Information Warfare: Military Reporting Mutates Madly


February 26, 2009: The Internet has radically changed the reporting on military affairs. This has expressed itself in several ways.

First, there is a lot more military information available, to a lot more people. Military stuff is not nearly as mysterious as it used to be. Electronic versions of military manuals, lots of military history, quick updates on military matters and, perhaps most importantly, many more reports from the troops themselves.

Second, a lot more people are now able to operate as military reporters and analysts. Digital cameras, blogs and email enable individuals to quickly report to the world what they have witnessed. Internet services like Twitter enable people to report military events in real time. Cell phone cameras, and cheap vidcams make it possible for images of military events to appear on the web within minutes of them occurring. Things will never be the same.

Third, military intelligence has been transformed by communication with many more people in combat zones, as well as Internet services like Google Earth (satellite photos of the entire planet). Professional military intelligence services use these tools, often learning from amateur civilian analysts how useful a few email contacts in a war zone, and the use of Google Earth, can be in providing new insights and revelations.

As a result of all this, the mass media has lost its monopoly on the reporting of military affairs, and the media's ability to shape government decisions on military affairs. This is a trend that is still developing. Same with the impact on military intelligence. Both the media and intelligence professionals don't like losing their monopolies, but everyone is learning to make the most of it. The mass media reporters pick up lots of story ideas from the Internet based military reporters and analysts. The intelligence agencies find they have a new, and powerful, set of tools with which to do their job better, as well as some seriously useful civilian allies.

The traditional media were somewhat shocked by all this. But many editors in the newspaper and book industry knew there are a lot more good writers out there, than there were outlets for their talents. Or, at least, that's the way it used to be. Now, if you can write, you can find an audience. The profusion of blogs, social networking sites and new types of news operations on the web, have given people more choice. Search engines, particularly Google, find all these new sites, and connect them when people search for information. If a new web journalist has something useful to say, and sticks with it a few years, they will have a sizable (more regulars than most small town newspapers or specialized magazines) audience. And many  of these formerly unheard writers did it. Since people only have so much time, these new web news venues grew at the expense of the traditional print and electronic media. Newspaper, magazine and book sales are in decline, along with TV and radio use.

The military is also not happy with a lot of these developments. While the Internet has made it easier for the troops to connect with each other, and share professional tips and advice, this information also leaks out to the general public, and potential enemies. The brass are learning to take the good with the bad. A growing consensus is that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Despite that, the military leadership continues to seek ways to keep information away from the enemy, which now appears to be an endless, and often futile, task.


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