27 April 2006

Milblog Conference - Saturday

Andi's posted a complete and updated roundup of conference coverage called What They're Saying that you should check out to make sure you haven't missed anything.

As a summary, I like John of Argghhh!'s second conference post including a list of "take aways", and his excellent "Continuing the Discussion" post.

Personally, I initially had reservations about attending the conference. Willie and I are not Milbloggers, we are supporters. After emailing with Patti and seeing there was an attendee category called "Military Supporter", I felt better.

Knowing that I would have the opportunity to go to the FReep and visit some patients at Walter Reed clinched it for me.

It was worth it for all of those reasons and more. Experiencing (and in many cases meeting) people whose blogs I've read for a long time adds a dimension that technology - as wonderful as it is - cannot provide.

And Friday night at Fran's is something I will always remember.

Surprisingly (for me at least), I did find some of the conference themes relevant for our blog. For example, OPSEC is obviously a critical issue for deployed bloggers. But we meet hundreds of soldiers who have just come from theater and they talk about... everything. Some subjects are sensitive, others may simply be misunderstood by those who don't understand how things work.

Some conversations are intensely personal and I would never even repeat them, much less blog about them.

Through these conversations I also experienced firsthand the disconnect between what I saw on TV and what the soldiers were telling me.

I don't mean not reporting "good news", like building hospitals or schools. I mean What Is Really Going On - all of it.

The MSM often portrays our efforts in Iraq, in particular, as though our soldiers are aimlessly driving around the desert just waiting to get blown up. And yes, guys going out on patrol do sometimes feel that they're just waiting to get blown up. But why are they on patrol? What is the strategy behind an operation? How do different operations fit together? You won't find out on CNN, that's for sure. But you will find out here and here.

The worst aspect of the legacy media's war coverage - and in my opinion the most reprehensible - is the coverage of the soldiers themselves. Or better put, the lack of it. For them, casualties are apparently subjects of theoretical debate or statistics to be used for political gain.

According to them, there are no well-trained professionals among our troops, and there are certainly no Heroes. Hell, they're not even people. Or if they are, they are 19 year olds that couldn't get jobs.

It is this ignorance - no, callous disregard - that I find deeply disturbing on several different levels.

This was a common theme amongst the panelists when discussing their motivations to blog. When dealing with security concerns, it seemed to me that a lot of it came down to common sense, a sense of responsibility, and a sense of respect. And although those self-imposed restrictions work for the most part, they are too ad hoc for the Military establishment, and many Milbloggers themselves would prefer more clear-cut guidance.

This has gotten much longer than I intended but I have to mention a few more highlights. Fred from In Iraq for 365 was awesome on the Blogging From Theater panel. I've been reading his blog forever and finally got up the courage to tell him that when we ran into each other at the hotel. Too bad I wasn't able to convince him to come to the pub crawl. Got to meet Bill and Steve (hope the Advil helped, Steve) also awesome on the same panel. And Buzz Patterson - if you don't listen to his radio show and haven't read his books, you're missing out. One of the first people I met at the FReep was Stacy, with whom I had emailed ages ago. I had the pleasure of briefly speaking with David at the conference about Robert Stokely, who unfortunately could not attend. Maggie and Rachelle were real hoots at the pub crawl, as was Hfs, who actually traveled further than I did to attend the conference (I won't go into the flashing incident). Thanks for the lift back to my hotel, Bill - I don't think I could have taken another DC cabbie at that point. (What is the deal with the DC cab drivers??)

Thanks to Greyhawk and Mrs. G for the online conference moderation, which must have been quite the task and of course to our First Lady, conference organizer Andi, for bringing us all together.

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