Rise of the Milblogs

Hugh Hewitt writes of the “Rise of the Milblogs” in the Standard.

AS THE WAR enters a phase where most of the fighting is far removed from the networks’ cameras, it gets harder and harder to find reliable news on the conflict’s many fronts.

Unless you read the milblogs, that is. “Milblogs” is short for “military blogs”–online journals run by active duty military or reservists who have returned to civilian life for the time being. These first person accounts of the world and the nation through the eyes of front-line troops are changing the nature not just of the blogosphere but of American reporting.

Take the recent postings of Sgt. Hook as one example of journalism at its finest. Hook is the First Sergeant of a 130 soldier heavy lift helicopter company that is deploying to Afghanistan. He’ll be offline for a while, but when he signs back on, I’ll take his word for conditions on the ground in the battle against al Qaeda in central Asia.

There are a number of great milblogs, though the ones I try to read daily are Smash, who has fought in the war and is now returned to civilian life; MudvilleGazette, currently stationed in Europe (and who has the best list of milblogs I can find); Blackfive, a paratrooper with great writing skills; and Chief Wiggles, whose toy drive for the children of Iraq got some much deserved attention last year and who is now heading back to Iraq for some additional duty. There are many, many more,
including folks like Joe Carter at EvangelicalOutpost, whose blog tends more towards the cultural, religious, and political than the military but who is still very much a Marine.

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The ability of the civilian world to access the news and views of the military directly is a sea-change in media. At the conclusion of his wonderful 1998 book, Making the Corps, Washington Post writer Thomas Ricks worried aloud about the increasing distance between the civilian and military worlds, and the divergence in the values of both. Part of that problem was that the world of the warrior was increasingly remote from ordinary Americans who don’t have much contact with the military.

MILBLOGS ARE CHANGING THAT CONDITION, and having other far-reaching effects as well. An obvious one: Whose thoughts on the conditions in Baghdad would you trust more: Wiggles or lefty pest Atrios? Or on the momentum of the fight in Afghanistan: the future dispatches of Hook or the ruminations of Joshua Micah Marshall?*

Indeed.

*The original contains all the links; I was too lazy to replicate them–most are on the blogroll and/or reciproll.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.