In the past, the experiences of war have produced poetry and novels and memoirs. The War on Terror is different: we're seeing through a new set of eyes, a new kind of literature. In real time, on the Internet, officers and enlisted men and women are chronicling the war on weblogs.
As the number of blogs continue to rise dramatically, blogging’s advent – the effect of which has been likened to that of the printing press on the Reformation - is giving the world the opportunity to experience the world’s latest war – the War on Terror – first hand.
Bloggers are being characterized as an army of millions of “citizen reporters.” Their strength lies in their advantages - instantaneous publication (speed), expertise in any subject matter imaginable (knowledge), and low, low cost of production (free in most cases). But their greatest advantage may be their ability to reach their readers with content unfiltered by an editor and to engage in a similarly direct and unmediated dialogue with them.
Like everything else, blogging changed after September 11, 2001. The US and its Allies were officially declaring a war against terrorists worldwide. Soldiers were being deployed in massive numbers to the Middle East. The world was rapidly changing. People were nervous and curious about what was going on with the government and the military; curious beyond their nightly or cable news. Blogs were the perfect source to fill in the gaps of information that people really wanted to know about. Websurfers were turning to the soldiers themselves to find out what was happening overseas.
Imagine if the men and women fighting World War II could have somehow told their stories daily for all to hear…imagine if Audie Murphy or George Patton could have broadcast their experiences of a battle the day after it occurred – while the experience was still fresh in their minds and without time taking the edges off of their memories.
That’s what military bloggers are doing today – offering unfettered access to the War on Terror in their own words – each one speaking to anyone, everyone who has access to the Web. For the first time, the public does not have to wait months or years to hear what happened from the individual soldier’s point of view. They don’t have to settle for the government’s approved messages. These bloggers are soldiers who return to their bases and type their daily experiences onto the Internet for anyone to read. Never before has this happened, has the information come so fast, so real and so unfiltered. This is the power of a blog.
Of course, the status of current world events lends itself to the popularity of the military blogger. The allied presence in Iraq and Afghanistan alone has accounted for a huge surge in interest in reading and writing military blogs. But beyond satisfying their reader’s curiousity, military blogs have maintained and expanded their readership due to the multi-dimensional experience they provide. Via the tools of the military blogger - webcams, digital cameras, blogs, email, and cell phones – the reader can be there right next to a Corporal on point during a patrol in Baghdad, can experience what it’s like to be a combat surgeon fighting to save the life of wounded soldier, or a spouse hoping never to see a notification team at her door announcing the death of a loved one. The military blogs are the windows into a world that few know first hand. While the mainstream media continues to focus on the numbers of casualties and the grand pronouncements in the war, these bloggers focus on the collective triumphs and individual sacrifices.
Simon & Schuster has agreed to publish a collection from military bloggers sometime in late 2006. I submitted the proposal and will be the editor and one of the many authors.
We will bring together the best of the military blogs, the purest distillation of the myriad voices of this war. These bloggers provide a powerful insight into the military, the War on Terror, and the heart of our nation. By bringing these voices together, we offer the first real-time, “oral” history of a war while it still going on. We will provide stories from many of the military blogs that cover the full range of the experience of this war – from the decision to serve in the military to their return home, from the front lines to the home front, and from the med-evac units and hospitals where the price of freedom is paid in blood and suffering to the friends that made the ultimate sacrifice.
We will provide a new way to view the military - uncensored, unmediated, direct, intimate and immediate. For everyone on both sides of the computer screen—the military blogs have been an experiment in putting lives that are on the line, online: Now, by pulling together these voices into a choir, by giving the ephemeral internet bits and bytes a permanent place to live by putting them between covers, we hope to, in some small way, pay lasting tribute to those men and women who have opened this window into their lives and to convey a better understanding of what it’s like to be a part of the War.
While I have already been in contact with about 30 MilBloggers, I could use your help. This is your opportunity to influence the content of a book - what posts would you like to see in a book (on the history) of our soldiers in the War on Terror?
As editor, I'm looking at a wide range of experiences - Saying Goodbye (from deciding to serve in the military to leaving loved ones behind), Combat, the Weight of Command, the Fallen, Homefront (spouse and parent blogs), Humor, Time Off, and Coming Home.
And, as always, thank you for supporting and visiting MilBlogs. This is happening, quite frankly, because of all of you.
Best Regards (and AIRBORNE!),