Blog Blackout Exposes Tension Between Military, Soldier Bloggers
When an Iraq vet was forced to stop blogging, comrades in the military blogging community went dark for a day
Army Master Sargaent C.J. Grisham, an Iraq veteran, ran one of the most influential of a vibrant community of military blogs--until, he says, pressure from his superiors forced him out. Today, the military blogosphere is going dark in protest. Military blogs have been a valuable forum for discussion within the community and, for civilian readers, an invaluable perspective on news that involves the military. Their reactions to the Fort Hood shooting and President Obama's speech on Afghanistan brought a new dimension to those stories. They gave non-military readers insight into the soldiers whose lives are at stake.
Today's blackout illustrates the complex relationship between these blogs, their predominately military readership, and the military establishment made nervous by social media. When a soldier writes about controversial military matters, is it dissent among the ranks or just an expression of free speech? Where does the uniform end and the American citizen begin? Here's what the bloggers are saying about the blackout, about the military, and about Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham.
- Why I Stopped Blogging Grisham explains, "Blogging is no longer worth the trouble. Everything is fine as long as the stories are happy and positive. The military wants happy stories, not honest stories. Everything must be 100% in concert with the Army spin. If it's not, you're considered an "embarrassment" to the Army, the installation, and/or the NCO Corps. Integrity is no longer an accepted method of leadership. If I can't be honest and open, I won't write at all. I refuse to allow my private blog's message to be dictated with threats and intimidation. It's been a fun six years!"
- The Campaign To Silence The Army Times's Jon Anderson reports. "Grisham's in-your-face opinions have won him a loyal following but also earned the scorn of his superiors, who contend he violated military limits about what troops can say on certain topics. Grisham has criticized President Barack Obama's fitness to run the country, chided the Democratic Party and battled with local school officials. He has been investigated by the inspector general and called on the carpet by his commanders. Though he has not been ordered to stop blogging, he says he can't do so under the restrictions placed on him."
- Why MilBlog Freedom Matters Blackfive's Mr. Wolf explains. "[M]ilblogs are facing an increasingly hostile environment from within the military [...] Milblogs have been a vital link in getting accurate news and information about the military, and military operations, to you. Today, many milblogs are gone and others are under attack from within and without. Today, you have the chance to imagine a world without milblogs, and to do something about it. Make your voice heard by writing your congressional representatives and others, and by making donations as you see fit. The battle for freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas is fought on many fronts and in many ways. Without your help, the battle may well be lost."
- We Understand Stakes Miss Ladybug, a civilian blogger who writes frequently on military matters, is exasperated. "We need more people like CJ in the Army, and telling its story from the Soldier's Perspective, not fewer. CJ needs to have the freedom to continue blogging, and sharing the unvarnished truth. CJ's smart enough to know what shouldn't be general public knowledge. The Army should trust him to do on this - he gets the fact that sharing certain information publicly can get good people killed unnecessarily. There's a reason he's been invited - as a milblogger - to the White House both under Bush and Obama."
- MSM Can't Replace MilBlogs C.J. Grisham's co-blogger Marcus boasts, "Starting today, many of the milblogs you have grown to love are going silent to take a stand for CJ. They want everyone to know what it would be like without milblogs for one day. That is one day that the awesome stories of your troops getting the job done won't get out because we all know the MSM won't pick up the slack. That is one day that you will have to depend on the crap from other sources and not the awesomeness straight from the people in the know. What will it be like without us?"
- Army's Stupid Crackdown This Ain't Hell's Jonn Lilyea laments, "The Army has been doing a lot stupid crap and this is just the latest. This Ain't Hell has had to deal with some stupid shit from the Army lately that we're not ready to talk about yet." He writes, "If you've got a few loose bucks throw it in CJ's direction for his legal defense."
- It's About Politics MilBlogger Grim tries to see the military's position. "His command is in a difficult position, and I sympathize with their desire to have good relations with the local government. I'm sure that it makes perfect sense for them to believe that telling him to cool it is a good response," he writes. "Soldiers are often asked to be the adults when the civilian world pitches a fit, and to suck up the sacrifices needed to make that same world feel comfortable and good about itself. This is generally unfair, but part of the honor in service lies in just how much more weight you are bearing than those who choose the easy life. Still, were I forced into such a situation, and were it my commander, I would want him to support me."
- Grisham One Of Our Best CDR Salamander writes, "Army Master Sgt. C. J. Grisham has always led from the front, from combat that earned him the Bronze Star with V device, to doing right by the men he led. His honesty won him readership and respect, from the White House on down. Yet, when he stood up for his children in school, his command did not stand by him."
- Blackout Wrong Move For MilBlogs Navy blogger Raymond Pritchett dissents, "Opinion: Milblog credibility is diminished when they act like a political action community. Be bigger than individuals."