Don’t Shoot the Messenger

January 2009


With a little over a month under our belt at the Naval Institute blog, we’re proud to say that we’ve had a lot of great, spirited debate on many military subjects. We are grateful to our Guest Bloggers, many of whom have their own sites, engagements and commitments. We are also grateful to all of you who take the time to comment and participate here on the blog.

So…without trying to scold or point fingers I would remind all of you that one of our rules of engagement is ‘no personal attacks.’ It’s the policy, the decision-making, the process that’s up for debate. Calling someone an idiot, whether it’s a fellow blogger, someone commenting or the CINC is not what this blog is all about. To quote a blogger, “Personal attacks are right out – especially outside specific policy issues and of a clearly partisan nature. Sharp, well thought out elbows are part of the fun …. but there are limits … especially when someone decides to anoint themselves as agent provocateur.” Inflammatory language begets inflammatory response and no one benefits from crossing the line.

A few of the comments on the bringing back the draft debate got personal, or close enough. That’s too bad considering the importance of the subject and interest it stirred among smart people who appreciate a chance to freely express opinions. We’re used to making tough editorial decisions at USNI and not at all afraid to make the call.

We probably should have stepped in but decided to let it go in the hope it would stabilize, which it finally did. Intellect and reason finally won out over ego.

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  • Byron

    Actually, I think this horse was beat well and truly dead, and fresher meat was desired. It only took one more article to find it.

  • Jay

    Andrew Sullivan has a fantastic essay on the differences between writing (for papers/magazines) & blogs.

    Especially the emotions and the “need” to post or respond quickly to other posts, and how instant feedback can be tougher on the author than “normal” writing (peer review, editor input, etc.)

    It is what I call the “blogger OODA loop” (Blooda loop?): read, emote, type, click & post…and then reconsider (especially grammar and or/spell check).

    I don’t know where the link is, he posted it a few months back, I think, well worth the read.

  • Rubber Ducky

    1. Guilty as charged. New tone to follow. Feel like Mort Sahl at the end of his act: “Is there anyone here I haven’t offended.” Regrets and apologies. But…

    2. Contrary ideas are not automatically unpatriotic. Should stipulate that anyone posting in the blog IS in fact patriotic and immune to attack on that front.

    3. I wish the redfish I chase were as quick to pick up the bait as some of my fellow participants. Wife puts it this way: “You’ve got to say things to blow the doors off people’s minds.” Relax and respond with ideas.

    4. “I’m gonna tell…” is not a terribly adult approach to conflict, but a Report Abuse button as found in some blogs might be a useful addition. And the moderator has a role: if you want a moderate tone … start moderating.

    5. The conventional wisdom may contain wisdom, but it also may be sheer folly. Military minds seem especially well immunized against contrary ideas. Two quotes, the first from anon, the second from Civil War historian Bruce Catton:

    “The only way to get a new idea into a military mind is to take an old one out.”

    “Military men often step from one undeniable truth to another, until they arrive in a land of crippling nonsense.”


  • Rubber Ducky: As the moderator of this blog, I am not looking for a moderate view or take on things. This blog is what is should be and is new. I do not want to establish ourselves in the blog world – especially given the respect I have for the bloggers and participants – as afraid of spirited debate or tough issues.

    But…there’s no place for snide comments, personal attacks and sophmoric fighting. This isn’t a fight, no one here should be out to ‘win.’ Inflamatory comments are by definition one characteristic of a troll. Once that happens, an individual’s ability to raise their voice in debate and be heard is lost.

    Be careful, sometimes when you think ‘you’re blowing someone’s mind,’ you’re actually just seriously annoying them.

    Thanks for the post – I read every comment on this blog and we at the Naval Institute are learning what is too much. Our mission is to be an independent forum and it would be truly sad if a devolution of the conversation damaged the quality of the blog.