The discussion is raging across the web this week and last and bloggers within and without any potential definition of "milblogger" are weighing in with their arguments. Some, with no experience nor understanding, pretend to be all-knowing Webster experts while others with semi-official blogs of their own wish to institute strict definitions to the other extreme.
Milbloggers are as diverse as is the membership of the Military, perhaps a bit more diverse as there are some citizens without Military Experience that blog about the Military, with authority and command of their subject matter. And the Military is as diverse as the citizenry of the Nation from which it draws its Troops.
It is not unexpected that Milbloggers tend to be conservative and Pro-Mission as the Troops tend to be conservative and Pro-Mission, but there also exists the minority in both that are hardline liberals and
against the Missions they perform. The IVAW and the IAVA both have blogging members and the IVAW is about as far left as an organization can go. They sent an official "ambassador" to the Marxism 2008 conference in Sydney last year.
On the one extreme of discussion on milblogging, we find what I call a "semi-official" blog by Maj Bruhl currently serving as a student at the Command & Staff School. He argues that like him, Milbloggers should use name, rank, and position to attain credibility and that they should be willingly engaged by the Military to help change the perception by the public of what the Military does. I disagree ardently on almost all of his points, but I was unable to leave my comments on his page. Instead I left them on the excerpted story on Milblogging.
There is a place for official and semi-official blogs like the Major's, but that's like holding a press conference while in uniform. There are many things that one can simply not address because of the potential perception that they are "speaking for the military" no matter how many disclaimers they put up.
Milbloggers like This Ain't Hell play an important role but could not be as honest and forthright of their opinions if they published their names and positions. They are speaking out from their experiences and outting other milbloggers that are lying about theirs. As they transition from Active Service to Veteran Status, this concern is alleviated, but usually their credentials are established and they may choose to maintain the mask that disallows the concept of self-aggrandizement.
Is Uncle Jimbo or Blackfive not a milblogger because they focus on politics? No, their positions and backgrounds are established and their focus continues to be shaped by their military experience. Grim of Blackfive invites us to weigh in on the topic of how the "new media" effects policy on their page or the original article here: Abu Muqawarma
But it is here that Abu Muqawarma truly opens the discussion into what he believes a milblogger is and how the "new media" effects policy. It is a part of the equation, but not the whole picture. It has a role as well and it points to Small War Journals more thoroughly discusses the nature of the "new media" on warfare. This very article would likely fulfill a part of the equation that they describe as the pertinence of milbloggers in today's battle environment. But again, this is not the full scope of what milblogging is. It is a part and an important part, but not the whole.
Milbloggers are all of the above but also Assoluta Tranquillta, a Canadian without prior military service who writes about the military and supports US Troops, through the Soldiers' Angels program. And they even include WAC Veterans turned Journalists like Susan Katz Keating and young grandmothers like Lynnis of Little Drops who also demonstrates their knowledge by actually asking the Troops and supporting them.
Why do milbloggers speak out? As many reasons as there are blogs with as many personalities and focuses as there are bloggers, but the overwhelming number of webmasters in this space as I've determined seem to have come to a realization similiar to my own:
When I returned from Afghanistan in 2006, a Viet Nam Veteran had warned me that the attitude of the American people had turned. This old friend had apologized to me for being unable to turn that tide, but I assured him I was ready for it, that I had studied the lessons of his generation. I was not.
I am not one to seek the spotlight. I prefer a quiet corner to sit, listen, and observe. My silence was broken because the press & the politicians had convinced the people that the picture was painted differently than the groundtruth defined. My silence was broken because they were purposely misportraying the truth about why and who we are fighting. I broke my silence, just as thousands of other Veterans did, because the anti-war types cannot be allowed to have a monopoly on the podium.
Milbloggers are writing to correct the record. And the following is an example of that on my own part, in the discussion of what Milbloggers are:
So what does a "journalist" who attempts to straddle the "new media" and old establishment of the main stream media while juggling book writing and the profitization of entreprenuership and military contracts have to say in his attempt to be the authority on "milbloggers?"
"Definition of a milblogger:
1) Must blindly support a right wing agenda, manufacturered “talking points” and assume outrage using a dictionary of invented hot button terminology (moonbat, pitchfork etc)
2) Must echo and repeat “truisms” intertwined with hollow patriotic outrage. Foundation of knowledge MUST be based in anonymous, “ground truth” patriots who
3) Must not publicly respond, modify or engage in accepted critical thinking caused by direct and contradicting information
4) Must always adopt the position that critical thinking is a)unpatriotic, b)stupid c) false and d) motivated by dark and sinister forces (which is confirmed directly by their own agenda and methods)
Their goals are pretty simple. They want the hits. They want the attention. They must game Google. By increasing hits, links, trackbacks and generally outshouting the original offending article they strive to reinvent truth. Its a quantity vs quality issue that Google (because of its ad based plan) has yet to correct.
