Via BlackFive (and I can’t figure out for the life of me why he was not on my blogroll, something that has been fixed- I need a utility that synchronizes my browser bookmarks with my blogroll), I see this story which presents a dilemma, and goes a long way to explain why many are overtly hostile to the media:
The second story has no meaning but for the first. (This story originally appeared at Debate Space, my joint blog with The Liberal Avenger, who just happened to ask a question about internet censorship on military bases just as the blackout was lifted at our FOB.
As is the practice here in Iraq, the Command shuts down phone and internet connections for 24-48 hours, long enough for the Military to contact affected families. [When soldiers are killed from the unit- ed.]
Let me tell you why that is so important.
One of the idiots here who doesn’t understand the very good reasons for the blackout, placed an anonymous call just before the blackout was imposed, saying 4 soldiers of our Division were killed, maybe more injured.
An equally idiotic (no, make that even more idiotic) news editor or reporter called Mrs. Dadmanly at home, told her about the anonymous tip, and asked her if she had heard any news? The reporters involved apparently contacted several family members.
Needless to say, with the rest of us on blackout, my wife was a basket case, as were many other family members and friends. Since the news (based on this anonymous tip) was immediately reported on local news and amplified by CNN, the military authorities in our Rear Detachment were forced to send out an email confirming that soldiers were injured, but that no further information could be made available until families had been notified. Which just scared and upset more families and friends of Soldiers in our Division, because (thanks to HIPAA restrictions), the Army can’t reveal any medical information without patient consent.
My wife had to wait until the blackout was lifted to find out if I had been injured. Or if others in my unit had been hurt or killed.
During the blackout Soldiers in our unit had no idea the attack had been reported back home. When the blackout was lifted, I quickly emailed my wife at work, sending a bland “How are you today? I’m fine,” just in case she hadn;t heard anything, but letting her know I was okay if she had.
Her first response was, “Do You Know How Crazy Things Were Here?!”
Friends and family were frantic. Reports were all over the place, and there were all these calls from the press. Neighborhood new press. Neighbors from in town. Emails and calls. No solid information, no “Your Soldier is safe and sound,” but more like “You will be contacted if your Soldier has been injured.”
Discuss. Personally, I think it is a legitimate criticism to bash the media for this sort of thing, but I also wonder the wisdom of the unit cutting off all communication. Reminds me of all those awful scenes with Madeleine Stowe in “We Were Soldiers” (FYI- I thought the movie sucked, but the book was fantastic. The prologue makes me cry every time I read it.)