Blogs--short for web logs--have been popularized by the easy accessibility of the Internet. People of all ages and from all professions keep these on-line diaries, and the topics of writing are just as eclectic as the writers themselves. I stumbled upon blogs of a more political nature--MilBlogs, they’re called, short for Military Blogs--in my larger browsing of political media.
MilBlogs, written by soldiers currently stationed abroad, by veterans who have returned home, or by anxious spouses in America, have been around for a couple of years, but have only recently become widely read. Buck Sargent, for example, a.k.a. American Citizen Soldier, served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and is now on a combat tour in Iraq. He started a military blog in June 2005 prior to his deployment, and has turned his blog into a weekly commentary on war, on the military, and on politics.
Military blogs are often inspired by the soldiers’ desires to bridge the continents and to keep family and friends at home informed of their experiences while deployed. They are also inspired by desires to give Americans a view of the war in Iraq (and other wars as well) that the traditional media simply cannot provide. Sargent replies to the question of why he keeps his blog: “To instruct, to entertain, to educate, to enlighten. To keep my sanity. To ply my future trade. To help counter the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity otherwise known as the mainstream media.” I believe that Sargent’s blog provides a compelling alternative to traditional media because he, like many other soldiers, is not in Iraq to check off another bullet in a political agenda and consequently does not write as such.
Military blogs have also experienced such popularity, I feel, because they appeal to raw emotion, as well as to rational thought. Sargent skillfully combines narrative prose--he has no short supply of characters and plots to draw from in his experiences in Iraq--with analysis. He transforms the statistics we see in newspapers about death tolls and destruction into real situations that we can immediately connect with emotionally. He also does not hesitate to describe his feelings about Iraq as someone who “is there, doing that.” Sargent differs from many other military bloggers, however, in that he concentrates primarily not on his day-to-day ordeals, but instead provides weekly commentary on political subjects of interest. In his most recent entry, for example, he reflects on September 11th and provides rationale to justify the war in Iraq.
Despite the appeal of military blogs, we are also forced to look at them with a skeptical eye. The biggest criticism is that anyone can sign up for a livejournal account, adopt the persona of “American Soldier in Iraq,” and proceed to describe the horrors of war, even if he or she has never stepped outside of the United States. I am pretty much convinced that Sargent is no fake imposter, but there are many military bloggers out there, and I doubt all of them are sincere.
I also think that military blogs need to be examined suspiciously because many entries may be written in the “heat of the moment,” so to speak. A soldier is angry; instead of distancing himself and level-headedly re-examining a subject matter, he may rant and rave bitterly. After all, that is what blogs are for, right? So we cannot take everything Sargent posts as truth, and must instead read with a grain of salt. Finally, I cannot help but wonder if there is any political motivation behind Sargent’s posts. He has the disclaimer that all opinions are his own; he also has the disclaimer that all of his posts are monitored. Might he only be posting what the higher-level officers want him to post?
However, despite the criticisms, I believe that MilBlogs will survive as artifacts of political media, especially as we hear now that newspapers are dying in lieu of the ever-growing presence of the Internet. Blogs are, ultimately, primary sources, and it is my opinion that reliable primary sources, like Buck Sargent, will always be more genuine than secondary ones. Military blogs bridge countries and time zones to give the ordinary citizen a glimpse into the lives of the citizen soldier—soldiers who could very well be our neighbors, our friends, our husbands and wives, our sons and daughters... soldiers who know very well the stark realities of war.
American Citizen Soldier: http://americancitizensoldier.blogspot.com/