[fog of war] x [fog of media] = ?

I haven’t been trying very hard to find out what’s going on in Iraq. I don’t have TV and wouldn’t have the time to watch it anyway, the newspapers are heavy on unhelpful analysis and light on reliable facts, and unfortunateley Enemy Combatant Radio hasn’t set up a Basra satellite van.

(note to self: is ECR still casting these days?)

It’s also a questionable undertaking. Do I really want to try and find out the details of the war? What would it benefit me? Is half truth or even 3/4 truth better than no truth at all? Do any of the details have any particular bearing on my life?

If an average person did want to find out what was happening on the ground in Iraq, could it be done? This is, after all, the information age. The internet and an associated suite of communication technologies indisputably changed the process and quality of the antiwar movement in a way that has been alledged/predicted since the anti-globalization “battle of Seattle”. If you stay very quiet and listen to the academics muttering to themselves in their closets, you will learn that information distribution is now really, really pending a revolution courtesy of audio blogging, photo blogging, plain ‘old’ blogging, text messaging, wikis and CMSs (gracias Chiron), bluePods and their inevitable ilk, news.google.com-esque information filtering algorithms and other things I’m not quiet enough to be aware of.

But can it be done now? Can you or I, given a PC and an internet account, get a genuine sense of what’s happening? I certainly don’t know, mostly because I haven’t tried. A few possible resources for someone who was trying:

globalsecurity.org offers a truck stop breakfast sized serving of operational details. Or it did, I don’t know if they’ve been able to keep up with troop movements and whatnot since the combat proper began. Interestingly, they also offer a serious point-counterpoint on the strategical benefits of the invasion, and a decent library of anti-war graphics. If you’re really bored, you could just play “guess their personal opinion”.

Iraqwar.Ru offers daily executive summaries of the battles. I am told third-hand that the “This center was created recently by a group of journalists and military experts from Russia to provide accurate and up-to-date news and analysis of the war against Iraq. Daily english-language translations are being offered by Venik’s Aviation. A brief scan of the reports suggest that they are either markedly unfriendly to the US/British forces, or the battles are going much more poorly than we are being led to believe be CNN.

Several intercepted reports by the US field commanders stated that their troops are unable to advance due to their soldiers being demoralized by the enemy’s fierce resistance and high losses.

Kevin Site’s war blog used to provide a dramatic example of the power of direct publishing. As a CNN war correspondant on the ground in the middle east, Kevin was well set up to provide very interesting coverage. His own remarks that “This experience has really made me rethink my rather orthodox views of reaching folks via mass media…. Blogging is an incredible tool, with amazing potential. “ are indicative of at least the potential for real information flow from places from which information is a hotly contested material. Unfortunatley, CNN requested that he stop blogging. Much has been said of this, in chat-room discussion and publications.

Iraq Body Count goes the other way, offering contextless aggregate statistics filtered from the ceasless torrent of mass media, rather than independanly verified on-site details. The methodology is based on past work to document the citizen death toll in Afghanistan. It doesn’t count actual death tolls, only reported citizen fatalities. But it is information that otherwise isn’t being compiled. This is the site that powers the banner-counter on this blog.

news.google.com is a way to dip a net of one’s own into the river of mass-media reporting. Google uses a purely-automated algorithm, presumably related to their famous page-ranking system, to monitor many news sources in realtime and summarize the most “significant” stories in frequenly updated lists.

Then of course, there’s this.

Of these links, only the second two seem to be using technological changes to make more directly-sourced information available. There may well be other methods. There certainly will be in the future. The possible implications of these maybe-existing sources of fact-distribution would seem to include the ability for citizens to stay better informed of the distant actions of their governments, as well as providing a much larger heap of data for analysts and historians to process in after-the-fact attempts to dissect what really happened.

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