War as career opportunity

· Weblog Concepts

While it is no longer acceptable to say so, there was a time when military men (and they were all men, then) would welcome war as a chance for distinction and advancement. In Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin novels, Jack Aubrey will always disclaim the death and horror of war but it honest about the fact that his career more or less depends on the conflict. He isn’t happy when the peace of Amiens produces a pause in the Napoleonic wars and briefly lands him on the beach.
In this day and age I think it’s fair to say that few military personnel welcome war, but that when it comes it still provides opportunities for distinction and advancement. This is also true for journalists and media outlets. CNN essentially established itself during the first Gulf War, and TV and radio stations had their logos and taglines cued up well in advance of our preemptive invasion.
Bloggers, too, have benefitted from conflict and war. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 produced a boom in blogging, pushing to the fore some of the war bloggers that still lead the various charts today. People go online for breaking news and they have increasingly found it via blogs.
Afghanistan was a relative blip in the scheme of things but Gulf War II has again stirred up a great deal of traffic in the blogosphere, and many bloggers were ready for the main event. The blogs frequently cited online and by so-called mainstream journalists for their coverage of the war include Christopher Albritton’s independent Back to Iraq, the collaborative Warblogs:cc and The Command Post, and Sean-Paul Kelley’s The Agonist.
The flow to Kelley’s blog has been so dramatic that Salon blogger Douglas Anders’s The Agora has experienced a spillover effect from his prime placement in the Agonist’s blogroll.
Now, a plagiarism scandal has erupted as it has become clear that most of the Agonist’s timely, unique information was lifted unattributed from a for-pay Iraq-war newsletter published by a intelligence news service called Stratfor.
What’s interesting to me from a metablogging perspective is the way that this issue reflects on the whole “blogging-as-journalism” meme, pro and con. Some felt that the Agonist was bringing journalistic cred to blogging and that this news will now stir a backlash of distrust against blogging as a media form.
Others (such as, notably Ken Layne) have pointed out that it was credulous professional journalists who boosted the Agonist’s profile and bloggers who brought him low. (Ken’s comment section is a good place to read a number of opinions on this matter.)
Meanwhile, the story continues to bounce around the blogosphere, in such diverse ideological locations as Metafilter (Blogtroversy), Signifying Nothing (an excellent roundup of comments), Too Much to Dream, Roadkill, and Dean’s World.
The latter even spawned a sideshow (over proper attribution of an “intellectual property is theft” quip, complete with humorless and redbaiting).
It remains to be seen whether Kelley will lose his tremendous audience over this credibility issue or continue to reap the benefits that can accrue to third-party observers of war.