Is Spencer Ackerman Saying Danger Room Should Give Me More Props?

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by Joshua Foust on 8/5/2009 · 1 comment

Spencer Ackerman has been on a bit of a kick lately with MainStreamMedia outlets ripping off blogs and not giving them their due credit (thanks to, ironically, a complaint by an MSM reporter that Gawker ripped off his work). So then let’s set up a comparison with part-time Wired blogger Nathan Hodge, and the extra reporting he’s going from his Janes’ embed in Afghanistan, and my own work on the same topics.

Danger Room, July 16, 2009: Danger Room in Afghanistan: On a Short Drive, Signs of Progress.

“Much of the reporting from Afghanistan focuses on the kinetic aspect of things, and those headlines are often bleak. But the development picture is more elusive. Along that stretch of road, at least, I saw at least some reason for optimism.”, July 16, 2009. Good News: Kabul Is Booming (the end of a week-long series highlighting good news stories).

“So while the rest of the country still faces enormous problems of infrastructure, development, security, and governance, Kabul seems to be doing really well for itself. Which is nice—a spot of mostly good news amidst all the doom and gloom.”

Danger Room, August 3, 2009: Army Farmers Work to Regrow Afghanistan.

“Perhaps nothing exemplifies the “Peace Corps with guns” approach to Afghanistan more than the U.S. Army’s Agribusiness Development Teams, or ADTs. As part of a relatively new experiment, Army National Guard volunteers from agricultural states have deployed here to train and advise Afghan farmers and agricultural officials on modern farming techniques and business practices. The first teams, fielded last year, were from Missouri and Texas; others have followed from places like Tennessee, Kansas and Indiana.”, July 30, 2009: ADTs Are One Way Forward.

“The Agribusiness Development Teams are one of things we should be doing more of in Afghanistan but they barely ever get mentioned. Essentially National Guard units who all have backgrounds in agriculture and business experience, they are kind of like the security mentor teams only for farmers. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to two different teams, both of which seriously knew what they were talking about, and even knew the basic soil and nutritional deficiencies to correct (though they were, like everyone, including me, optimistic about what they could achieve on their tour).”

Danger Room, August 5, 2009. Danger Room in Afghanistan: MRAPs Out, Motorcycles In.

I’m not the first, of course, to comment on the advantages of working outside the protective cocoon of armored vehicles. In the latest issue of Army Times, Sean Naylor has a great piece about a small band of soldiers operating from a remote outpost in Zabul province. He quotes a squad leader, Staff Sgt. Danieto Bacchus, who says that combat vehicles are “a magnet for trouble” in Afghanistan. “What I like about the mission here is the walking,” Bacchus tells Naylor. “The freedom of movement of being able to walk anywhere … just my rucksack, my radio and my guys that I’ve got to worry about.”, August 2, 2009. The Virtues of Getting Off the FOB.

On my way home from Afghanistan earlier this year, I wrote a long essay about how all the force protection measures the Army has put into place to safeguard the lives of its soldiers have actually been contributing to the insurgency and making their deployments more dangerous. A month later, one of my friends in Khost related a story about how force protection rules made their lives incredibly more difficult and dangerous than they need to be. But the nuts and bolts of why getting off the base, and doing so outside enormous armored trucks, has such an effect aren’t often explored.

I go on to link to the exact same Army Times story. Really, though: this is a patently ridiculous exercise. Hodge probably wouldn’t be writing these stories if he wasn’t there. I have no reason to assume he’s copying me any more than the many reporters writing stories about the Pentagon’s potential ban on social media stole from Noah Shachtman. Coincidences do happen, in other words, and there is very little out there in the DOD universe that gets leaked exclusively to Wired.

Methinks Spencer doth protest too much. Though to be fair, Noah’s been a whiner about this too. It would also be a much stronger argument if Danger Room didn’t do this exact same thing as well. That’s just the nature of the bloggy biz, boys. Deal with the beast you’ve helped to create.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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