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June 29, 2010


Damn their guts and livers:

"Per Mike Yon on Facebook: If we are going to make a success out of this war, must start squeezing out and choking off the irresponsible "sources." People who care will start writing letters to editors/producers who link to websites such as Blackfive and Mudville Gazette. Must start telling mainstream sources that when they link to milkooks, we stop paying attention. Please leave comments at mainstream message boards encouraging people to ignore milkooks. There are some good milblogs who should get more attention (such as Small Wars Journal), but others need to be choked off. We have a tough, bloody war ahead, and should refuse to put up with this nonsense. The information battlefront is half the battlespace, and you are in it. Please fight hard from your position. It's time to get active. I will get back to the war and focus there. On the home front, please choke off Blackfive and Mudville Gazette. When you see links to them from MSM sites, please contact editors and producers, and also leave public comments that responsible people do not listen to milkooks. Get active and help win the war."

None of us has called for any kind of boycott of Michael Yon. No one has suggested his dispatches be banned or suppressed. No one has tried to organize "grassroots" protests of opinions we disagree with. You won't see that kind of nonsense coming from me nor (I suspect) any of my Milkook friends. It seems to me that Yon has just done precisely what he has repeatedly accused the military of - tried to choke off and punish criticism.

I've been trying to ignore this since the weekend but when the price of disagreement gets this high, I think we all lose something. As much as I tremble to utter such heresy, Michael Yon is not fighting (much less winning) this war.

The actual fighting is being done by men and women like Chuck. Some of them happen to be Milkooks. Amazing how many people find baseless bragging and threats persuasive, but there it is. I expect we'll see nothing like the kind of uproar that usually greets thuggish tactics like this. I'm not particularly concerned for Matt or Greyhawk - they have well established sites with a long track record. And I don't think my small readership are the kind of people who let others tell them what to think.

To me, the great thing about the Internet has always been that we all chime in and readers get to decide what they think about various topics by weighing the merits.

Mr. Yon appears to believe that process needs to be managed. As the spouse always likes to say, "Well, that's a viewpoint".

Posted by Cassandra at June 29, 2010 09:05 AM

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What a bum.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 29, 2010 09:50 AM

How's the weather up there on Olympus, Mike?

Get a grip, man. You're embarassing yourself.

Posted by: spd rdr at June 29, 2010 10:00 AM

This is sad. Yon is disgracing himself and ruining his own reputation because he has lost his balance. But now we know why he was disembedded -- he's gone crazy. I hope it's temporary.

Posted by: valerie at June 29, 2010 10:21 AM

FWIW, I believe he was "disembedded" (wrong term but I don't know a better!) for precisely the reasons given by ISAF: he had already been there for several months - far longer than most embeds - and they had a waiting list.

Yon seems to believe that he should be "guaranteed" a permanent spot. I'm not sure on what grounds he justifies this bizarre assumption, but every time his time slot is up he throws the active duty military who make embeds happen under the bus.

It's really weird.

On the one hand he claims to have been embedded for longer than any other journalist. OK, I'll give him credit for persistence and willingness. But there's a logical problem with telling everyone you've had more time with the troops than any other reporter (something that doesn't happen unless the military APPROVES YOUR REQUESTS) and then claiming that on the rare occasion that you don't get what you want, you're being "silenced".

Kind of like Keith Olbermann screaming from the rooftops every night about how anti-war and anti-Bush voices are being brutally repressed.

Hard, broadcasting every night from that airless cell at Guantanamo. Question for the ages: how do you know a brave truth teller is being silenced?

Answer: He'll be the first one to tell you.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 29, 2010 10:55 AM

Yon finally went certifiably crazy. Very sad...

Posted by: olga at June 29, 2010 11:05 AM

Heh, a viewpoint indeed.

Ah well, I've always seemed to gravitate towards kooks. Present company excluded, of course. =8^}

As is said, on occasion, by alleged, unnamed sources, one man's kook is another man's prophet.

I suppose that I'll stick with my list of purveyors of kooky perspectives.
Old dog, new tricks, and whatnot...

Posted by: bthun at June 29, 2010 11:12 AM

What really bothers me about this is the underlying assumption that the man/woman in the street is too stupid to sort out truth from kookiness. Even if Yon was right and all the people he names were kooks (no, I don't believe they are), I don't feel any need to be "protected" from them. I like to think I'm smart enough to read differing opinions and make up my own mind. Heretical though that belief may be these days.

Posted by: Elise at June 29, 2010 01:15 PM

I never expect anyone to take what I have to say on trust.

The reason I decided to write about this is that we're talking about a guy who has thrown the chickenhawk card at decorated combat vets - not once, but several times now.

