Military BLOGS on NPR
I received a message the other day alerting me that NPR's show "On the Media" was airing a segment on Military Bloggers.
Given NPR’s track record with the military and the Bush administration in general, I didn’t have very high hopes about the equitability of the interview process, and I was neither surprised nor disappointed. I’m glad the Mil Bloggers received the recognition that they did, but I am severely disappointed in the manner that one of the bloggers allowed himself to be manipulated into supporting NPR’s thinly veiled liberal bias against the military.
I like NPR. I like they manner in which their stories are written, I like the way they are presented, and I even like some of the content. What I don’t like is the fact that they refuse to admit to any political bias when the content they produce so eloquently is so clearly to the left of the political spectrum. I use the word “they” not for any purpose of non-specific attribution, or to build in the reader’s mind an image of a monolithic, singular organization capable of broadcasting only a pre-ordained party line, but rather because there is no other specific person, or committee to attribute it to.
If you take issue with the content of NPR, you are always free to write into the website. In some of their obligatory magnanimous moments, they read dissenting views evenly balanced by favorable ones. If that is not enough to satiate those who are incensed by some of the homespun, cutesy, progressive ramblings, they can write to the ombudsman. The ombudsman whose job description requires him to detail the official position of the organization will write back to you saying that NPR is strictly a “News” organization.
With the MilBlogger interview, after a precursory shot across the bow about difficulties in mainstream media covering the war, implying lack of access by the military, they started with a feel-good piece on "Ma Deuce Gunner". Now I like CPL Bautista’s blog. I think it is well written, poignant, and honest. I think his writing is exceptional and far beyond his years. NPR agrees, and this is where they set the hook. NPR Then used Michael’s interview as a segue into the military’s censorship of the bloggers and by extension, infringement of their first amendment rights.
After a short transition piece into the rules that govern Milbloggers as seen by, of all things, a reporter for the Army Times, Brooke Gladstone introduces Jason Hartley’s blog, Just Another Soldier, with a tremendous amount of fanfare and then directs the line of questioning to achieve precisely her own end. Sadly, it sounded as though Specialist Hartley was all too willing to lead her there. Jason relates how he was ordered to take down his blog, and then admits that 2 months prior to redeployment, he put it back up and he sounds surprised that he was punished under article 15. Failure to obey a lawful order has always been a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and I daresay it always will be. If then Sergeant Hartley didn’t believe that the order was lawful why didn’t he discuss it with his chain of command, or the commander himself under the open door policy? Why didn’t he seek legal advice from the Inspector General or the Judge Advocate General during those 10 months? These are not things that are foreign to an E-5, I was well aware of my ability and resources to voice grievances when I was an E-3, let alone a non-commissioned officer. With a lot of soldiers surfing the net for entertainment while in the desert, the chances were pretty good that, after putting the website up just prior to going on leave, the chain of command was going to know it. Either he thought about that, or he didn’t. Whether he was looking to become a martyr or not, whether he was looking for trouble or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that his description of the article 15 process was not only completely off the mark, it played precisely into NPR’s script, and NPR either felt that it wasn’t important enough to research, or they were afraid of the answers that they would find if they did.
Jason says that “An Article 15 is a non-judicial form of punishment where basically you just, you, you're given a punishment, and that's the end of it. There's no jury; there's no legal process. It's a way of immediately punishing a soldier. “
Given Jason’s articulate grasp of the English language, it’s hard for me to believe that he didn’t understand his commander when during the reading of the article 15 he was informed not only of all his rights under article 31 of the UCMJ, including the right to see an attorney appointed at no cost by the military, or one of his choosing, but also of his right to demand trial by court-martial. He was correct in saying that it was non-judicial, but it is, in every essence, a legal process. Given NPR’s thinly veiled contempt for the military in general, it’s easy for me to believe that they didn’t research that for fear of finding the correct answer.
As for Jason saying that the only thing MIlbloggers can post is “insipidly agreeable and conspicuously patriotic content that is reviewed by [their] leadership..” and that the only Milblogs that are still up are insipid, well, no offense taken. I kind of doubt that Jason has ever read this blog and in the event that he has, his opinion of insipidity is his own and he is entitled to it.
Jason is also entitled to his opinion that “Army leadership can’t grasp that a soldier can be critical or satirical about the Army, and still love the Army”. Just because he is sounding more like a made-for-NPR piece than I am comfortable with though, if he should ever browse through here, I would like to know just who is the “Army leadership” that can’t grasp this elusive concept. I’m a Major, and I hear critical and satirical comments about the Army all day from people whose love for the Army could never be questioned. I don’t think he meant the Army leadership at the Pentagon, they had nothing to do with his article 15 or removal of his blog. If it’s Army leaders at all levels on an individual basis, doesn’t this include Sergeants, one of which he used to be and hopefully will be again?
Sadly, I think the pieces come together when you can almost hear Brooke Gladstone smiling as she thanks Jason then announces the publication of his book.
I’m glad that Jason is back home safely, and I’m truly am glad for his success and hope that his book does well, but I hope he will forgive this part of the Army leadership who maintains an insipid blog, if I feel a little sold out.