The New York Times had a compelling piece by James Dao last week on military bloggers and social networkers that the ever-useful Around The Net in Online Media had the good sense to showcase. This was a report on the tension inside the military regarding the presence of bloggers within the ranks and in the field. Some generals think it's a good thing. Other generals aren't so sure. Most are resigned to the fact that it would be almost impossible to shut off the free flow of information among people in the Armed Services around an Internet world. But, the impetus for the article appears to be the Pentagon's plans to issue new restrictions that will make a serious attempt to do just that: restrict access to social networking sites.
Good luck, right? Indeed, which is perhaps why it's impossible for me not to detect a degree of sympathy for the blogging soldiers on the part of the New York Times, and the attending amounts of irony considering the impact that blogging and social networking have had on the news business. We might as well be talking about traditional media when the article reports:
"To many analysts and officers, the debate reflects a broader clash of cultures: between the anarchic, unfiltered, bottom-up nature of the Web and the hierarchical, tightly controlled, top-down tradition of the military."
The quandary faced by the Pentagon gives us a teachable, new media moment, when it's possible to point-out the obvious -- in this case, that the "anarchic, unfiltered, bottom-up nature of the web" is the real deal. It's authentic. It's journalism.
Says one soldier to the Times in the final paragraph of the report:
"What comes out of my blog is the experiences of a soldier right in the middle of all of this," Mud Puppy (a nickname for military police), who recently returned home to Illinois, wrote in a recent e-mail message. "I think that people need to hear from us, more than they need to hear from the big whigs. War has a cost, and that cost is paid by soldiers."
Over and out.