March 11, 2005
The hypocrisy of the Army TimesBy Douglas Hanson
The Old Guard of the legacy media is crumbling before our eyes, in large part because of the blogsphere and other alternative media. This is no less the case for the Army Times, which has finally published a series of articles and an editorial on military bloggers. In anticipation of this well—deserved recognition, Mil—bloggers such as Blackfive have been tracking the development of the Army Times stories that were just published Wednesday.
If the Mil—bloggers were expecting the Army Times to do anything different than the usual suspects in the major media, they will be sorely disappointed. It should come as no surprise that the Army Times would publish a smarmy editorial that merely parrots the views of their mainstream brethren. And, given the Army Times' previous editorial stances, the editorial proves that it's digging in to stave off its inevitable demise.
The Army Times is part of the Military Times, a subsidiary of Gannett Publishing, which is the parent organization of USA Today, among many other newspaper properties. The Army Times is not an official publication of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense, but covers subjects that are of interest to Soldiers. However, since the paper is actually part of a legacy media conglomerate, its editorial on Mil—bloggers repeats the major press template that acknowledges the impact of the blogosphere, but at the same time impugns and ridicules our Soldier—bloggers as the journalistic equivalent of unchecked rabble—rousers.
The blogosphere is an unruly place crowded with writers who sound like the loud mouth at the end of the bar who spews beery opinions on everything — or worse, with writers gushing drivel as boring as someone recounting last night's dream.
For those of us who make a living editing, blogs are an affront, substituting enthusiasm for talent. [emphasis mine]
So there you have it. You guys and gals out there fighting in the trenches, or those professionals who have served our country in the past, are just a bunch of braggers spouting off in an alcohol—induced rant. And by the way, us 'real' journalists are still the true gatekeepers of what right and true, and what isn't, gets suppressed. I would say that after reading this, the Mil—bloggers are probably giving the Times the old one—finger salute.
But in a typical legacy media contradiction, the Army Times ultimately thinks it's OK to blog because this gives Soldiers the chance to tell the folks back home about all of the good things going on in Iraq that aren't 'getting enough attention.' Of course, Gannett and the other mainstream press outlets have nothing to do with this sad situation, I guess. This is ultimately why the Times gives the bloggers this nice little piece of journalistic candy, and hopes that this troublesome little child will just go away.
However, there is something more sinister in the Times' editorial that deserves mention, and that is the Times concern over the ability of the bloggers to criticize their commanders (although I have visited several military blog sites, and I have yet to see any type of criticism of their leaders in the field). The Army Times editorial puts it this way:
A touchier area, however, is bloggers who criticize their commanders. Any soldier who stood up in front of a crowd and called his battalion commander a moron could reasonably expect to be punished. A soldier shouldn't expect any different treatment for a blog that does the same thing.
But what of the soldier who reports on the gruesome side of war? Some soldiers have been ordered to remove blogs that did just that.
That's a mistake. Good order and discipline is not enhanced by telling a soldier to shut up about issues that have no bearing on operational security.
My question to the editors of the Army Times: Do you include your paper in these limitations that would prohibit publishing information detrimental to the operational security of our forces, or editorials that rush to judgment thereby influencing a criminal investigation and court—martial? Sadly, the Army Times was no different than MSNBC or CBS in immediately calling for not only Rumsfeld's head, but that of General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Times acknowledges that
Army commanders in Iraq bear responsibility for running a prison where there was no legal adviser to the commander, and no ultimate responsibility taken for the care and treatment of the prisoners.
But it later it faults the Chairman and the SecDef for personally refusing to grant the prisoners rights under the Geneva Convention. If the reporters and editors of the Army Times are the military experts they purport to be, then they know this is deliberate deception. Every single Soldier receives instruction in the provisions of the Geneva Convention in Basic Training, and the procedures to follow if they are given an illegal order that would violate the Laws of Land Warfare. Of course, like its partners in the mainstream press, the Times zeroed in on the imagined misdeeds of Rumsfeld while ignoring the several layers of command in between the perpetrators and DoD.
The Times also slams the Chairman for requesting that CBS to hold off on broadcasting the Abu Ghraib 60 Minutes episode because it would put troops at risk, yet, this is precisely what happened. By publicizing the prisoner abuse photos the press provided extreme Islamist terrorists further cause for resistance during the crucial battles of Fallujah and Najaf. The Army Times simply joined the 'fire Rumsfeld' chorus of the major press in order to weaken our President and the National Command Authority. The editors apparently felt that operational matters and the lives of our Soldiers were secondary.
The Mil—bloggers have performed a tremendous service in getting the stories out about our heroes fighting in the War on Terror. If not for their reports, the American people would not know the 'ground truth' about the war. The bloggers should contemplate this belated 'recognition' from the Army Times for about 30 seconds, and then throw it in the trash where it belongs.
Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent