Friday, October 27, 2006

For The Record

Strategy Page has an interesting piece about efforts by the U.S. Department of Defense to counter misleading information coming out of the media. I say, "It's about time!!" I suspect a lot of us would agree that this is necessary, and have, in fact, been quite frustrated at the drumbeat of "failure, inadequacy, and stubborn refusal to face the truth" that has been the consistent slant of much of the media for the last five years. Some of us, myself definitely included, have also been frustrated at the lack of response and countermeasures from both the DOD and the Bush administration, especially because many of us (those of us who have been paying closer attention than just reading the headlines of The New York Times) have known all along that there were plenty of potential responses available to counter some of the unjust accusations constantly being hurled at the war effort. Turning the other cheek is truly a good thing in personal matters. Not taking offense when personally attacked can often diffuse a difficult situation, but it is inappropriate to amplify that maxim to apply to this war. We are not going to mollify the enemy because we don't correct our critics. This is a war in which accurate information is crucial to fighting a very media savvy enemy; we can't afford to let misinformation slide when it concerns the prosecution of the war.

So, the Department of Defense is finally getting more aggressive about joining the information fray. The DOD now has a website just for the purpose of correcting media errors regarding military matters, responding to slanted and inaccurate editorials (such as recent New York Times opinion pieces with which the DOD takes issue), and publishing letters to the editor, which various media outlets refuse to publish, responding to those editorials and content inaccuracies. The site is called For The Record, and it takes on a whole host of issues, with sections such as Iraq Security Update, Nature of the Enemy, Correcting the Record, Heroes, Pentagon Weekly Wrap-up, and Special Reports. Each of these pages is pretty much what it sounds like. For example, the "Heroes" page is a look at some of the people who have been fighting the War on Terrorism, and what they've accomplished (something sadly lacking in general media coverage.) "Correcting the Record" responds to specific media and editorial accusations--quite thoroughly, I might add. There are also stories on the website's front page, dealing with developing media issues.

One interesting thing I noted while perusing the DOD's site is the number of times the Department has tried (to no avail) to correct the record through regular media channels, letters to the editor and offers to provide further information. For some reason, the media outlets in question have been reluctant to publish these letters, and been unreceptive to offers of what some might see as the inside scoop. Since such letters have gone unpublished, and such offers have been refused, For the Record is an opportunity for the Pentagon to get its side of the story out to those people who, unlike much of the media, might be interested in hearing the other side.

There's a lot there to read. I'm probably going to be checking For The Record fairly regularly, just to hear the other side of the story. I'm not saying that the DOD won't have its own slant and perspective. Of course it will try to paint its performance in the best light it can. What I am saying is the Pentagon is finally dealing with misleading statements like the one in a September 7th New York Times editorial saying, “President Bush finally has some real terrorists in Guantánamo Bay.” Right, like all the other detainees there have just been picked up for being ugly, or something. So much of the time remarks like this one have been allowed to slip with impunity into the American psyche, seemingly going unchallenged and unanswered. That is finally changing.

Update: I don't mean to imply that the Defense Department's site is brand new. As far as I can tell it's been up for at least a year, but this is the first I've heard of it. Since I tend to be slightly more Internet-engaged than most of the people I know, I'm guessing a few of you haven't heard of it either. Maybe the DOD is getting the word out a little more about its resources. If that's the case, again I say, "It's about time!!"

Hat tip: Instapundit