Reality appears to be an infinitely malleable construct to these folks.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 29, 2010 02:06 PM

And if I understand correctly, Yon has been given another embed.

They must be trying to shut him up by sending him off to war.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 29, 2010 03:10 PM

I have seen a lot of things in my time, but I don't ever recall seeing a display of arrogance that left me speechless, due to roaring laughter. Except now, from Yon.

He actually does believe the whole thing revolves around him. Simply amazing.

Posted by: Allen at June 29, 2010 03:55 PM

Milblogger, Intertubes Obergruppenfuhrer, denture wearer.

But mostly asshat.

Why, it's Michael Yon!

This is pathetic. Someone get him some lithium for his paranoia.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 29, 2010 06:57 PM

He's definitely gotten a big head. He once gave some perspective while the media presence dwindled and has since flickered out. We need someone in his position. Sadly, I'm afraid he may no longer be "the guy".

The worst of it is that he's fighting friendlies. He easily could have smoothed this over weeks ago. Is he brain-dead or just that conceited?

Posted by: Jewels at June 29, 2010 07:22 PM

He's just that conceited...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 29, 2010 09:20 PM

Deleted my own comment. I don't need to be that much of a smart a**, guys.

What is it that Ron White always says? Oh yeah - the next time you have a thought, let it go ;p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2010 01:16 AM

As the spouse always likes to say, "Well, that's a viewpoint".

Indeed. Succinctly put...

Posted by: camojack at June 30, 2010 01:42 AM

I didn't make the MilKook list, which *proves* Mike's perceptions have become a tad -- ummmmmmm -- skewed...

Posted by: BillT at June 30, 2010 04:10 AM

It appears to me that his ego is crashing into his id and super ego. Frankly he doesn't speak for those serving in the war zone he speaks solely for himself.

If he loves Free Speech so much why is he infering that people self censor those opinions he doesn't like?

Posted by: Monica at June 30, 2010 08:44 AM

ChuckZ has it on the head (as always) http://tcoverride.blogspot.com/2010/06/irresponsible-sources.html

Posted by: MikeD at June 30, 2010 08:48 AM

The answer to bad speech is more good speech, not choking the speaker you disagree with. Maybe the controversy is increasing his contributions?

Posted by: htom at June 30, 2010 10:07 AM

For 50 bucks and a cargo van I can make him go away! :-o

Damn shame. Back when Da Grunt was deploying on a regular basis Mike actually looked in on him and reassured me in emails. Wonder what happened to that guy? I remember when he didn't have enough money to embed and we raised the dough for him to go. I liked him better then.

What he needs now is a colonoscopy to see where his brain ended up!

Posted by: JHD at June 30, 2010 11:31 AM

I don't doubt that Yon's heart is in the right place wrt supporting the troops.

I think what happened here is that people in the milblogging community became concerned about the whole "taking scalps" shtick and said so. I don't think that's off base - whatever we do or say online is fair game for comment. That's just part and parcel of online commentary.

The idea that what set them off was criticism of senior leadership is off base. Many milbloggers have criticized the ROE, the decisions of senior leaders, etc. We're not going to lose the war b/c some blogger or writer disagrees with the military or thinks we should be using different tactics.

What I found alarming about Yon's attacks on McChrystal was this:

1. Disagreement as to tactics is not evidence of "incompetence". It's quite possible to argue that the ROE is overly restrictive without calling for someone to be fired. The thing is, McC wasn't the top of the food chain - he works for the Army and the Commander in Chief (neither of whom have expressed any disagreement with McC's tactics). So if he's incompetent, what does that say about CENTCOM and POTUS? Why stop with McC - shouldn't his bosses be fired too? Hell, let's just replace everybody!


2. The allegations of a coordinated smear campaign by McC and his staff. No evidence of this supposed smear campaign was ever presented, though it was referred to several times. Evidently readers are to take the existence and sufficiency of this evidence on trust and presume McC's guilt until innocence is proven.

What could *possibly* go wrong?

3. The idea that embeds should be mounting concerted campaigns to get active duty soldiers fired.

I don't want this war run by journalists, bloggers, or embeds who claim to be neither journalists or bloggers but seem to expect the military to grant them continual and unrestricted access to combat operations. Yon isn't privy to any of the information these folks use to make decisions and yet I'm supposed to believe he has a better grasp on the war than the folks who run it?

That's a presumption that carries with it a pretty steep burden of proof and so far I've seen nothing from Yon to justify it.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2010 12:54 PM

Watching this has been very distressing, and your comments (that I just finished reading, and which prompted me to comment) nail the ongoing sources of my discomfort.

It's comforting to know someone else sees what I do. It will make the next several days during which I listen to the men in my household parrot Michael Yon slightly more bearable.

