Milbloggers With Attitude

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

Bloggers can be a critical bunch. When they don’t like what they see or hear in the world around them, they let everyone within click range of their piece of the Web know it. And when they get together at a blog conference, then the rhetoric can really get harsh.

That’s what happened Saturday at the first annual Milblog Conference in Washington. About 200 soldiers, veterans, family members and assorted others who gathered to celebrate the military blogging community spent much of their time chastising the media, denouncing peace activists and lamenting the military’s lukewarm response to the blogosphere.

The panelists and attendees directed their firepower first and foremost at the media. Novelist and military commentator Austin Bay set the stage as master of ceremonies. He said the nonstop television news cycle “does to war, natural disaster, crime and celebrity trials what pornography does to sex,” adding that the milblog community exists “to get the story [of war] right.”

The gripes against the “mainstream media” amplified from there:

  • Matt, who left the military in 2001 and now blogs at Blackfive, blasted Newsweek for not telling the story of a friend killed in combat — an episode that moved him to start blogging.
  • Author and panel moderator Robert “Buzz” Patterson ranked the media among a “fifth column” in America that aids and abets terrorist enemies.
  • Steve Schippert of ThreatsWatch reached into the past to condemn Walter Cronkite for what Schippert called biased reporting about the Tet Offensive. He said such reporting turned people against the Vietnam War but argued that it “can never, ever happen again — not ever — because of milbloggers.”
  • Chuck Ziegenfuss, who was injured in Iraq last year and blogs at From My Position … On The Way, mistrusts journalists so much that he regularly searches the Internet for their articles before granting interviews. “You kind of have to control them as much as they’re trying to control you,” he said.



Bloggers Beat The FEC, So Now What?

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

Bloggers won. That was the consensus two weeks ago, after a yearlong, off-and-on blog swarm that clearly shaped the thinking of the Federal Election Commission about campaign finance rules [PDF] for the Internet.

That consensus is on the mark, too. Ordered by a federal court to write those rules, the FEC ultimately gave bloggers exactly what they wanted: a broad exemption from regulations that focus instead on political advertisements online.

Bloggers will not have to disclose election-related payments they receive, nor will they have to post disclaimers about such payments. In essence, the six federal election commissioners voted unanimously to preserve free speech online, at least to the extent the court would allow.

So now that the Internet campaign law of the land is settled, at least for the moment, what does it mean for the blogosphere in 2006, 2008 and beyond? The answer depends on whom you ask, so I asked four people who were central to the debate over the past year.

The first was Brad Smith, the former FEC member whose interview with triggered the blog swarm. Smith left the agency last summer to return to teaching law in Ohio. Ironically, he also is now a blogger at RedState.

He is a harsh critic of campaign finance laws in general and never wanted to see any rules for the Internet. He often lamented that the FEC refused to keep fighting the courts and campaign finance advocates on that issue. But he is heartened by the rules the FEC crafted.