Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Uniform Blogging

Blogging as a military tactic?

A study, written for U.S. Special Operations Command, suggested “clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers.”

Since the start of the Iraq war, there’s been a raucous debate in military circles over how to handle blogs — and the servicemembers who want to keep them. One faction sees blogs as security risks, and a collective waste of troops’ time. The other (which includes top officers, like Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. William Caldwell) considers blogs to be a valuable source of information, and a way for ordinary troops to shape opinions, both at home and abroad.

This 2006 report for the Joint Special Operations University, “Blogs and Military Information Strategy,” offers a third approach — co-opting bloggers, or even putting them on the payroll. “Hiring a block of bloggers to verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message may be worth considering,” write the report’s co-authors, James Kinniburgh and Dororthy Denning.

Lt. Commander Marc Boyd, a U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman, says the report was merely an academic exercise. “The comments are not ‘actionable’, merely thought provoking,” he tells Danger Room. “The views expressed in the article publication are entirely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, policy or position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, USSOCOM [Special Operations Command], or the Joint Special Operations University.”

Denning, a professor at Naval Postgraduate School, adds in an e-mail, “I got some positive feedback from people who read the article, but I don’t know if it led to anything.”

It would probably be a waste of time and pixels, especially since they don’t seem to grasp one of the fundamentals of blogging: it’s a written form of communication, so “[h]iring a block of bloggers to verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message” is something else entirely. To attack someone verbally, you have to say it, not write it.

Besides, there’s a lot more to blogging than just attacking a person or a message. There’s posting cat pictures and funny bits from YouTube, too. And doesn’t the military and the Pentagon already have a whole fleet of bloggers who are already doing their bidding for free? People like Jonah Goldberg, Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), and all those wonderful folks at Free Republic who are just dying — well, not literally — to get out there and take up arms — well, not literally — to support the troops and make sure that they have everything they need — at least in terms of bloviation if not real armor and such — to do the job? Why hire people when you have the 101st Fighting Keyboardists to do it for free? It’s not like you can’t get them to repeat everything the Pentagon churns out anyway.