I knew it was out there. I have probably not really wanted to look into it. But I have seen way too many You Tube clips and blogs about war and death the last of couple of days. It is more “safe” to read about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in New York Times from time to time in order to keep up dated on the political debate and the war itself. I am totally on the same path as BeckBlogic Weblog and CMK Dimples Weblog.
Watching You Tube, listening to podcasts like War News Radio or reading blogs like this one and this one, you get behind the political debate and face the people who are really fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do we need those stories? Absolutely – because it gives us unfiltered access to Iraqis, soldiers, spouses, and the enemy. Of course all of them have their own agenda and you should not loose that perspective. Is it good or bad? I do not know what good or bad means in this case. I guess we see more horrified pictures from the front lines, but did anyone expect it to be less bloody? Tangets in a Virtual Playground has a good point in saying human beings have always been fascinated by war and fighting. And propaganda has always been part of wars and winners have defined history. Think about the great story of Thucydides and the Battle of Hastings (1066) recorded in the Bayex Tapestry. Hitler is famous for his propaganda machine and I am not so sure that it would have made a huge difference if he had a Nazi Website as my professor Garrett Graff remarked in class. I am not sure Churchill or any other political leader would have reacted in a different way. I am not so sure this contra-factual discussion is helpful because no matter what Web 2.0 means that the governments and military organizations cannot control the message anymore. Future wars are networked wars. Collaboration instead of control will be the keyword for the military just like for companies and governments.
The Web also gives voice to veterans to oppose the war. Is that good or bad for the American political debate and democracy? In the Atlantic Monthly, Andrew J. Bacevich argues that “empowering groups of soldiers to join in the debate over contentious issues is short-sighted and dangerous” because it implies that wars cannot be fought without the consent of the soldiers. I agree – it is a political decision to go to war. On the other hand, since the president has prerogatives in deciding when and where to go to war (as far as I understand) isn’t it healthy in a democracy that citizens can challenge the decision? And can we in a democracy ask a group of citizens not to participate because they have served the country?
In class we talked about blogging and You Tubing as a psychological way to processing the horrifying experiences soldiers go through on a daily basis. I am actually a bit surprised to see the feelings that tough soldiers express in their blogs and their morbid humour on You Tube. It might change the stereotyped perceptions of soldiers and vets: they do have feelings and they are not afraid to share them with the rest of us.