Though he did not mention milblogs specifically, in a recent town hall Q&A session, Rumsfeld acknowledged the value of electronic communications from deployed soldiers to people back home for countering negative media bias.
In a question-and-answer session, an Air Force captain suggested part of the military’s perception problem stems from the tone of civilian media reports. The man’s question elicited loud applause from the crowd. Rumsfeld agreed, but said it’s servicemembers’ responsibility to speak up about what they believe.
Rumsfeld said today’s servicemembers will look back on their achievements with enormous pride. Yet, he said, "one asks why is it that the public impression is so different from the reality."
The antidote to media bias toward bad news is to flood the world with good news through e-mails and other communications home, Rumsfeld said. He said American servicemembers deployed overseas are sending "e- mails that are in direct conflict with what’s being presented in the aggregate, in the United States and in the rest of the world."
These e-mails, he said, present the American people with "a balance of what’s happening, as opposed to an imbalance that they’re receiving through normal channels."
However, the secretary added, a free media is part of living in a democracy. Democracy isn’t perfect, he said, but other forms of government "are so much worse."
"And if that’s true," he said, "if democracy is the best by definition, it means that people, citizens with imperfect information, given sufficient information over time, find their way to right decisions on big issues. And they do."
This is the first indication that I have heard that leadership at this high of a level understands the potential value of soldiers reporting, through email, blogs or otherwise, from the battlefield. If the other rhetoric that we are hearing these days is truly representative of goals and understandings, then this makes sense. This is one more way in which soldiers become sensors. Additionally, there seems to be a growing understanding of the role of information, not just on the traditional battlefield, but also in the larger sphere of public opinion. Allowing soldiers to act as sensors, as journalists, in a decentralized way, with propoer OPSEC concerns taken into account, can be more effectice in countering media bias and shaping public opinion than any formal actions that could be taken by the Pentagon.