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January 6, 2009
The OriginalsBy Greyhawk
Michelle Malkin rounds up 'original reporting' done by conservative bloggers over the past year. I'm sure a similar effort could be made on behalf of those on the other side of the political fence. I'd like to see it done.
"This is by no means a comprehensive list." She adds. "I did not, for example, include the priceless work of milbloggers, many of whom are conservative, but who prefer not to define themselves along partisan lines."
Which is exactly right.
Equally right is the statement that many are not conservative but prefer not to define themselves along partisan lines. Still others are unapologetic Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc. etc. But for whatever reason, the bulk of milbloggers have drawn more attention from the right than the left. (Please spare me the example exceptions that prove my point - I can name more of them than you can.) I've often wondered if that would be the case had Al Gore won the election in 2000, likewise I wonder what shifts may occur in the coming years. I suspect that the role of milbloggers as counter balance to an adversarial media (and that's but one role among many) will shift, as I anticipate a massive shift in media response to presidential actions in the next few years to a far less adversarial position. I suppose whether military members end up as victims or beneficiaries of that shift will determine their future audience (and size thereof, if any) in the political blog arena. Regardless, most of us - and all of us who actually blogged from down range - were (and are) writing about the war where we were and as we saw it, a distinctly different conflict than the one waged in the infinitely more comfortable environs of Washington D.C. or Yourtown, U.S.A. If we kept a weary (and wary) eye or made an occasional remark upon that conflict, too, it was with the knowledge that it could make ours better or worse - and usually worse.
But while their stories aren't from the past year, by coincidence I had just yesterday taken a look back at some of those milbloggers who had reported from Iraq in 2005. Original reporting? You bet. Milbloggers in war zones have unmatched opportunities for that. Unavailable in the mainstream? Check that block, too. Counter to whatever narrative was available in the mainstream media? Yes to that, too - in a big way.
And re-reading their blogs reminded me of the shift in what could be called the "right wing narrative" on the war over the past couple of years. That's transitioned from "the media is only reporting the bad news and ignoring all the good!" so popular in the 2004-2006 time frame to the current "everything before the surge was bad but now we've won!" mantra often repeated today - without a second thought given to what that implies about all those years of unreported "good news" preceding "the surge". I'm over-simplifying for the sake of this discussion, but I hope you catch my drift. My admittedly too-brief initial mention of that thought caused some confusion (albeit in someone apparently pre-confused who may have mistaken my frame of reference as the "war" in America instead of the actual war in Iraq) but even as I wrote it I intended to expand.
Which I have not yet begun to do in full. More to follow.
Posted by Greyhawk / January 6, 2009 12:05 PM | Permalink
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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