Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

“Asymmetric journalism”

This comment, posted the other day in response to the item about the book on the experiences of platoon leaders, wins the contest in which the prize was my extra copy of the platoon leaders’ book. Mark M., please send me an e-mail so I can mail it to you.  ThePL and majors’ books by ...

579969_091005_laptopv2.jpg
579969_091005_laptopv2.jpg

This comment, posted the other day in response to the item about the book on the experiences of platoon leaders, wins the contest in which the prize was my extra copy of the platoon leaders' book. Mark M., please send me an e-mail so I can mail it to you. 

ThePL and majors' books

by MarkM on Fri,10/02/2009 - 12:27am

This comment, posted the other day in response to the item about the book on the experiences of platoon leaders, wins the contest in which the prize was my extra copy of the platoon leaders’ book. Mark M., please send me an e-mail so I can mail it to you. 

ThePL and majors’ books

by MarkM on Fri,10/02/2009 – 12:27am

Tom:

Just as we now have asymmetric warfare, which is certainly evolving in both theory and practice, we also now have asymmetric journalism. The platoon leaders compilation you cite and the majors’ book are part of this new, rich, stunning, sometimes-chaotic, multi-pronged way (largely over the Internet) to better understand the various environments of a war — and it’s available through mainstream and freelance media, soldier diaries, jihadi Web sites, policy journals, Osama audiotapes, blogs, embeds by reporters and photographers, YouTube clips from the field, academic papers, foreign media, left-right rants, NGO reports, political and military memoirs, accounts from released detainees, leaked documents from the ICRC, you name it.

Any one of these, taken alone, delivers the classic “drinking-straw view” —that is, a view not inherently inaccurate but also narrow, tunneled and tightly focused. A corporal’s view of a firefight, for example, is not necessarily the definitive one. Nor is a major’s. Nor is an emebedded journalist’s. It’s a Rashomon world.

But asymmetric journalism — or maybe it’s asymmetric history — offers great promise and a fuller accounting of what is transpiring in our wars, ourmilitary, our government and our lives.

I think he is on to something here. The claim journalism makes is, yeah, that other stuff is good, but we move around and talk to lots of people and get the overview, so we’re not just looking through a soda straw. But the platoon leader book gets an overview of that experience better than any journalist can, I think.

Journalism also is being changed by technology. The old line in newspapers was that news was defined by those who owned printing presses — that is, the rich. (The golden rule being that those who have the gold make the rules.) But nowadays everyone who has a laptop effectively can publish a daily newspaper.  

chris.corwin/flickr

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.