Posted by: Dianna at June 30, 2010 01:05 PM

My family (not my husband and kids so much as my extended family) don't agree about politics at all. I can talk about politics without getting mad b/c people don't agree with me. I have no expectation of changing anyone's mind - I just enjoy the exchange of ideas. But that's not true of many of my family members.

They get very upset and feel they're being attacked or somehow coerced when our disagreements come up from time to time in conversation. I've never understood this but then I don't have to understand - it is what it is. I don't EVER call Obama an idiot or say the awful things I've listened to them say about George Bush so I find it pretty much incomprehensible that they find it upsetting that I have the nerve to disagree with them. I haven't ever been insulting about it in the way many of them have in my home and to my face.

People don't react well when they feel like they're being attacked. That's why I'm such a tiresome twit about the tone of comments here at VC.

The crappy thing about war is that the parties involved literally are - and therefore feel - under attack. There's a pretty powerful tendency to take sides, rally around the flag (and those who see things as you do), and defend your team against the other team.

This is a very normal and natural response to threat and has significant adaptive value. At the same time, I'm not sure it leads to clear thought (defined, of course, as "conclusions I agree with") :p

I am hardly immune to emotional responses. For instance, I was determined to avoid further Yon posts b/c I have been hoping this would all die down and I could go back to chronicalling the exploits of gay polar bears and whatnot.

As it turns out if you prick my friends I, too, bleed. So much for good intentions!

I think we're all going to need a huge dose of patience. I try to remind myself that this will eventually blow over and the petty squabbles of milkooks and Facebook devotees are unlikely to determine the course of the war. The men and women who are fighting it are the real players. The rest of us are essentially spectators.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2010 02:05 PM

The information battlefront is half the battlespace, and you are in it. Please fight hard from your position.

This is the guy that taunted his opponents for not being in the field, fighting the "war" like he was?

Hypocrite and delusional paranoiac.

I like to think I'm smart enough to read differing opinions and make up my own mind.

That's not how a cult of personality works, however. It requires, not freedom of thought, but control of personal beliefs and behavior. Otherwise the cult starts fragmenting as people leave the fold. Got to keep them in using Jim Jones tactics. It works, after all.

Reality appears to be an infinitely malleable construct to these folks.

A cult is not here to appeal to the reality fabric or how what causal chain is true or not. From that, all else makes perfect sense.

They must be trying to shut him up by sending him off to war.

That is where the personal targeting comes in. Yon praises Petraeus and that convinces himself that he is balanced and sane for going after McChrystal and Company. Whenever there is a Heaven, there must also be a Hell to serve as a contrast. It's just a pretext. A rationalization to make it easy to hate and go off on people using violence.

Frankly he doesn't speak for those serving in the war zone he speaks solely for himself.

And the various people, families, and service members that have recognized him as their Guru. He speaks for those too, not just for himself.

The answer to bad speech is more good speech, not choking the speaker you disagree with. Maybe the controversy is increasing his contributions?

Yon has a history of ending arguments with aggressive action. Look up that bar fight of his. Hey, it worked. That's what he's thinking. If it worked back then, surely it will work now when Yon is being attacked by the military blogosphere.

I think what happened here is that people in the milblogging community became concerned about the whole "taking scalps" shtick and said so.

There was also a bunch of historical and personal issues that never caught the light of day. But Yon was too dense to make much sense of it in private coms. So it wasn't just the surprise of seeing these people in public. He's known about what they have been trying to say for awhile now. Months? years? Shrugs. Paranoia tells you that enemies are always out to get you. It's not hard to substitute former friends as the "new enemies" when needs must make meat.

Evidently readers are to take the existence and sufficiency of this evidence on trust and presume McC's guilt until innocence is proven.

Hey, Jim Jones said the CIA was going to take anybody that left his cult back to the US and torture them... or something. It worked for him, so I suppose Yon thinks it'll work for Yon too.

Having viable alternatives that people can escape to doesn't make the cult leader feel good. He can't have power unless he keeps those people controlled under his thumb. That means no escape route, no alternatives, no "maybe ifs".

I've never understood this but then I don't have to understand

It is simply a byproduct of identity politics. People usually try to find a source of security and then they associate themselves with that source, since protecting it is the same as protecting their own life. For some of us, that is America or the Constitution or the military or some politician or a religion. For others, it is Gaia, Global Warming, exploiting blacks and poor people, and so forth. Before ideology, clan warfare, vendetta, and tribalism took up that little niche slot. Western Civilization, however, has found other viable substitutes, however.

What makes this complex is that what people choose to become their source of identity is never the same. And it is always variable, differentiable by individual even. A cult can bring them together, but you can't keep them monolithic without force or external pressure. Humans like security and predictability, but they also like sanity and individual liberty.

At the same time, I'm not sure it leads to clear thought

It depends on what is going on. If the leader is a sane alpha that is capable of handling problems, then Chain of Command is assured. You won't have insane orders coming down the pipe. All that is left then is the people at the bottom stirring up trouble or competitor leaders attempting a coup. However, if the leader is using emotion in order to base decisions on, then those emotions will begin to control perception of reality and not logic or the rational mind. When a leader does this for long enough, the followers will also become mad, insane, and unbalanced. It's just how it is. Mad dog makes a mad pack. ANd not just cause of rabies either.

Much of the whole school of training designed to output combat leaders have to take into consideration how to mentally prepare people to deal with the chaos and emotional stresses of war without at the same time letting those factors make combat decisions for you. Combat leaders, like all alpha positions, requires vast expertise and certain rare qualities. But the available pool of people for it is rather limited. Far more limited than the number of positions available. That's a manpower problem in the end.

Emotion, fear, adrenaline, all of it does not lead to clear thought. But it is clear thought, foresight and quick, decisive, and COrrect decisions that lets a group survive. And it is the leader's duty to be capable of the right decisions when it is called for. Just as it is the duty of a follower to obey directions from his leader.

Nature never particularly cared about how the alarm system of emotion directly contradicted the tool use and imagination part of the human toolbox that allowed us to go beyond hunter-gatherer. After all, if some of us die because we got too scared, then good riddance, from Nature's perspective. If somebody got stupid and couldn't adapt to a situation cause he was angry or afraid and thus died, then the next generation will be even smarter. I dare say, back in the day, emotion served as a great companion to human imagination and tool usage/design. Nothing like facing tomorrow with a stick vs a predator that eats man flesh to get that brain working right.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 30, 2010 04:33 PM

What JHD said. Ditto that (howdy JHD).

BlackFive can get a little heated at times, although Matt seems to be a really great guy. There are sometimes some sharp elbows thrown around over there.

But Greyhawk/Mrs. Greyhawk (Mudville Gazette) have never been anything but fair and thorough. Greyhawk (Mudville Gazette) puts up links to all kinds of people, some who disagree with him.

I don't understand, really what has happened to Michael Yon's perspective. He has written some really good stories, and has done some really great reporting, at times.
Is he that insecure, after all this?

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 30, 2010 08:00 PM

The only thing I can think of is one of the "Great Notices": death of near and dear, love or friend or kin; betrayal by those deeply trusted; being told that The Reaper has your name on his short list; rejection falls by those, too. And the like.

I know that I've sometimes gone slightly bonkers upon such occurrences. But I don't remember such wholesale spitting at former colleagues. (But then, I was bonkers at the time.)

Some alcoholics, medically forced into sobriety, or other drug withdrawal problems, sometimes, too.

Posted by: htom at June 30, 2010 08:55 PM

Dude tink he now a prophet.

Or is dat profit?

Anyways, wid all da wild accusations flyin' at de kooks and general staff, der mus be some good chit bein' smoked out der mon.

Posted by: Bob Knarley at June 30, 2010 09:21 PM

Is he that insecure, after all this?

Yon is a wannabe. He wannabe a leader. He wannabe respected. He wannabe a warrior in the war.

Maybe he wanted to be a General officer some day, too, until SF threw him a curve ball nobody knew about.

A wannabe isn't bad in itself. Motivation is important in achieving end results, after all. Nobody got where they were because they didn't want it and said "to hell with it, I'll go kill myself" or something.

But Yon has been given leadership opportunities. And he has refused to grow into them. In the military, he'd have been demoted or discharged, because the military, especially in a war, usually won't let incompetent leaders remain in command. You'd have to be a lot more clever and greedy and personally charismatic than mikey yon to be able to stay in the military with that kind of attitude and incompetence level.

Yon's not in the mil. He's civilian. And he knows it. He's happy with his foot massages. There is his cognitive dissonance, and whatever guilt his shattered psyche can stand. He talks with warriors and is by them almost every day. Yet he is not one of them, and he knows it. But more than anything else, he doesn't want to be one of them.

MilKooks, incompetent generals. All those, you notice, that he will never be. Never be. Not because somebody shafted him, but because he himself refused to step up when called. Friends died at Bridge of Fallujah, hanged like some stuck meat. And Yon, the SF "weapons" slot guy in the A-Teams wanted to go take pictures and write stories? The guy that killed another guy "or gator in Yon's words" doesn't want to be killing terrorists?

Hah, got to be kidding me. That's not leadership material. Not when he got offered and he refused.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 1, 2010 08:53 PM