onsdag, april 27, 2005

Blogging Ethics

The freedom of expression, as with all freedoms, comes with clauses. One of them reads, "Having an opinion doesn't mean you have to express it."

A mother had lost her only child in Iraq. She wrote a guest opinion piece in the local newspaper expressing her frustration over the Army's refusal to provide her with a photograph of her child's coffin as it was carried off the transport plane. She also challenged the administration's actions with respect to the War.

In response, a blogger posted her article on his own site, and took issue with what she had written. The woman read his post. She chose not to leave a comment. Instead, she wrote a letter and mailed it to him, the old fashioned way. The blogger reproduced her letter on his site, as well as his reply correspondence.

His act of posting her snail mail letter really threw me. As soon as I saw the "Dear Mr. Blogger" and realized what he had done, I audibly drew in air. It strikes me as having crossed the line of civility, where although both had been willing to talk to the public at large, one seemed to be asking to take the argument indoors and out of the public domain. I suppose the blogger was under no obligation to comply with the request, but still it felt oddly invasive to me.

I am reluctant to link to the blog because then I would be compounded the issue of a privacy breach, if that is in fact what it is. However, I would like to make a few suggestions to the blogger, in a kind of friendly, debate team captain sort of way.

1. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING! "I know how you feel. My eyes get wet when I think of the dying soldiers, too, and I don't even know them."

You spent your credibility on this one.

To put it into perspective you can appreciate, imagine that you have been kidnapped by Iraqi terrorists, ridiculed, threatened, placed in front of a television camera, and then beheaded. If you can somehow imagine the fear and the overwhelming appreciation of everything you are about to lose, you might still not reach the level of emotional devestation experienced by a woman who has lost her only child. For that, you have to be able to sense what it is like to (1) have an arm reach down past your throat and pull out every internal organ you have, leaving barely a shell behind and (2) believe that you will feel that sensation again and again for the rest of your life every time your eyes catch the glimpse of a soldier, of a child, of a wedding, a grandchild , with each Mother's Day advertisement, every Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthday - got the point?

Ok, let's move on and see what we've got next . . .

2. NOT YOUR CREDIBILITY, TOO? Governments shield the public from the realities of war. This "no coffins, please" stance is simply the back end of the propaganda game that anyone who has seen a 1940's movie understands. Holy Toledo, rent Buck Private if you are still in the dark. That flick even had pretty girls at boot camp to keep the boys happy. Wow. Dad didn't tell me about them. Neither media nor the government routinely posted casualty numbers until Vietnam. (There were those that opined that it was the nightly posting of war dead that helped turn the tide of public opinion on that war.) The mother of the dead soldier is angry with this President, to be sure, and you are not. It is not a new methodology, either. However, that does not mean that she is incorrect about a tactical political reason for keeping bad news out of sight.

As an aside, my recommendation is that the next time you discuss this issue with her, you avoid using that word "dehumanizing." The word works, perhaps, in a broad brush way when talking about the injured soldier, but to those who are receiving home only the remains of the full bodied children they sent off the year before, the word reaks of twisted sarcasm.

3. OMG, YOU LEFT YOURSELF EXPOSED. In the unlikely event that you are ever being judged in this ongoing debate by someone of Middle Eastern descent or, for that matter, someone with a world view, don't forget to add that you feel really, really bad for all the innocent people who have died, not just the Americans. Even if it is a lie. It smacks stronger of sincerity than the "I know how you feel" line at the beginning of your position paper.

Were this an actual debate, I would have awarded you the following score:


__2___ 6 Directly clashed with Affirmative Team's points.

__0___ 2 Language and word choices were respectful of all persons at all times.

__n/a _ 2 Body language was respectful of all persons, at all times.

BTW, I will write a note to the Mom and extend my condolences. I will not post it here.


Anonymous Keith said...

I have a feeling the vast majority of people don't even pause to consider ethics.

A dying art? A business weakness? Callousness, or simply ignorance?

I'm behind you all the way on this one.

1:36 fm  

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