1) Flags, militaria, patriotic statements, military charities, links to other milbloggers
2) MSM is evil (even though they live like remoras on the sharks they hate)
3) The truth is in my mom’s basement. Few milbloggers are actually doing anything remotely related to fighting wars. The concept of blogging, internet access and ability to spend inordinate amounts of time clash.
4) The victim, the talking points and the echo..leading to the accepted truth resonating throughout the milblogger world…
5) The kernel of unshakeable manufactured truth. The building block and cultural touchstone. The “everyone knows” factoid building block of their castle. " Robert Young Pelton, 2/28/2009, Open Anthropolgy, The Deafening Silence of Milbloggers.
Well, young Robert Pelton could hardly have proven himself less objective, less knowledgeable about his subject matter, or less open-minded. Fortunately, no matter how threatened the world of "journalism" may feel about the "new media," they don't get to define the subject. They may try. They may wish they could. But that attempt by an "old media" type demonstrates instead the reason why the established media is flailing and failing. It demonstrates why the American People no longer trust self-described pundits with a political agenda to provide them the facts.
But if his definition is designed to describe his own personalities and musing, he hits the mark. Lack of critical thought, open threats, and flowery language seem to be his trademark. The only part that doesn't seem to apply are references to conservative or "right-wing" views on his part. From what little I've seen of his positions, it would appear that they are more wind-blown than the Afghan Border which blows with the wind and map. It would appear that his positions are based solely on what he can personally gain and with whom he is chatting it up for those gains.
Later he complains:
"I have close relationships with many people. All of them motivated to help me get the truth out. It doesn’t mean you must pigeonhole me or disparage me because I fund and direct my own efforts to do so. Everyone who has met me in person will vouch for my sincerity, integrity and intensity." ibid. 3/2/2009
In another place he comments:
"You obviously know very little about me… or my views…or even less about my work." ibid 2/28/2009
Nor do you know your "subject matter" young Pelton. While I use your own words to demonstrate the reasons for my conclusions about your shifting positions, and Old Blue dug deeper into your profit motive and shady tactics, neither you nor the page owner knows anything about the motives of "milbloggers."
At the height of his hypocrisy he maligns a "colleague" for "pigeonholing" him while seemingly forgetting that he attempted to malign and "pigeonhole" others in the same thread. My conclusion is that he has too many conflicting interests and can no longer balance them.
Earlier, he asks:
"Why can’t I have friends in the military and friends among jihadi and insurgent groups?' ibid.
That second half says a lot and I don't really think anyone needs much explaination. I can only imagine what he says to his "jihadi" friends to ingratiate them, but I can not imagine that it is the same as he says to his Military contacts in his attempt to win contracts and interviews. I doubt he tells the latter "friends" about the former.
And he refines his definition:
"But what I sense in the milbloggers I seem to be run into on the internet is a constant need to find or invent offense on behalf of someone or something they know nothing about."
Wrong. Milbloggers are correcting the record of pundits and journalists talking about things they dont know anything about. And yes, milbloggers take offense when that flowery language he uses so well paints a false picture with a few kernels of truth.
Remembering that he is addressing a far left audience, he disavows any protection of his free speech rights by the Military:
"I doing so their rusty collection of truisms and feigned indigence can raise a hue and cry…but it doesn’t. Unless they are fed, trained and leashed together it just sounds like a 12 year old lipsyncing a Patton speech in front of the bathroom mirror.
They are not protecting my rights, they are not protecting the rights of female employees, they are not defending Dr Sturgis or even daring to look in the cess pools that good intentions and bad execution create." ibid
Strange, coming from a "journalist" who's life was quite literally protected by those same Troops he now disparages and denigrates. Pelton is an accomplished user of the English language, but objective he is not. It is precisely the slanderous and flowery pictures he paints that has mobilized milbloggers to break their silence.
Meanwhile, the page owner states his own internet stalking tendencies:
"Don’t worry Marc, this is about the extent of the “depth” of Old Blue. I have been following him around " Maximillian Forte, ibid, 3/2/2009
Earlier, he had responded to my observation that there was nothing objective, scientific, or factual about the discussion he had instituted. It was nothing more than a hatchet job on a group of people he admittedly knew nothing about:
"Um, NO, you would not want to hear it. You have been ignoring it thus far, except for the tiny few who have joined the military ranks, and thus suit your preconceived notions.
You are the same person who called me a Taliban propagandist, so please don’t lecture anyone about preconceptions, ideological blindness, or ranting. You are not credible. But yes, you are still entertaining." ibid 3/1/2009
I had expressed a desire to maturely discuss the means by which his scientific colleagues and political idealogues could contribute to the protection of civilians, to advance peace, security, & stability in Afghanistan. But with a total of two comments on his page and one or two visits to this site, he also decided he had in-depth knowledge of my beliefs, desires, and thought processes. If this is the kind of science being taught in our halls of higher education, we have issues.
While, I asked his opinion of how his area of expertise could contribute to his ideologies of diplomacy and peace in the current conflicts rather than portend to be able to dictate to him, his demonstrated opinion is that he need not ask of the Military community how best it can accomplish the same thing. Don't know where the Taliban propagandist allegation comes from though it has been falsely alleged on his page that I'm another person who previously commented there.
Still, this is the most obvious statement on his page:
"P.S.: There is no critical thought here." ibid.
And his preconceived notions and political ideology driving his conclusions came out here:
"There is nothing mysterious about my solutions, they saturate everything I write: kill HTS, and end all ties of the military with academia." ibid.
But going backwards in time, the site owner is forthwit in acknowledging his pre-conceived notions, his assumptions, and ignorance as well as his provocative nature in this statement:
"I have amended the post above so that people could see my initial assumptions, and then the correction (I followed Pelton’s advice and added Feral Jundi to the list). The useful thing about my mistaken assumption is that it provoked exchanges such as this one — had I foreseen that, I might have deliberately planned to make the “mistake” of broadly casting the “milblogging” net as I did." ibid
And from his original article:
"We are speaking here of persons who are, after all, serving in a military-run program, persons who have served in the military in other capacities previously." ibid
Complaints that milbloggers link to other like-minded milbloggers are true, but cannot be taken seriously when made by someone that links to other like minded individuals of their own community. It's natural (and an anthropologist should certainly understand this) for people to associate wtih similiar people. It is not a negative that they do.
Sorry, Max, your definitions and pre-conceived notions are equally as wrong as are young Pelton's claims. Milblogging is not government run and it was hard fought to be allowed at all. But by the nature of your blog against blogs, I cannot seriously accept you as a scientist. I would expect a scholar or scientist begin with the question: "What is a military blogger?" and upon finding the competing definitions, explore them, form hypotheses, theories, and draw evidenced conclusions. After exploring that, a scientist might move to the question of "Why is the milblogging community ignoring my rants? Why does it seem to ignore the accusations of Dudley-Moore?"
(Answer: we didn't know you existed, didn't know about Dudley-Moore, and when we found your challenge to us, found your allegations unsubstantiated and your rants unworthy of enjoining for the reasons I spell out here.)
That scientist might realize that the Military and its Veterans are strong advocates of the Bill of Rights, including the Right to Free Speech and the Right to the Presumption of Innocence. That scientist might realize that the Military is saddened by death, even of ideological opponents, oftentimes even of the enemy, but that the Military strongly disdains those that sully their honor, whether by slanderous articles or by dishonorable and/or criminal conspiracies and actions within their own ranks.
But, the milblogging community has both the right to free speech and the right to be silent, at each individual members sole discretion. When it comes to unproven allegations of wrongdoing by a Soldier, the milblogging community has every right to remain silent until investigations and evidence are presented. It has every right to remain silent even if the Soldier is convicted, though it is unlikely to do so, at that point, even if it has exercised that right up to it.
Unfortunately, "journalists" and in this case "scientists" have decided to use their right to free speech, guaranteed by Warriors, rather than their right to remain silent, guaranteed by Miranda. It does feed their ego and their feelings of self-importance, but it also allows for their words to be used to demonstrate their lack of objectivity and scientific thought.
When people make the decision to use their right to free speech, they must realize that they are also using the underlying right to prove their own ignorance and display it for the world to see. They must realize that other Americans also have a right to free speech and to use it to demonstrate the fallacies of arguments of their opposition.
By the way, I absolutely love this response by Abu Muqawama to the Open Anthropology allegations. It is clear, concise and pretty much says everything: Troops don't endorse threats or conspiracies to kill scientists. Nor have we milbloggers been aware of such allegations.