Saturday, June 28, 2008

Phil Carter: Pro Censorship? 
I meant to get to this a while back...

Phil Carter, the proprietor of Intel Dump and a partisan Obama supporter, gets it dead wrong here in criticizing Stand To, a sort of news and opinion clearinghouse that the Army publishes, for the crime of linking to a blogger voice critical of Obama.

And more to the point, why is the Army's official in-house public affairs shop linking to this kind of stuff? Just a few weeks ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told all hands to stay out of politics: "As the nation prepares to elect a new president, we would all do well to remember the promises we made: to obey civilian authority, to support and defend the Constitution and to do our duty at all times.... Keeping our politics private is a good first step." He added: "The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia."

Unfortunately, the message didn't get to through to the Army.

Let's be clear: It is okay for the services to have a message. Both the Early Bird and Stand To speak for the Pentagon and the Army as institutions, and that's okay. They generally support the troops, the military, the chain of command, and the current endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nothing wrong with that.

And I have no objections to what Mr. Hooah wrote, besides the fact that I think it's factually wrong. He has his opinion; I have mine.

But the Stand To page is different -- and Tuesday's edition crosses the line. This isn't some citizen's blog or website. It's the in-house public affairs digest of the United States Army. It should not be amplifying partisan political attacks, nor should it be airing them at all. This appears like yet another example of the unusually cozy relationship which has developed over the last generation or so between the military and the right wing of American politics -- an unhealthy development, to say the least.

Last time I checked, soldiers and civilian officials didn't swear an oath to either political party or to their current president. Rather, they swear their fidelity to the Constitution, and the ideals it embodies, including the subordination of the military to civil authority. Adm. Mullen is right: As we enter a contentious election year, where issues of national security are likely to dominate the debate, the military needs to stay on the sidelines.

Sorry, but Carter's just flat wrong here - in essence, he's confusing acknowledging and linking with an endorsement.

First of all, a bit of background: Not every military network allows unfettered access to blogs. There have been many times when I could not access Countercolumn, either to read it, or update it, from a military network, because of various net controls. (They also don't let you access Web email accounts, either, and I cannot check email to Countercolumn from many government connections).

Furthermore, because of the long hours many military people work, especially overseas, many of them simply do not have time to access a dozen different newspapers and read news and opinion sites from all over the world. Stand To is a valuable service, collecting Army related news and opinion from various news outlets and bloggers. (When I was in Iraq, I relied a lot on BuzzFlash).

Carter, however, is outright calling for the censorship of conservative or anti-Obama opinion on the Army's web portal.

In my view, he's wrong on three counts:

1.) Government officials in editorial positions have no duty to suppress any point of view whatsoever in their duties.
2.) Government officials in editorial positions, I would argue, have an affirmative duty to be inclusive of a broad spectrum of opinion.
3.) Linking does not equal endorsement.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of milblogs are pro success in Iraq. Now Carter, having picked up a sweet mainstream media bloggership at the Washington Post, would like to have the military insulate their members from the point of view of their own community. Because given the rightward slant of most milblogs (this one included, natch), if Carter has his way, the Army would have to put out a policy severely restricting the inclusion of milblogs from Stand To.

I've been a digest newsletter editor myself, for a mainstream media outlet (in my case, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Time, Inc.). As managing editor of a subscription newsletter called Investors Digest, I made it a point to represent a variety of market and investment perspectives, from bulls to bears to outright paranoid Ron Paul-worshipping goldbugs.

To assume that just because I included a Ron Paulian nutcase like The Mogambo Guru in my twice monthly roundups meant I supported or endorsed him is simply absurd. As editor of a Digest or roundup it was my duty to give my readers an entertaining sample of a full cross section of opinion.

If Carter has evidence that the Public Affairs guys responsible for Stand To and/or Early Bird are systematically excluding rational voices critical of the Administration, he doesn't bother to bring it up here. But such a deliberate exclusion in favor of pro-Administration voices would seem to be a neccessary component of his endorsement argument.

Carter, an Obama supporter himself, who already has a sweet deal with the Post, would like to restrict the milblogger reach into the military community. Or at least predicate their exposure to the military audience via Stand To on the condition that they refrain from criticizing Carter's favored candidate.

I think that is wrong.

Carter, consciously or unconsciously, is trying to "shape the battlefield" to limit the effects of milbloggers, and conservative bloggers, generally. All well and good. He's got his soapbox for his views, and they are pretty close to those who make up the ranks of the MSM. Only he's not nearly as ignorant as they are. But to those of us who take the long view of the Long War, and reject Obama's instinct for abandoning the field (though Carter denies that Obama wants to do so), seeking to expunge the largely partisan milblogging community from Stand To, and seeking to intimidate its editors into so doing is battlefield shaping just as surely as the Fairness Doctrine seeks to eliminate the impact of talk radio on the political scene, and consolidate the power of the pulpit in the hands of a few coastal media companies.

If military bloggers skew right, then so be it. If they skew left someday, then so be it as well. Let the Democrats make the case and convince the military bloggers of their point of view honestly.

It's always curious to me when those who you would think would support the notion of a free marketplace of ideas seek to suppress them when they become inconvenient.

The military should not endorse, nor be seen to endorse, one candidate over the other. I agree with that notion, as far as it goes. And when I'm on duty, working with troops, no one knows my views unless they happen to read Countercolumn. I'm a member of the Green party. Army Green.

But the military sure as shit should not be hostile to such expressions, either, nor should they have a policy of sheltering their readers from any part of the full gamut of American political opinion.

They should not endorse partisan speech, but they should not adopt a policy that is hostile to it either. Military readers deserve access to a full rainbow of opinion. And Stand To should continue to link to The Nation, The Free Republic, Michelle Malkin, Juan Cole, Phil Carter, BlackFive, Mudville Gazette, and everyone else their editor believes addresses military-related issues of interest to its readership in an engaging, informative or provocative way, be it left or right.

Splash, out


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I see you brought up that "new" revival of the "Fairness Doctrine" that the Democratic leadership seems to want to put back into place.

Now, IANAL, but it sure seems to me that once they put their Fairness Doctrine back into place, they are going to be in effect performing a "Taking" of a property.

"TAKING, UNJUST - When the government acquires private property and fails to compensate an owner fairly. A taking can occur even without the actual physical seizure of property, such as when a government regulation has substantially devalued a property."

LInk is: http://www.lectlaw.com/def2/t003.htm

Now, there's many different angles here, but this would be a court fight for the ages (too much money at stake not to). Probably be a good thing, as we'd finally get this nonsense settled once and for all, so the new media could move forward and the old MSM dinosaurs could just wander away and finally die off (they won't, but one can hope).

Now, this "Takings" area could potentially be one avenue of challenge to the "Fairness Doctrine", as it would certainly result in loss of franchise value to talk radio, and possibly other areas of the media. And when you've got the feds taking that much money out of people's pockets, they'll be a fight brewing for sure.

The second area would be that the imposition of the Fairness Doctrine on media properties would likely be a direct limitation imposed under the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8) of the U.S. Constitution, which grants the federal government the right to regulate trade "among the several states."

Now, I'm sure this wasn't the intent, but once you impose this "Fairness" principle for one small area, you have just set down a policy (even if you didn't intend to), and guess what, everybody's going to be lining up for their turn to impose "more fairness".

Talk about a gift to the various special interest groups - well, here you go.

Just a few somewhat off-topic thoughts.
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