In response to my post yesterday there has been some reaction.
The Armorer believes that “[s]ome of it is fashion - blogging is old hat now, and has been impacted both by ubiquity (gone are our days of 10K+ visits) which lead to niche choices - just like the proliferation of cable channels reduced the no-other-choice artificial numbers of the big TV nets. Social media has changed dramatically, with Facebook and Twitter being much easier to use (and tailor who receives the data) than maintaining a blog.” But he also goes on to say that, “So, many of the more prominent voices... are negative. Even when they are also positive. DoD can't really impact those of us not drawing active duty pay. But they can act on the voices in the sandboxes.”
John Lilyea of This Ain’t Hell writes that “[t]his must be a recent phenomenon, because under the Bush years, it was encouraged.”
But I can’t say that it was encouraged under the Bush Administration because by 2006 the first Social Media policy was released by the Army. At the time Blackfive said in an interview with Fox News, “The regulation was either poorly written or intended to crack down on bloggers…”
And then in December 2009 MilBloggers around the globe went silent in support of MSG CJ Grisham after his command effectively told him to “shut up or get out” all because he dared challenge the local school board, because of actions taken against his daughter. In response to that, blogger blackout Army Live the official blog of the U.S. Army posted A Message to Milbloggers. Lindy Kyzer, Public Affairs Specialist, Online and Social Media Division, who single-handedly dragged the Department of the Army into the digital age of social media, wrote in that column, “As a huge fan of milblogs – personally and professionally – I do my best to keep up with issues in the milblogosphere. And to be honest, I have to say I wasn’t aware of huge issues among our bloggers. There has been at least one high profile case, but I haven’t been on the grapevine of information about widespread shut downs of military blogs. From my foxhole, I meet new commanders and leaders in our Army every day who openly embrace milblogging in the ranks. Gone are the days when LTG William Caldwell was one of the few champions of engaging the blogosphere. These days everyone from the Secretary of the Army to battalion and brigade commanders across the field aren’t just supportive of blogging – many of them are blogging themselves.
I absolutely admit that there are still areas, and leaders, where blogging in the ranks is not met with open arms. And most of the issues milbloggers have are with their local command, not a headquarters Army action item. We consider our left and right boundaries when it comes to social media engagement and blogging to be the Uniform Code of Justice and Operations Security.”
Her suggestions on how to avoid being targeted were simple but concerning:
1. Consider a pseudonym,
2. Little brother is watching,
3. Don’t get political
4. Don’t diss the boss.
In the comments Major Z wrote: “If the best that senior leadership can offer me for advice is ‘use a pseudonym’ then they are a LOT less than I desire as leaders. The leaders who taught me as a young officer were ones who explained that you should be honest in thought, word, and deed; loyal to the constitution and your oath; and have the integrity state your beliefs and opinions--even if they are unpopular. There was a time, place, and means for stating these opinions and beliefs, a right and wrong way. I don't personally blog about differences of opinion with my Military leaders. I have written about my differences with elected leaders. I thought that as a free citizen, that was my right. I have been punished for using harsh language, reprimanded for writing things that were taken grossly out of context. What opinion of my leadership should I hold when the best advice they can give me is ‘wear a mask, hide, and say whatever you want?’”
And that has brought us to the situation we find ourselves in today. Currently what few voices are out there are only posting DoD approved puff pieces, puff pieces that are providing anything but the honest truth about what is happening, because if the truth was getting out then LTC Daniel Davis wouldn’t have felt it necessary to post his essay, Truth lies and Afghanistan – How military leaders have let us down.
LTC Davis, spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. His duties with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force took him into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy and he has this to say about Afghanistan. “Over the course of 12 months, I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.
What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.
Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.
Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.”
If this was the type of reporting that Army brass wanted to hinder with their rules on Social Media then LTC Davis’ career is probably over, which is precisely why we cannot have a policy that punished soldiers for simply pointing out the truth, no matter how many people don’t want to hear the truth. If leaders are afraid of the truth then they shouldn’t be leaders. No one wants hear from their subordinates that they are complete morons, and honestly those types of comments aren't my concern with this series. What I am concerend about are bloggers or soldiers who know that things aren't working and are being silenced. Leaders have to hear when their plans aren’t working! They have to hear it from those ordered to implement their plans that the plans are total failures and simply aren’t going to work, because the Afghan’s or Iraqi's or whomever, aren’t capable or are unwilling of following through!
The lack of blogs may be a result of more than one thing as The Armorer notes, and Facebook and Twitter may have filled the void, or even supplanted the blog from the soldier who found him or herself deployed in this war, but I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t by design. If LTC Davis’ opinion piece is any indication, I’m going to have to say yes, it is. As my buddy TRCNAK asked me last night in reference to the recent trends, what stories are not being told?
What stories indeed!