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June 13, 2010
An open letter to Mike YonBy Greyhawk
Mike's correspondent goes on to detail various outrages he claims are perpetrated on the troops from on high, the sort of statements that from such a questionable source can only be called baseless claims.
Consider this a public email from me, Mike - the guy who introduced you to the blogosphere over five years ago. As a guy who's been there and done that in Iraq, as a guy who served in uniform for a quarter century, and as a guy who's concern for his brothers who are still in uniform or in combat zones is exceeded by no one's, I ask you to stop publishing whatever drops into your email inbox as if it were something more significant than Nigerian spam.
Whatever led you to this point doesn't matter. What does matter is you're at a point where your lack of any sort of filter leaves you open to being used by people with an agenda, whose motives you can't possibly understand. And take a look at the comment thread that follows your post linked above. There are people there who trust you without question when you claim to be posting information by the troops, for the troops. Here's an example from "Scott Klimczak": "Mike wouldn't publish ANYTHING if he hadn't seen multiple futile attempts to notify up the line. These posts ain't just willy-nilly! They're directed fire, short bursts, to wake the staff up and spotlight the drool on the chins of those not paying attention." Or this brief and even more frightened comment from Glenda Hunn-Felando that follows it: "God help my son....." (Glenda, for the record, and for all mothers of troops who've written me about Mike's recent behavior: you're looking for truth in all the wrong places - Mike doesn't give a damn for you or your son.) Mike, these people think they're getting light from you, when in reality it's just heat. Maybe heat brings in the donations, I don't know, I've never tried it. But whatever your motive, when you operate without a filter the end result is at best a jumbled mess that no one on earth could have time to sort, certainly the guys who are fighting a war don't.
In the future, If you get more emails like this one you claim is from Afghanistan (and I suspect you will) it might be a good idea to check with the folks on scene who know the answers before you publish them. Give them a chance to verify accuracy and correct problems before you publish something that may or may not be true, may or may not include OPSEC violations, and may get troops killed. If for some reason you can't do that, forward them to someone like Jeff Shogol at Stars and Stripes. He's not in Afghanistan, but his journalistic insight and contacts are obviously useful at separating fact from fiction. His efforts at running down the truth about an earlier email are exemplary - think how much better it would have been for all involved in that case if you had turned to him first. Or me, whose experience at this sort of thing is exceeded only by my concern for the lives of troops. Either of us can provide you with that much needed filter, do a bit of fact checking, get problems solved with no risk to the troops (I'd be perfectly happy to credit you with that result), and save you from potential embarrassment. We're just two examples, there are countless other folks with a combination of knowledge, experience, insight, and interest who are capable of doing the same.
Again, I'm convinced that whether through misguided rage, confusion, or lack of knowledge and experience you've allowed yourself to be used by people with an agenda that you believe matches yours. I'm not so sure it does, and I'm certain you yourself have no idea when you're being so used. And as so many of your readers reveal in their comments, your posting of material like this lends it false credibility. Your remaining readers trust you, and I've warned you before that you run great risks when you run roughshod over that trust. They deserve better.
More importantly, the men and women in harm's way deserve better. They deserve light, and they're getting heat. You're vulnerable and you're being used. It's time to man up, admit your failure, and stop.
J.R. (Greyhawk) Michael
Next day update: Ladies and gentlemen, meet Sam Thistle.
Posted by Greyhawk / June 13, 2010 4:45 PM | Permalink
Back in 2006 I criticized NY Times editor Bill Keller for using suspected lawbreaking and his distrust of George Bush to justify his own deliberate law breaking. In that post I tried to point out the problems with Keller's argument.... Read More
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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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Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com