"People are hungry to speak out. They are just waiting for a way to express their ideas. We are going to find...thousands of bloggers expressing their thoughts from inside the Iraqi world." - Omar of Iraq the Model (from my hand written notes)
"Through blogging we can spread love more than hate." - Mohammed of Iraq the Model (again, from my notes)
Here is the follow up to yesterday's Strangers In a Strange Land post that I promised. I'm still waiting to see if the audio transcripts are available from the Global Voices On Line conference. A lot of bloggers have done their own reporting on the discussions stirred by Omar and Mohammed.
For now, you'll have to settle for this:
1. Freedom, Democracy, Peace
Imagine what would happen to the spin of the Main Stream Media and Al Jazeera if there were thousands of Iraqi bloggers. Imagine what that would do for Freedom and Democracy. Imagine what that would do for Peace.
That's what Spirit of America is all about...Freedom, Democracy, Peace. And they are doing something about bringing those concepts into reality.
They developed an Arabic Blogging Tool prototype (with help from Iraq the Model and Jeff Jarvis) that will help to stimulate discourse in Iraq. Not pro-American discourse, just free and open discourse.
I can see it now - "The Arabic Blogosphere - Fact Checking Your Ass Since 2004".
Don't know about you, but people like the folks at Spirit of America and Iraq the Model give me hope for the future. I remember looking around the dinner table and being proud to be in that company and feeling lucky to have spent the day with them.
2. I Don't Use The Term "Friend" Lightly 1.0
There were signs on the doors to our lecture hall - "No Photographs". The reason behind this is simple - there are dissident bloggers and bloggers who's lives may be in jeopardy who were in attendence - they don't want to go home and get killed, jailed, etc. Omar and Mohammed are in that category.
Of course, several people still took pictures. And, no, I didn't bust their chops. Probably should have, though.
I spoke to Mohammed about the security issue before dinner. We were standing at the bar when I told him that I thought that he and Omar were very, very courageous. Of course, Mohammed didn't agree with that. To make my point, I pulled out my placard from the conference that had my full name and the blog name on it.
"Mohammed, this is the first time that my name has been associated with Blackfive. I've been careful about it and I live here in the states. And I don't have death threats and mujahadeen looking for me."
I was trying to make a point of admiring their courage. It wasn't lost on them. It just made them uncomfortable. To good men, that's the correct reaction.
So we new friends had a few rounds.
3. "MilBlogs" the Movie
We are all different, have different political views, have inter-service rivalries, and are flung far and wide. We also have our own language. [More than a few non-military visitors have pointed that out to me.] In order to reach the maximum amount of people, you need to use the lingua franca (which happens to be English, for now).
Some of us have become activists - whether counter-protesting moonbats, funding resources for our wounded, getting an important Bill passed or just telling the stories that might never be heard. I never thought I would be an activist, but that's what I've become.
Hoder has a few theories about blogging - there are three types of blogs - Windows, Bridges, Cafes. Many of us MilBloggers are Bridges. We connect veterans, military, and others by our blogs.
Another point was that, in order to build a blogosphere, you have to have several bigger bloggers promote the smaller promising blogs. We MilBlogs were fortunate to have Glenn Reynolds, Hugh Hewitt and others write about us in their blogs and in their articles.
I spoke of Mudville getting things started for us and how we've grown as a group. I spoke about the need for us to counter the negativity of the Main Stream Media - not that there aren't negative stories that need to be told, but that there are hardly any good stories reported. There are thousands of great stories for every Abu Ghraib. But good news doesn't sell.
I was asked a few questions.
Jeff Jarvis wanted to know if we MilBloggers were connected with Iraqi bloggers. I answered that I didn't think so other than by reading blogs. I am a fan of Iraq the Model but wasn't "connected" to Omar and Mohammed before that first morning coffee across the street from our hotel.
The founder of OhMyNews (a left leaning South Korean amateur reporting phenom) asked an interesting question about reports about many soldiers in comas but not being reported as such. I responded by first explaining that our body armor, while protecting vital organs, has created the situation where we have more amputees than corpses (a good thing). But that many are put into drug induced comas to stabilize until they get to the States for treatment. I said that I highly doubted reports that thousands had nerve damage or were in comas. I don't think he liked my answer. I offered to have lunch with him to discuss it further. Then, I talked to him during a break.
4. Where the Hell is Phil Carter?
Phil Carter of Intel-Dump was on the guest list, but I didn't see him there (and I was trying to find him to say hello). He just had a piece in the NYT published so maybe he was busy.
5. I Don't Use The Term "Friend" Lightly 2.0
I've been wanting to meet Marc Danziger - Armed Liberal of Winds of Change - for some time now. And I was able to spend time with Tim Oren of Due Dilligence and Winds of Change - which was one of the first blogs on my blogroll when I was a blogspotling.
Let's just say that I about fell over when Tim ordered Laphroaig...I've been drinking Laphroaig for years and never witnessed anyone else ordering it.
Marc drank Oban - another great choice. Had some myself.
Also with us all day was Donovan Janus.
It wasn't until dinner that I put two and two together - Donovan is the Founder of Exposure Manager - a service where you can store, share, and print your digital photos - and we had talked via email months ago when he offered free photo storage for any military deployed overseas. Marc put him in contact with me in order to spread the word amongst the troops. I was able to finally thank him in person for his generosity.
We didn't tie one on, but had a good time. Everyone was tired, and they were headed for LA the next morning. I was *slightly* disappointed that we couldn't keep going and that I wasn't going to Roger Simon's house for dinner.
Oh, and it was determined that I need to have a drink (or twenty) with Joe Katzman sometime.
5. Final (and Weird) Observations
I noticed that the guy (at the conference) talking about his work at Microsoft building their blogging software was using a G4 (Mac).
On the flight home to Chicago, as I boarded the plane, I noticed one of the Soros Open Society folks sitting in First Class.
Draw your own conclusions.
Update: Grim met Omar and Mohammed in DC.
'The Iraqi people will never disappoint you.'
He means, of course, the ones who have not chosen to join the insurgents. But he is dismissive of them, in spite of all they do. What we don't understand, he said, is that the kind of terror they can create is nothing to the people of Iraq. Under Saddam, terror was systemic. It was daily. It meant every night, listening for the police at the door.
'Compared to that, these insurgents are nothing.'
You can help by donating to Spirit of America's Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge. It's tax deductible.