Thursday, May 22, 2008

Is Blogging a Good Idea for the Military?

Over at Nukes & Spooks, they're talking about a study that argues that the military needs to engage and encourage bloggers so that it is in a better position to "counter" negative stories.

Written by James Kinniburgh and Dororthy Denning for a U.S. Special Operations Command class, it proposes the military consider “clandestinely” hire bloggers to present the military view on the war on terrorism. It points out the military is in the middle of an information operation, or IO, campaign. And in Iraq, some insurgent groups, Iraqi politicians, academics and everyday citizens have blogs that share observations interspersed with agendas. So far, the military does not have a go-to blog that is both popular and sly enough to get the military message out.

Now, Bill Roggio and Michael Yon and about fifty other warbloggers must be slapping their cheeks in frustration. They don't even get a mention in the report. There are at least four references to "Glenn Reynolds" and his Instapundit blog, and how wonderful and important it is, and how much "credibility" Reynolds has. It's like they wrote him a delightful love letter. Atrios, Daily Kos, Media Matters, TPM Cafe, and Think Progress get exactly no mentions, as a matter of course. In fact--Jeff "Guckert" Gannon gets more mentions than he probably deserves in this study.

Instapundit’s Reynolds is more than just a successful blogger. He is a law professor at the University of Tennessee, and an author of several books and articles on political ethics, environmental law and advanced technology. These credentials no doubt contributed to his success. In general, a blogger’s objectives; qualifications and life experiences; skills at writing, framing arguments and making use of the Web page medium; personal attributes such as integrity; networks of personal contacts; and levels of interaction with the audience all contribute to the audience’s assessment of the merit and credibility of his or her blog. These qualities are communicated to the audience through the blog, establishing the writer’s online persona and reputation. Influence, therefore, starts with the characteristics of the blogger. According to researcher Kathy Gill of the University of Washington, the most influential blogs were generally written by professionals with excellent writing skills.23 Just as during World War II, the military recruited the top Hollywood directors and studios to produce films about the war (in effect conducting domestic influence campaigns in the name of maintaining the national morale and support for the war effort), waging the war against terrorism and its underlying causes, as spelled out in the National Security Strategy, may require recruiting the prominent among the digirati (probably those native to the target region) to help in any Web-based campaign.

Does that even sound like a realistic assessment of the "blogosphere?"

If you went with the "characteristics" of the blogger, you'd look at this blog: two veterans who have held professional positions outside of the military. Between us, probably 12 years of college and beyond-high school education. If you looked at your typical "warblogger" you'd find some legitimate voices, to be certain. Then you'd find a pack of rabid chickenhawks with zero understanding of why we fought a Cold War in the first place. Not many college grads. And damned few actual veterans. I don't lump Roggio and Yon in that group. I will pay them this compliment--neither would allow themseves to be completely co-opted by the Pentagon. Yon, for example, insists on infuriating his own readers by publishing columns by Joe Galloway. Roggio, for example, has his readers pay to support his activities, not the government.

The standard should be--who was right in the first place about the war in Iraq? Not "who can stick it to the moonbats who don't understand that Tal Afar changed everything?"

Apparently, Instaputz is the only one who matters. The rest are just chum in the water. Don't you think an academic study about the blogosphere should have featured more than just one citation of some of the actually successful blogs that have been critical of the war effort?

The solution, according to the study? Make a blogger! That's right, just "make" one. A thousand grubby little hands just shot up.

An alternative strategy is to “make” a blog and blogger. The process
of boosting the blog to a position of influence could take some time, however, and depending on the person running the blog, may impose a significant educational burden, in terms of cultural and linguistic training before the blog could be put online to any useful effect.
Still, there are people in the military today who like to blog. In some cases, their talents might be redirected toward operating blogs as part of an information campaign. If a military blog offers valuable information that is not available from other sources, it could rise in rank fairly rapidly. Any blogs and bloggers serving an IO mission must be coordinated and synchronized with the overall influence effort in time and message. However, they must be prepared to argue and debate with their audience successfully and independently on behalf of the U.S. policy stance. In this sense, bloggers must be able to “circumvent the hierarchy” as blogger George Dafermos put it. This means that they must be trusted implicitly to handle the arguments without forcing them to communicate “solely by means of marketing pitches and press releases.”

And, you gotta love this part:

There will also be times when it is thought to be necessary, in the context of an integrated information campaign, to pass false or erroneous information through the media, on all three layers, in support of military deception activities. Given the watchdog functions that many in the blogging community have assumed—not just in the U.S., but also around the world—doing so jeopardizes the entire U.S. information effort. Credibility is the heart and soul of influence operations.

So, in other words--the "ideal" blogger for the military is...

Michelle Malkin?

Essentially, they are saying is: "find a credible liar we can control who has talent." Well, sorry Michelle. You can be controlled and you certainly know how to lie. But I think you're lacking in the talent area. DINFOS doesn't have a classroom ready for you until 2015. Better luck next time.

The study also serves up this gem:

This brings us to an even more fundamental issue. Because the U.S. military is prohibited from conducting information operations against U.S. persons, it is reluctant to engage in Internet IO operations that might be characterized as PSYOP or deception. Once information is on the Internet, it can reach anyone, including those in the U.S. Thus, while the military offers factual news on the Internet through Public Affairs, it generally stays away from commentary and IO. At least initially, this challenge might be addressed by sticking with accurate, factual information of value to readers. Blogging can support PA and focus on improving communications and building trust with local communities and the public. A blog can be used to solicit and respond to questions and concerns from target populations. In addition, military leaders might offer personal commentary on nonmilitary blogs, with the usual disclaimers. To use blogs effectively for an information campaign may require a new intelligence tool, one that can monitor and rapidly assess the informational events occurring in a specific portion of the blogosphere and their effects (if any) on the three layers of the local infosphere.

Hey, we've seen that movie. How are you doing, LTC Boylan? How's the Google working these days? Thanks for stopping by. You don't write as often as you used to.

The last thing the military should do is legitimize the bloggers that currently "back them up" by paying them and supporting them. If you unleash that kind of brain power on the world, you'll end up with everyone in a re-education camp on the edge of town. More misinformation about the war and about Islam and terrorism in general come from rabid, out-of-control hysterics. Little Green Footballs, anyone? No, they didn't get a mention, either.

In the movies where the turncoat sides with the invading aliens and helps them by turning everyone in, they fail to mention that that part could be played by any number of conservative warbloggers who still think we're winning in Iraq.

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