When kittens roar, all tremble and shake at the sound; a terrible noise that is difficult to explain, yet I shall endeavor to portray the fullness of this terrible harbinger of doom.
All of you are aware, I’m sure, by now, of the Nick “The Wonder Kitten” Meo, a British journalist whose very name evokes the terrible cry of the Thunder Kitten, and his Afghan antics. If not, there are tons of info out there. Here is his original piece; a self-serving piece of drivel where he feigns his own death though a real soldier was actually killed in the service of this nation. There came a call for attention from the hinterlands of Afghanistan, and this call was answered by milbloggers like Black Five, Bouhammer, Susan Katz-Keating, and even my little ole self.
More has been written by each writer regarding what Susan Katz-Keating has dubbed L’Affaire Meo. What I linked to was generally the first in a line of posts regarding the issue.
Here’s the upside; Meo has not posted a story from Afghanistan since his weak attempt at analysis (including a vivid word-picture of the aftermath of a bombing that he never saw,) and a pithy piece about British school children visiting the Somme Battlefield. He has been “on break” in Europe until last week. I wrote his superior at The Telegraph encouraging them not to allow Meo to report from Afghanistan in the future. There was, in the meantime, something else going on; but I scarcely knew anything about it.
Now the news has broken that Meo and his illustrious employer have tried to have NATO’s ISAF intervene on his behalf to muzzle members of ARSIC-S (Afghan Regional Security Integration Command – South) and American milbloggers. The particulars of this particular cry for intervention have been given a pretty thorough going-over at Susan Katz-Keating’s blog, as I’m sure it will be elsewhere. Look for Bouhammer to say something today about it.
ISAF, of course, could not help Meo or The Telegraph. They lack jurisdiction. The U.S. Army, moreover, has no desire to reign in milbloggers on this issue. The rise of milblogging has given the Army some concern on occasion over the course of the past few years. This is not one of those occasions. While there are those who see the value of blogging, there are a mixed bag of opinions in the military about the concerns surrounding milblogs written by soldiers downrange. However, in this instance those concerns are nowhere to be found.
For the Army, this is a win-win situation. Meo begged to be pointed out as the fraud that he was, and yet any cap-down by the Army would have been seen as, at best, an attempt at censorship. It would probably have never made publication, like so many of the positive stories written and constantly published in such local publications as ISAF’s website, their official publication, CSTC-A’s website, or TF Phoenix’s website, all of these sites come complete with recent press releases that will never make the MSM.
Because they are written by Public Affairs people, and they very often do not bleed. “If it bleeds, it leads” is the mantra of the MSM. There is no interest, they say, in stories of small successes in tiny villages in Afghanistan. It’s boring. It does not evoke strong emotions (other than, potentially, pride in what the young men and women of America and our NATO allies… and even >gasp< young Afghan patriots.) No, that would not do at all.
No, those snippets that are gleaned are when ISAF, CSTC-A, or TF Phoenix do release the details of a servicemember’s death, or a statement regarding the latest alleged wedding bombing by a NATO member.
Any rebuttal of Meo’s lying, slanderous depiction of the events and the men involved that dark night in Helmand Province would have been lost forever in the archives, along with the never-published stories of school openings, medical services rendered, successful graduation of police trainees, and Afghan soldiers doing good for their country. The Army has tremendous power, but in the uneasy realm of media relations, there is not much that they alone could accomplish.
Enter milbloggers. Dubbed the “Pitchfork Brigade” by one of the participants, a crew of bloggers each did what they thought was right without any organization whatsoever. While after a bit we wound up exchanging emails with each other over the whole affair, there was no leader, no organizing force. We all simply cried foul at the same time and also provided the email addresses of Meo and his handlers in England. From there, the same force that gives the Army pause in other thinking about milblogs came to the fore.
People who are interested in hearing things from a soldier’s point of view, who want to read about one man’s experience in the suck, who want to get the other side of the story and who know that the MSM is doing a terrible job of portraying the reality of this war come to read milbloggers. Mine was the “in the suck” type of blog, but it has become something different. I had a hard time with that, but a very recent post at Bouhammer says pretty much the same thing that has kept me going. It’s really the reader.
There are so many people who still read what is written here who helped to sustain me while I was downrange. Many of those same people are the ones who really poked Meo in the eye and left his bottom stinging from the lashes of discipline. It reminds me of the lion in “Madagascar” who runs into the little old lady in the subway. She apprises him with a careful look, makes her determination of his character, and wallops him upside the head.
Yes, Nick Whose Name Evokes The Cry Of A Domestic Feline, your character was judged and found to be wanting. People used the email addresses provided and guess what? They didn’t say things you wanted to hear. No, the word Pulitzer wasn’t bandied about; it was another P-word that is synonymous with domestic feline.
Now, apparently some readers wished ill on Mr. Meow… errr… Meo. This apparently frightened our intrepid journalistic hero and raised in him a (self)righteous anger, which he expressed to our good friends and colleagues at NATO.
In other words, it hurt. It had an effect. Mr. Meo has yet to make an appearance, from what I can tell, back in Afghanistan. Good. I hope that he never again has the opportunity to make spurious claims of having any kind of sensing on what the reality is there. He clearly did not even when he was on the ground. He was a tourist, not a professional. People like Nick Meo are more damaging to our perseverance and sense of determination to get a tough, dirty, dangerous job done than can really be assessed.
Google his name and you will see what ignominy has been attached to it. He deserves it, having brought it upon himself, and it’s an example of what little people can do when they get a burr under their saddle all at once; a good pitchforking at the hands of the peasants can make an impression.
A panel of distinguished milbloggers will discuss this and other topics tomorrow night on the You Served program on Blog Talk Radio tomorrow at 7:00 pm Eastern. Oh… I’ll be on there, too.