the importance of accurate information. A good read for those who aren't sure why our men and women in uniform has felt so compelled to report on the very war that Read More
There are a number of reasons why military military members are increasingly turning the blogosphere to learn and report events. My personal reasons for starting this blog was to understand the impact this new media has on shaping public opinion. Read More
Red 2 Alpha has a long post up, with a great amount of detail about a patrol in Baghdad. His story contradicts the defeatist stories we see daily from the MSM. Red 2's words, once again, are joined with... 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...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com