Diary Of A Hollywood Refugee

Friday, April 28, 2006

Voices From The Frontline

I've been involved in discussions on several over at The Castle and Grim's Hall about the relationship between the Military PAO and the Media.

At points through these discussions, I've mentioned the need for milbloggers, and the PAO, as well as "citizen bloggers" to find other ways to help people look at the war differently..to grab their attention....and give them reason to try to understand this war DIFFERENTLY.

The written word works for many, but for just as many, it remains unevocative, cold, and distant and requires more active participation than passively watching tv, films, videos, or listening to music.

Visuals impact on us differently. They are instantly evocative, often more powerful, and their visceral impact runs deeper and remains with us much longer than the written word.

But what of words put to music with visuals??

Apart from blogs and podcasts, I really like some the combat videos and a few documentaries being made by soldiers & Marines in Iraq.

I blogged about one combat video in a post called "Marines Don't Fuck Around".

Titled "Iraq 1" the video is brought to us by Doc Matey and The India Company Marines of the 3/6 who deployed during OIF 3.

With it's blend of combat imagery juxtapositioned against the evocative lyrics and haunting melody of "Jesus Walks" , this video leaves a powerful impact.

I also blogged about "Scout's Out", a documentary shot by the soldiers of Fox Troop, 82nd Cav, based out of Oregon.

During their year long deployment in Iraq, and with the help of the generous citizens of Oregon, they distributed 2000 pairs of shoes to Iraqi children, as well as lots of candy, toys and clothing. They also had the unique opportunity to capture their humanitarian efforts on film as they watched "their kids" grow up.

Produced by First Lt.Rich Paetz, the documentary, titled "Scouts Out" was shot entirely by the soldiers from their perspective and will include interviews with the soldiers and their family members "because", as Rich reminded me, " it was their war too"
As well as blogging, I'd like to encourage more of our deployed soldiers and Marines to express themselves and share their stories, and experiences, through combat videos, documentaries, and music about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And I want to strongly encourage the PAO, bloggers and milbloggers, to blog about them, make alternative media aware of them, and interview, in writing and in podcasts, those who create them.

An entire generation of youth, who are not in combat but who share belong to the same culture as those fighting this war, need to be re-educated on how to understand war.

Rather than focus on the military attempting to build a relationship with the MSM who
1) aren't interested in doing so, and
2) are comprised of aging baby boomers who will not be easily swayed into letting go of their Viet Nam era angst
I feel that it is far more vital that our the PAO and we bloggers (An Army of Davids) understand the culture from which our troops now come, and begin to deliver the message to their cultural peers in the same way they themselves love to receive messages.

First we need to understand the culture these soldiers and Marines are a part of, and for that I turn to what Evan Wright says about them in "Generation Kill" his searing portrait of the young Marines fighting this war.

"...they are kids raised on hip hop, Marilyn Manson, Jerry Springer. For them, Motherf**ker is a term of endearment. For some, slain rapper Tupac is an American patriot whose writings are better known the speeches of Abraham Lincoln. There are tough guys among them who pray to Budda and quote some Eastern philosphies and New Age precepts galeaned from watching Oprah and old kung fu movies. There are former gangbangers, a sprinkling of born again Christians, and quite a few guys who before entering the Corps were daily dope smokers(..)

They represent what is more or less Americans first generation of disposible children. More than half the guys in some platoons came from broken homes and were raised by absentee single wsorking parents, and they are far more "intimate" with video games, realtity TV shows and internet porn than their own parents.

(...) this is the generation that first learned of the significance of the Presidency not through an inspiring speech at the Berlin Wall, but through a national obsession with semen stains and a certain White House blow job."

This the generation of men and women fighting the war on terror and it is their peers who both support this war or despise it. Either way...they share a cultural commonality.

Therefore it is this generation of soldiers and Marines that are the best people to speak to their cultural brothers and sisters in ways that will help their peers grasp the complete picture, and help to reshape the way their peers and the future generation of youths come to understand forth generational war.

I am not surprised that these music driven combat videos are being created by our deployed men and women but I am surprised FEW people- including those in these various discussions- are even aware they exist, nor understand their importance: THIS is an effective way to speak to and reach the generation to whom we want to deliver different messages about this war!

On April 4th, 2006 Crosscheck Records announced the release of Voices From the Frontline , a CD of all original material from US military personnel currently serving in Iraq.

