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September 10, 2009
And in this corner...By Greyhawk
It is a tale of two wishes: the wishes of a humble family in a time of grief, and the wishes of a powerful news giant in a time of crisis. The global news organization, the Associated Press (AP), was put in the position of making a choice between those wishes twice within the past week. In one case, it chose to honor the wish, in the other, it did not.
Elsewhere, Tom Ricks asks: "...a question for the Times and other media outlets: It is fair to ask people not to report the kidnapping of reporters when the kidnapping of other defenseless people, like NGO workers, is routinely reported? "
While he doesn't address the photo issue in that post, Ricks had previously weighed in on the issue (What the hell was the AP thinking?). He had also commented on Bill Roggio's post regarding the Stephen Farrell kidnapping: "I wish you would take it down." (In both cases, Mr Ricks had more to say than what I'm quoting.)
Andrew Exum, on Bill Roggio: "I happen to agree with Tom Ricks and others that the AP's decision to display that that picture was reprehensible. How that then justifies some kind of tit-for-tat retribution, though, is beyond me. The other two objections are something else. Personally, I still consider the blogger's decision to leave his post up on his website to have been at best foolish and at worst morally irresponsible."
Ex cites NY Times' Times executive editor Bill Keller's explanation for not reporting: "the kidnapping had been kept quiet by The Times and most other news media organizations out of concern for the men's safety."
According to Ex, he received an email reply from Roggio to his request to take down his post.
If those are Bill's reasons for choosing to keep his post up, he does not state so in his post-rescue report:
Over at Editor and Publisher, Greg Mitchell on their lack of reporting on the Farrel kidnap: "The Times did not formally ask E&P to not report," he explains. However, "E&P's Joe Strupp contacted Times executive editor Bill Keller, and as before, Keller confirmed the kidnapping, asked for restraint, and explained that the paper was in the midst of trying to deal with the situation." The nature of a formal request is left to the reader's imagination.
As are the identities of foreigners and "not prominent blogs":
I saw some indications that Farrell had been snatched in my regular Web searches for media scoops over the weekend. As in the case of Rohde, a handful of not prominent blogs, along with very scattered media abroad (in their original language) reported that something was up, but confirmation was slight, given the silence of the Times and U.S. military.
We can probably identify one of those not prominent blogs (maybe two), and I can add that one language that reports appeared in was English (at least one English translation of a previously published German report was published in a South African online media site prior to Roggio's report) and that the situation was well known in Afghanistan - quotes from the governor and Farrell's Taliban captors appeared in that report. While Mitchell's understanding may indeed have been limited to "something was up", those reports clearly indicated exactly what that something was.
And while he chooses not to contrast this issue with that of the AP photo in that explanation, Mitchell had not only previously published that photo but had chastised those media outlets who hadn't: "Going back to 2002, I have been writing about the shameful reluctance, even refusal, of U.S. media outlets to carry graphic images of the true cost of our wars, to Americans, in Iraq and Afghanistan -- fatally wounded U.S. soldiers and Marines."
And now back to Long War Journal - more specifically, Threat Matrix - the new blog on the site. There we find this post by Bill Ardolino, wherein we find "A partial list of reports by the The New York Times on kidnappings". Eight, in fact, ranging from 2002 to "20 hours ago".
This list could go on, of course. None of Roggio's critics have adequately addressed this question of a double standard, and many simply ignored it as they pressed their case.
For my part (for now), immediately before this discussion began I had said this
I can offer you a well thought out, intellectual argument supporting that statement. It would be full of undeniable supporting facts, numbers, and statistics. I can reference experts throughout history to buttress my points. I can appeal to your better emotions, too. I can describe atrocities - better yet, I can show you pictures and video and save myself the effort. I could crush any argument that anyone would dare to present in a feeble attempt to refute my irrefutable point...
The statement - the irrefutable point I was making (and had used to title that post), was war sucks. I could appeal to your intellect on that with words and to your emotions with pictures.
Later that day the picture story "broke" (in no small part due to the efforts of Mrs G) and I haven't yet gotten back to my planned follow up to that particular post.
Time being what it is.
Posted by Greyhawk / September 10, 2009 9:04 AM | 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...)
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.
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