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[] Reuters 04.12.02: Livewire: Blogs may pierce the fogs of war,

Reuters 04 Dec 2002

Livewire: Blogs may pierce the fogs of war

By Adam Pasick

NEW YORK (Reuters) - CNN owned the story of the first Gulf War -- blogs and 
the Internet may carry the day if there is a sequel.

Just as the 1991 conflict was the testing ground for 24-hour cable channels 
like CNN more than 10 years ago, a second conflict there may serve as a 
trial by fire for the news and commentary sites known as blogs.

Blogs -- short for Web logs -- are pithy, opinionated collections of links 
to other news coverage, accompanied by the author's commentary. Since a 
blog can be created by anyone with an Internet connection, however, readers 
should take what is written there with a grain of salt.

A war in Iraq could be a blog watershed. Just as CNN made its reputation 
with live coverage from Baghdad, blogs may be uniquely suited to help cut 
through the fog of war by showcasing diverse accounts and opinions.

"The chief role of bloggers, judging by the Afghan war, is to draw together 
obscure reporting that didn't make the mainstream, and also to second-guess 
dumb news analysis, pointing out what people said that was wrong," said 
Glenn Reynolds, whose Instapundit blog ( is one 
of the most well-established and widely-read.

Blog creators are usually candid about their ideological leanings. But it 
is ultimately up to readers to decide which blogs are worthy of trust.

"It's based on their track record more than anything else," said Reynolds.

Some media experts, however, doubt that blogs will be able to get the 
access necessary to actually break stories or be at the front line of coverage.

"The military is going to say ... you could be anybody -- you could be Al 
Qaeda for all we know -- and your promise to abide by our ground rules 
isn't worth the virtual paper it's printed on," said Jane Kirtley, a 
professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota. "The 
bloggers' role is probably going to be more of what we call the second-day 

In some cases, soldiers have created their own blogs to share news with 
friends and family, although obviously there are restrictions about what 
information they can disclose.

One blog created by soldiers in Afghanistan, initially located at, had to relocate after being swamped with readers from all 
over the world. Now located at (, 
the site tells the story of day-to-day life for the soldiers, including 
subjects such as their Thanksgiving dinners and shopping expeditions into 
nearby towns.

The U.S. Army has its own Afghanistan blog 
(, part of 
its "America's Army" public relations effort designed to entice potential 
recruits, which also includes a video game.

The language on the Army blog is dramatic, to say the least: "WAAABOOOOM!!! 
A flash of light followed by a concussion of air shook the RPG fence in 
front of me and the safe house windows behind me."

If there is war in Iraq, don't expect to see bloggers parachuting into 
Baghdad -- although there is already at least one blogger on the ground 
there, who publishes his descriptions of daily life in Iraq at 
Where_Is_Raed? (

In criticizing the British dossier of alleged human rights abuses by the 
Iraqi government released this week, he wrote, "Thank you for your keen 
interest in the human rights situation in my country, thank you turning a 
blind eye for thirty years ... thank you for not minding the development of 
chemical weapons by a nut case when you knew he was a nut case."

War-related information online doesn't stop with bloggers. ( offers high-grade 
pictures of military bases, presidential palaces and other sites of 
interest inside Iraq, which it says are obtained from commercial imaging 

And for-profit intelligence-gathering companies, including Jane's 
( and Stratfor (, provide 
detailed military analysis and security briefings, with more details 
available to subscribers.

Bloggers, in addition to drawing on the vast news resources online, can 
also get news from readers.

"In early November I was getting e-mail from people on the front (in 
Afghanistan), and you'll probably see bloggers getting e-mail" if there is 
war in Iraq, said Reynolds.

Other bloggers, especially journalists and ex-military personnel with 
reliable contacts, can break news on their own. Fred Pruitt, who runs 
Rantburg (, a blog devoted to news in the Middle 
East and Africa, worked for a U.S. intelligence agency according to his 
bio. "He gets stuff before anyone else," Reynolds said.

The site reported on Dec. 2 that "Shia militiamen opposed to Saddam Hussein 
have begun deploying around strategic towns in the south of Iraq and are 
disrupting communications and military supply routes, it was claimed 

Other sites of note that concentrate on the Middle East include Little 
Green Footballs (, by 
Charles Johnson and a blog run by Australian journalist Tim Blair 

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