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January 18, 2011
Truth and TucsonBy Greyhawk
I was traveling over the weekend of 8-9 January, and listening to a book-on-CD instead of the radio, so I missed out on much of the big news from those days. I was confident that just about anything newsworthy I might be interested in (and a lot of what I wouldn't) would be waiting in my email inbox once I got home, and I wasn't disappointed. That Sunday evening I found a friend had forwarded me (at 2:49 PM Eastern on Saturday) an email alert from Fox News (he'd received at 1:21 PM Eastern). Subject: BREAKING NEWS: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Fatally Shot. The text was brief "Rep. Gabrielle Giffords dies after being shot in the head during public event in Tucson". Wrong, I thought to myself a day later - but Fox wasn't the only news organization that would soon retract that erroneous report, confirming the old (military) adage first reports are always wrong is still true enough, and that speed of news delivery has no impact whatsoever on accuracy.
The gap between modern expectation of information and reality is reflected in this immediate "on the scene" report from a bakery across the street from the scene of the crime:
For them the answers were literally just a few steps away, but they likely believed they had good reason to not venture out, as (according to multiple news reports) the search for a second gunman continued.
The above is an excerpt from Shep Smith's interview with Arizona State Senator Linda Lopez - "at the hospital where doctors and nurses are working to save Arizona citizens' lives at this moment." Lopez revealed the initial report on Gifford's death was wrong, and added details on the bullet's trajectory through her head, indicating remarkable skills of surgeons had kept her alive.
Again, early reports are always wrong, but early reports on horrific and senseless crimes like this one - at least since the days of Lee Harvey Oswald and Charles Whitman - invariably raise that psychovet issue. Lopez might not have realized the absurdity of creating multiple new rumor-based myths about this case while debunking the obviously incorrect first, but Smith, if anyone, should have known better. While somewhat more cautious in this example, his interview is reminiscent of an earlier episode when he claimed the murder of Holocaust Museum security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns by 89 year-old James Von Brunn (soon revealed to be a WWII Pacific veteran, journalist and Nazi) proved a DHS report on right-wing groups recruiting combat-trained Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was "prescient." The fury and fallout resulting from speculation and mis-reporting following Von Brunn's attack - like the attack itself, or the initial story of that misguided DHS report - has been mostly expunged from American memory. Like most forgotten history it was soon to be repeated - much louder this time, as Lopez and Smith were about to re-introduce all those themes.
Prior to speculating on Loughner's military service, at Smith's prompting Lopez had offered this guess at a connection to "Tea Party people":
Then, after describing the killer as a possible Tea Party-inspired Afghan veteran, Smith and Lopez concluded by assuring viewers they wouldn't engage in spreading speculation and rumors surrounding the case:
An early Washington Post report (since vanished from their web site, but still viewable here) claimed others had accepted or promoted that "veteran" story, too: "The [killer] was identified as Jared Loughner, who appears to have left a trail of Internet postings, including some that express convoluted observations about government. Law enforcement officials said they believed he was a military veteran."
In reality Loughner was an Army reject. The Arizona Daily Star debunked the claim on the day of the shooting - using an (outdated?) journalistic technique called "asking someone who actually knows."
Though the Army declines to give details in specific cases, 75% of Americans of age are unfit for military service, so in that regard he's in the majority. By sundown that day in Tucson, most of the speculation regarding Loughner's political ties had also been debunked.
There were actual military veterans involved in this story, including Giffords' husband - and Lopez'. In fact, for a nation with a small percentage of veterans in the population there were (fortunately, in some cases) an amazing number of prior-military folks at the crime scene and at the hospital where this interview took place. One of those vets would ultimately prove that many of Lopez' comments ("when people make these kind of comments it pushes some folks over the edge") were indeed prescient - but most would perform nothing but heroics. The real story of their actions would eventually emerge, but as Jonn Lilyea noted "it's more newsworthy when the shooter is thought to be a veteran than one of the guys who ended the shooting is a veteran."
Posted by Greyhawk / January 18, 2011 11:13 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.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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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