17 December 2009

The Blogger Blackout

A number of my fellow milbloggers (as well as the Military Times) have picked up on the story of Master Sgt. CJ Grisham, the operator of the blog"A Soldier's Perspective". Grisham had operated his blog for six years, but under increasing scrutiny from his chain of command, he has ceased all posting.

In response, a number of blogs have taken part in a stand-down day in support of Master Sgt. Grisham--including prominent blogs such as BlackFive and cartoon sites, such as Private Murphy.

While the story is complex, and contains a lot of he said/she said, I'd like to draw attention to a few aspects of the story that I found fascinating.

The first point I'd like to highlight is that Grisham went on a tirade against his school board as a result of a school uniform policy which was implemented without the input of the parents. The school discovered his rant and contacted his chain of command.

The question is why does Grisham's chain of command need to be at all concerned with Internet drama?

Let me share a story from my time as a company commander to put this in perspective.

On one summer Friday in Upstate New York, I sat in my chair and looked at the clock. Work was slow, the sun was shining, and my open-topped Jeep was beckoning. It was one of those days when you look around and notice that offices had largely emptied out for some reason or another.

As I tried to find an excuse to leave work and enjoy a drive through Sackets Harbor, I received a phone call from my legal department:

"Excuse me, but do you have a Soldier by the name of [redacted]--someone that might go by the screen name of IllJim69?"

Instantly I knew that I wouldn't be going home early that day.

I walked into the legal department and was handed a stack of printouts from an Internet message board. As I read through the forum posts, I noted that my Soldier, IllJim69, was engaged in ruthless Internet debate with some self-proclaimed White Trash Aphrodite who had, much to the dismay of mankind, found a way to breed in large and irresponsible numbers.

This being the Internet, IllJim69 began to mercilessly insult the aforementioned White Trash Aphrodite. Having been a moderator on my college message board, I was used to seeing nearly every thread dissolve into name-calling, Godwin's Law and the like. This is pretty much what the Internet is for.

Unfortunately for IllJim69, the White Trash Aphrodite was so offended by his rhetoric that she searched through his profile, where he had a picture of himself in uniform, posing with his sports car (complete with a license plate number). She was able to get in touch with the base's Criminal Investigation Department, who then handed the issue off to me.

Never underestimate the determination of a crazy, jobless, irrational woman on the Internet, I guess.

This was a waste of time. Clearly, had IllJim69 been a civilian, no one would have cared one bit. But of course, since he was a Soldier, he fell victim to the childish "I'm going to tell your commander and get you in trouble" mentality which nearly every commander has had to deal with at some time or another. Whether it be angry ex-girlfriends, jilted lovers or outraged drivers, some people in the civilian world love to call commanders to deal with asinine personal issues.

It seems that our dear Grisham fell victim to this mentality with regards to the school board. Cry me a river--in 2009, anyone can weigh in on an issue on an internet message board. So long as it wasn't libel or slander, he should be left alone in cases like this. (There are other posts worth mentioning, for certain, but the issues with the school board should be left alone)

Issue number two comes from a point which Thunder Run made:

Milblogs are facing an increasingly hostile environment from within the military. While senior leadership has embraced blogging and social media, many field grade officers and senior NCOs do not embrace the concept. From general apathy in not wanting to deal with the issue to outright hostility to it, many commands are not only failing to support such activities, but are aggressively acting against active duty milbloggers, milspouses, and others. The number of such incidents appears to be growing, with milbloggers receiving reprimands, verbal and written, not only for their activities but those of spouses and supporters.

Indeed. While many senior leaders embrace blogging (even the official US Army website actually linked to this blog today), I suspect that many leaders feel that it is far more simple to outright ban blogs than it is to take the risk with operational security, or the potential offense a blog post might stir up. Indeed, it takes less time to ban a blog than it does to review each post--consequently, many milbloggers have circumvented the military's official policies on blogging.

While I will participate in the blogger blackout for a day or two--I have to show solidarity with my fellow milbloggers--I have to wonder what this will accomplish. It only hurts the milblogging community to remain silent...it has no effect on those who, out of web ignorance, shun blogs altogether.

Nevertheless, in support of my fellow milblogger, and out of concern that I'm falling behind on Christmas shopping, I'm going to take a day or two away from blogging. For those of you going on vacation soon, have a Merry Christmas:


J. said...

Oh come on Starbuck. While I agree that the Army leadership overreacted to Grisham's post, hey, no one ever accused the Army of being a democracy or of being thoughtful in its daily deliberations involving soldiers' personal affairs. Them's the risks, that's why we have a love/hate relationship with the Army.

This isn't worth the time or energy for a "stand-down." What's next, a virtual "march on DC?" Do you think anyone is going to notice? It's one guy, one blogger amongst a thousand other milblogs, millions of other blogs, all wrapped up the swirl of daily events.

My two cents, I linked to Grisham's blog for a short while, thought he had some good posts, but he's really an angry ranter and I couldn't put up with the unbased personal rants he had. That's his style, and that shouldn't be a reason for any disciplinary action, but life isn't fair. It does, however, go on.

Anonymous said...

If I were a military guy running a blog I'd be looking around for another venue for expressing myself. First off I'd be checking on the truth of the rumor that Megan Fox's father owns Fox News. If it's true, just think, the guy who marries her could be a talking head on TV on military affairs, just like the famous Ralph Peters!

Paul said...

Members of the military aren’t the only ones who have to deal with this kind of thing — there are numerous stories of bloggers who have been fired from their jobs because someone in the company didn’t like what they had written. It’s just something that goes with the territory. Unfortunately.