Featuring twelve musical tracks and twelve spoken word vignettes recorded by men and women on active duty, the CD offers an insiders view into the often difficult, emotional, and unblinking reality of life for American troops stationed in Iraq.

Crosscheck Records has teamed up with the non-profit organization Operation AC to donate a portion of the proceeds from Voices From The Frontline in order to supply soldiers with non-combat supplies.

Voices From the Frontline tells the stories of several soldiers in their own words.

In the opening track, First Time, rappers Mike Watts and Quentin Givens matter-of-factly ask the question at the core of every soldier facing deployment: Will I come back alive or will I come back dead?

The soldiers speak about keeping it together to get the job done, letters home to loved ones, saluting those who lost their lives, the close calls dealing with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), the support of their families, the fight to stay alive, the guilt of not seeing a child grow up, the inner conflict and loyalty they feel.

In Condolence, a performer who goes by the name Amp writes a letter to a woman apologizing for his role in her loss he asks God if theres a spot for me in heaven, could you give it to her?

The females perspective from the frontline comes from Kisha Pollard and Mischelle Johnston. In Girl at War, Kisha speaks about what its like to be a woman doing her military job and earning the respect of her fellow soldiers. And you look at me up in down cause youre thinking Im weak, til you see me in Iraq and Im patrolling the streets. She brings up the fact that she can get shot just as well as a boy. Desert Vacation is one of two R&B songs on the album, written and sung by Mischelle Johnston who finds herself a bird in a cage waiting for my ticket out. She sings about the frustration of events turning out differently than she expected.

Overall, the men and women on Voices From the Frontline aren't using their art to make a statement for or against the war. They just want to be heard, their experiences shared. These are their stories and their expression of what it is like to fight, to work, to live, and to cope with life on the frontlines in Iraq. It is clear that they appreciate life despite their daily struggles, the overwhelming challenges, and the loss of fellow soldiers. Through it all, they manage to find the strength and courage that it takes to do what they do.

This is why I am far more interested in podcasts than simply blogs...don't get me wrong...the written blogs are great...but "Blogcasts" can include original music, stories, interviews, "the actual voices" of this generation speaking to THEIR peers. We have the technology and the critical "blogmass" to ensure they get exposure throughout the blogsphere and beyond!

Blogcasts (podcasts) can be downloaded onto hand held devices to be listened to at home, in the car, on the subway, while walking, while doing homework( this generation multi tasks) and they can be aired on radio and internet radio.

If you include "combat videos" which can also be distributed through "You Tube", aired on MTV, internet tv, or delivered directly to consumers through blogs and milblogs; you've now got two culturally effective ways to get across a different type of message about this war, our soldiers, and our military, that reflects the experiences, the stories and the expression "of what it is like to fight, to work, to live, and to cope with life on the frontlines".

You can listen to some of the songs from the CD at My Space.com . Then buy the CD, give it as a gift to your friends, and SPREAD THE WORD about this Voices From The Frontline to your co-workers, other bloggers and milbloggers, your local radio stations, your local news papers, and your local TV stations.

I'd like to encourage milbloggers to start creating podcasts (or blogcasts as I like to call them.) and to include interviews with soldiers/Marines in your unit in which they share "their stories and their expression of what it is like to fight, to work, to live, and to cope with life" in the sandbox.

The MSM elites grew up in the 60's and 70's. Music defined that generation with protest songs from artists like Crosby Stills Nash and Young ( "Four Dead in O-hi-o), Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez. "Hair" became the definitive musical of the Viet Nam era.

Music combined with visuals from the coverage in Nam, impacted on "baby boomers" so deeply and shaped the way most of that generation thinks about all wars.

We can impact on today's generation by combining music, words and visuals from Iraq and Afghanistan to help to reshape how they view this kind of war while delivering a far more balanced message about our troops, our military and the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'd much rather see the PAO, soldiers, Marines, milbloggers, and 'civilian bloggers' work collaboratively with these kinds of ideas, than wasting anymore time trying to win over an unwilling MSM.


  • At 10:14 AM, April 29, 2006, Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said…

    Who is your target audience? If your target audience is Generation Kill putting death bebop combat music videos on MySpace would reach some gamers. I'm not sure the MSM is reaching many of them, either. Wright missed an important demographic. Better make some country combat music videos, too.

    All that you describe sounds like good advice for Recruiting Command and 20-something active duty and recently deployed milbloggers.

  • At 12:33 PM, April 29, 2006, Blogger Huntress said…

    That you assume these are all death bebop videos speaks to what I mean about how little people know about or understand this generation PERIOD.

    Did you bother to listen to any of the songs in the CD I referenced? They ARE NOT bebop death songs...neither are the videos I found on You Tube...some were rapp, some were rock, some were country music.

    Did you read Generation Kill? If you did then you missed the largess and diversification of the generation that Evan captured.

    Wright did not miss an important demographic at all.... of the Marines he described came from all parts of America INCLUDING the deep south.

    The Marines Evan embedded with were RECON..the best of the best...so despite where they came from they EXCELLED...but Evan was not simply limiting his description to Recon or the Marines.

    While there are several sub demographic groups that make up the entire generation they share a cultural commonality and they like receive messages in the similar ways.

    This should not be a hard concept to grasp!

    Baby boomers are those children born between 1946-1956. Not all were hippies, not all were drafted, not all attended Universities, not all were upper class, not all were white, not all were black. Yet the shared a cultural commanality one they still share today. There thoughts and images of war were shaped while they were between the ages of 16-25...and they were shaped by the same forces in the same way. TV and Music were powerful mediums to deliver evocative messages.

    My advice is not about recruiting..its about helping the kids of Gen Y, the grandkids of the "baby boomers" to understand this war, and the military, in a different way then portrayed by the MSM elites who are baby boomers with Viet Nam angst.

    Kat has bee blaming the military PAO for what she falsely perceives is THEIR fault for a bad relationship with the media. Its a false premise. She assumes they are incapable and stupid with these assertions that they do not knowi about media cycles, audiences etc, and that is not only a lie but damn insulting.

    The men and women in the PAO in general are a smart savvy bunch.

    She, like many, fails to understand that the MSM elites are baby boomers whose mindset towards war and military was formed during Viet Nam, has not changed in over 30 years and won't change now. Denying a biased agenda on the part of MSM is like denying that gravity exists.

    YOu will not sway the MSM from their position...so lets not waste time teaching old dogs new tricks.

    Instead let's do what all smart 'marketeers' do...target the young adult market (18-25). Younger kids tend to emulate what those a few years older than them do...so if we can reshape the perception of the 18-25 yr olds..they will by fiat reshape the minds of the younger kids..and we will finally have a generation that is set to inherit the future who will have learned to understand war in all its complexities, in a completely different way then then baby boomers now running the MSM.

  • At 3:58 PM, May 01, 2006, Blogger B2 said…

    Well as a boomer who joined the military and stayed 21 years, I can say, without reservation, that I detest my generation for the most part! Embarrassing. A high proportion are a bunch of freaks for the most part. Imagine not wanting to defend yourself from killers....

    re Boomer journalists: You're right on. We'll never change their minds about this..hopefully they'll retire early.


    This came in the email today. I like it. If you've already seen it. Sorry:


    Russ Vaughn, 2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment101st Airborne Division

    You media pansies may squeal and may squirm,
    But a fighting man knows that the way to confirm
    That some jihadist bastard is truly dead,
    Is a brain-tappin' round fired into his head.

    To hell with some wienie with his journalist degree
    Safe away from the combat, tryin' to tell me
    I should check him for breathing, examine his eyes.
    Nope, I'm punchin' his ticket to Muj paradise.

    To hell with you wimps from your Ivy League schools,
    Sittin' far from the war tellin' me about rules.
    And preaching to me your wrong-headed contention
    That I should observe the Geneva Convention,

    Which doesn't apply to a terrorist scum
    so evil and cruel their own people run from,
    Cold-blooded killers who love to behead,
    Shove that mother' Geneva, I'm leaving em dead.

    You slick talking heads may preach, preen and prattle,
    But you're damn well not here in the thick of the battle.
    It's chaotic, confusing, It all comes at you fast,
    So it's Muj checking out, because I'm going to last.

    Yeah, I'll last through this fight and send his ass away
    To his fat ugly virgins while I'm still in play.
    If you journalist wienies think that's cold, cruel and crass,
    Then pucker up sweeties. Kiss a fighting man's ass."

  • At 6:28 PM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Huntress said…

    No...I've never read that before...its awesome...WAHOOOO!

    Thank you for understanding my point about the media, baby boomers, and why the PAO should not waste ONE second of time and resources on them any longer.

    But more importantly...thank you for your service!

    Welcome to my blog..come back anytime!

    By the way...with permission... I intend to quote your insight on the other two blogs where I've engaged in this conversation!


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