Blogs of War: Then and Now

A few years ago I wrote a book on the history of the visualization of war.  Today, writing a book on blogging, I see a striking differences between two “blogs of war,” that is, first person accounts of a battle in the Middle East.

Then: In c. 1300 BCE, the pharaoh Rameses II and his army fought a battle against a Hittite army at Kadesh, in what is now Syria. The battle was a draw; in fact, the Egyptians ended up retreating. But Rameses’ memorial temple–an instance of massive communication–shows on its 100-foot walls pictures and hieroglyphics of the great ruler as victorious. As originally painted, Rameses is bronze skinned, broad shouldered, long armed, resolute of face, wearing the twin crowns of upper and lower Egypt, and many times larger than the Hittites and his own men–a superman in the anthropological as well as comic book sense. (Rameses became the “Ozymandias”  who, in Shelley’s poem, demanded that all “look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.”) In the written records accompanying the images, Rameses boasts that he personally routed “every warrior of the Hittite enemy, together with the many foreign countries which were with them.”

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In contrast, the pharaoh blames his own men for early problems in the battle: “You have done a cowardly deed, altogether. Not one man among you had stood up to assist me when I was fighting. . . not one among you shall talk about his service, after returning to the land of Egypt.” In other words, here was the mighty-thighed Pharaoh announcing that his own men were cowards and he won the battle single-handedly. I have often wondered whether some veteran of Kadesh, walking by the tableaus, did not squint up, shake his head, gnash his teeth, and growl to his wife, “The lying bastard, it was his bad generalship/leadership that lost the day, not our cowardice.” But of course we don’t know; foot soldiers in Pharaoh’s army didn’t carve or write their campaign memoirs; and no scribe or stonemason interviewed them. [Read more…]

Dole Institute of Politics to host panel discussion on military blogs

Update! The progam video is now available.

Dole Institute to host panel discussion on military blogs

LAWRENCE — As a follow-up to a successful program in early 2007 on political Weblogs, the Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence, KS, will host a panel discussion about another dynamic and growing community on the Internet: military blogs (also known as “milblogs”).

Blogs from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan have allowed readers at home to connect with soldiers, contractors and civilians who are serving their countries, and they have forced the Pentagon to rush headlong into this 21st century medium.

Milblogs began to appear shortly after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. They saw a dramatic increase in usage following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. According to Joshua Patterson, a KU graduate student studying journalism, Milblogging.com had indexed more than 1,800 military blogs in more than 30 countries as of Dec. 1, 2007.

“Milblogs and soldier blogs are often gripping and graphic firsthand accounts of the author’s life and experiences,” said Jonathan Earle, interim director of the Dole Institute. “This program will give our audience a window onto a new and fast-changing part of the so-called ‘new media.’ I can’t recall a similar program anywhere else in the country.”

The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, at the Dole Institute. It is free and open to the public.

Like last year’s “Blog to the Chief” program at the Dole Institute, this discussion will be moderated by David Perlmutter, associate dean of KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications and author of the books “Visions of War” and “Blogwars.” The panel will feature Charles J. “Jack” Holt, chief of New Media Operations for the Department of Defense, and leading military bloggers Ward Carroll, editor of Military.com; and John Donovan, lead blogger of Argghhh! The Home of Two of Jonah’s Military Guys. [Read more…]

Paleolithic Blogs

Dave (askdavetaylor) Taylor gave the Keynote address of the Executive & Entrepreneur track at the Blogworld & New Media Expo 2008 in Las Vegas. (I am here as track director for the Citizen Journalism Workshop). Mr. Taylor made the comment that from the very beginning media–such as early cave paintings–has been biased in that it reflected what the creators wanted to show and not what they did not want to show.

Interestingly I discussed this point in my book Visions of War (St. Martin’s, 1999) which looked at the history of pictures of war. I noted that cave paintings, like those at Lascaux, France were the first physical “medium” of communications outside of the human body. They date back to the appearance of us–anatomically modern humans–and flourished during the Upper Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) era about 35,000 to 12,000 years. Interestingly, when researchers have counted the scenes, flora, and fauna represented in the images on caves you see a huge “bias.” There are very few images of “gathering” or small animals or fish.

On the other hand, overrepresented are big-game animals that weigh more than 100 pounds: bison, Mammoths, deer. They are attractive animals–from carnivore’s perceptive. Many are hugely bloated. These animals do not match the surveys researchers have done of the actual faunal life in the area of the caves. “La Grotte de Cent Mammouths” is one example: there are some 158 or more pictures of Mammoths but only a few Mammoth teeth testify the big animals were very scarce in the neighborhood. [Read more…]

Mumbai Terror, Citizen Journalism and New Media

Online Social-Interactive Media affect all aspects of life now–and death. Famously, journalism was called “the first draft of history” by Washington Post publisher Philip L. Graham. But now, with cell phones and pocket still and video digital cameras, OSIM and internet access, the initial reports from news scenes (especially breaking news) tend to be from citizens on-the-spot, not reporters.* We first witnessed this phenomenon’s power in video from the South Asia Tsunami and stills from the London Bombings. In politics, recall the stumble of the George Allen Senate Campaign over the “Macaca moment,” and then in the 2008 primary Barack Obama’s “bitter” comments. Politicians know (or should know): everyone in room is a potential journalist (or at least recorder and uploader of information) and nothing can truly be off-the-record. As a consequence, pols are more guarded than ever–this was true in the New Hampshire primary, typically a time for folksy engagement.

In such a light, some media tech notes from the Mumbai Terrorist attacks:

TERRORISTS USED GOOGLE EARTH TO RECON MUMBAI: According to a Mumbai crime branch official, the ten terrorists had not come to Mumbai before this to conduct any ‘recce’ and they had learnt about the locations with the help of Google Earth.

TWITTER UPDATES 0N TERROR HELP OR HURT?: News on the Bombay attacks is breaking fast on Twitter withhundreds of people using the site to update others with first-hand accounts of the carnage. The website has a stream of comments on the attacks which is being updated by the second, often by eye-witnesses and people in the city. Although the chatter cannot be verified immediately and often reflects the chaos on the streets, it is becoming the fastest source of information for those seeking unfiltered news from the scene. In the past hour, people using Twitter reported that bombings and attacks were continuing, but none of these could be confirmed. Others gave details on different locations in which hostages were being held. And this morning, Twitter users said that Indian authorities was asking users to stop updating the site for security reasons: One person wrote: “Police reckon tweeters giving away strategic info to terrorists via Twitter”. [Read more…]

Blogs as Stealth Dissent?

Wei Zha & David D. Perlmutter. “Blogs as Stealth Dissent?: ‘Eighteen Touch Dog Newspaper’ and the Tactics, Ambiguity and Limits of Internet Resistance in  China.” In Guy J. Golan, Thomas J. Johnson, & Wayne Wanta (eds.), International Media Communication in a Global Age, pp. 277-295. New York: Routledge.

Originally posted October 4, 2009 at PolicyByBlog