How does the increase in blog readers and writers affect the Navy? I can think of several reasons why blogs are good and bad for the Navy.
• Users can write anonymously. When a sailor comments on a blog post from ADM X and chooses to do so anonymously, that sailor isn’t responding to advance his career or curry favor with the brass. He writes because he believes he has a good idea. If he writes well, his idea may induce change.
• High ranking officers can receive feedback instantaneously from all levels of the chain of command. In McCain’s book “Faith of My Fathers,” McCain lauded how his father, ADM McCain, had his staff meet one on one with low ranking sailors to elicit these sailors’ opinions. Now, any high ranking officer can post on his blog and receive comments from anyone with a computer and the impetus to write.
• When anybody can post anything, anytime, and anywhere, little is secret. I think blogs amplify the CNN effect. Everyone will follow the regulations a little closer knowing that his actions could be reported (anonymously) on a blog.
• Users can write anonymously. Without knowing a writer’s background, you can’t verify his experiences. A recent Economist article discussed how this anonymity allows people to fabricate facts and events on blogs for “LOLs.” Other (non-Navy) blogs have begun linking blog posts to the user’s Facebook accounts. While linking blog posts to Facebook accounts eliminates anonymity’s positive effects, the blogs using this new technology have seen a decrease in the quantity of blog posts and an increase in quality.
• When anybody can post anything, anytime, and anywhere, little is secret. I don’t pretend to have any data or statistics on this, but I do know that everyone makes mistakes. More chances to write one’s opinion means more chances to leak classified ship movements or operations into the world-wide-web.
• Blogs promotes the idea that it’s okay to question authority. Yes, it’s great to get feedback, but, in the end, the commanding officer is in charge. If sailors become accustomed to questioning orders on a blog, whether those orders came from LT Y or POTUS, then the hierarchical military structure breaks down. Knowing that his decisions could be posted online for the world to see could distort a commander’s judgment.
Like any change there are positive and negative effects. What really matters is how we as a Navy counter the negative effects.