Blogs are kept by all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. They are usually used as an online diary, for sharing thoughts on mundane everyday things with friends. However, some can be seen to document important events. Recently there has been a trend of soldier blogs, in which individual soldiers keep a track of their feelings whilst at war. As Time points out, “if Vietnam was the first war to be televised, Iraq is the first to be blogged- and YouTubed”. As news reporters cannot safely capture footage of war, soldiers have taken it upon themselves to video and photograph the events that are happening around them, in the hopes that people back home can understand what they are having to go through. While the media has been accused of downplaying events in Iraq, the soldiers who are stationed there tell it exactly how it is, adding a more human element to the images we are seeing.
Soldiers’ blogs are reffered to as milblogs, and most serve as an online outlet for soldiers at war or who have been discharged from the armed forces to keep a journal. These tell a very different story of the war than the one we are used to hearing from the mass media, they include all the gory details of actually being at war, as this passage from http://www.soldierslife.com shows:
“images of smashing a door down and seeing the utter terror on peoples faces. The one Marine interpreter and the look on his face with an entry wound to the cheek and this massive exit wound to the back of head. That look haunts me. The night an Iraqi snuck up on an OP and was shot to shit. His intestines hanging out and the mumbling of words that I will never know what they meant” (American Soldier, posted 1.11.07)
It is hard to comprehend what these soldiers are going through, the things that they have to do and see is something that the media tries to keep quiet. The soldiers who keep the blogs are allowing the reader an opportunity to understand how it feels to experience witnessing these terrible images. It is the heartfelt nature of these blogs that makes the war seem more real to the reader, something that a newspaper reported could not achieve. Zachary Scott-Singley, a soldier blogger from Florida describes the loneliness of war, adding a personal element to his blog, http://www.misoldierthoughts.blogspot.com:
“Alone, it becomes easier with time to be that way. You can’t let others know the things you have done because they would never understand and it would only serve to make us even more alone.” (posted 27.10.05)
By sharing these thoughts online, he is enabling those around him to understand exactly what he faces in Iraq, his complete honesty about his feelings makes his blog seem more authentic.
Part of the war experience is death, and on 4th January, Andrew Olmsted, an active blogger whose site was about to get shut down because of his controversial postings, was killed in action. He had prepared for such an eventuality, and had arranged for a friend to post a final blog on his site should he be killed.
“This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits. And so, like G’Kar, I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person. I want to thank hilzoy for putting it up for me. It’s not easy asking anyone to do something for you in the event of your death, and it is a testament to her quality that she didn’t hesitate to accept the charge. As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don’t know.”
(http://andrewolmsted.com/archives/2008/01/final_post.html- posted 4.1.08)
Such a dedication to his blog shows how important the site had become to Andrew Olmsted. It is possible that the blogs also help the soldiers to keep a sense of humanity themselves, this contact with the outside world helps them to make sense of the situation they are in, while allowing them contact with their friends back home.
Soldiers also post photgraphs that they have taken while in action on their blogs, again allowing the outside world to see what they are witnessing every day. These imagse have all been taken by soldiers in action:
(taken from iraqpictures.blogspot.com)
(taken from http://www.michaelyon-online.com)
(taken from http://www.themidnightsun.org/?cat=59)
These pictures show images that professional journalists never could, and show the public images of Iraq from a different point of view than those that we are used to- they add the personal element that news reperters could never capture. These pictures on soldiers’ blogs capture the real element of citizen journalism; they show peoples’ experiences while the blogs add a personal touch to them.
Time Magazine, December 25 2006- January 1 2007 issue. Time Person Of The Year. You.
http://www.soldierlife.com/page/2/- accessed 9.1.08
http://www.andrewolmsted.com/archives/2008/01/final_post.html- accessed 8.1.08
http://www.themidnightsun.org/?cat=59- accessed 8.1.08
http://www.blog-ah.typepad.com/blogah/strykers/index.html- accessed 10.1.08
http://www.michaelyon-online.com- accessed 9.1.08