The past two days have been most interesting for me as a blogger.
Reading this article, and this one yesterday pushed my blood pressure up a notch or twelve. The articles, drawn from a CP story by Stephen Thorne, were sparked by a DND report entitled Canada's Soldiers: Military Ethos and Canadian Values in the 21st Century Army.
Generally, those interested in joining the Forces "tend to be lacking in life goals and feel alienated from society and its values."
"They are attracted to violence more than the average member of Canadian society and accept violence as a legitimate means of getting what they want," says the report.
Any time I see a story that casts our uniformed defenders in a negative light, my initial reaction is to smack it and the *spit* cheap journo who penned it. Especially since most of them wouldn't know a rifle from a rivet, or a Sergeant from a Major. And since I've been spoiled by the blogosphere, where primary sources are generally hotlinked, my frustration was compounded by the host of questions the piece left unanswered.
Which DND department commissioned and wrote the report, and why? How will it be used to shape DND policy? What survey questions were asked, in what order, and how were they worded (especially important, as much of the data seems to have been gleaned from a larger CROP Inc. survey)? Without answers to these questions, it's difficult to rebut a piece that paints potential armed service members as violent, selfish louts, and only midway through admits many of those types are weeded out through the application and training process.
Since Blogspot was somewhat testy yesterday, kicking me out of my unfinished post a couple of times and refusing to let me sign back in, I never did finish my screed. Instead, at the end of the day, I decided to Google this Stephen Thorne guy to see if he was some unrepentant Che Guevara groupie with a reporting gig. You know, the type who never pass up an opportunity to tear down anything remotely related to the military.
Hmm. He was awarded the Ross Munroe Media Award in 2002 by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and the Conference of Defence Associations, and a Canadian Newspaper Award that same year for his work covering Operation Anaconda. Seems he was the only reporter to go in-country with the PPCLI in March 2002 as they rooted Al-Qaeda terror-drones out of the Whale's Back in Afghanistan. He also wrote some pretty decent military-related pieces recently here, here, and here (although he makes the mistake of calling the entire $12.8B "new" money) - not to mention my personal favourite. This is definitely not your typical Canadian LLL ink-stained wretch.
With my preconceived notions turned completely upside down, I shut down the computer and left work for the drive home. Headed up Hwy 400, I thought "I should see if I can get in touch with this guy tomorrow and get some of these questions answered. It can't be that tough to track down a senior reporter/editor at CP, assuming he'll talk to me."
Imagine my surprise when, not an hour later, I looked at my e-mail at home, and discovered a message from - you guessed it - Stephen Thorne. It seems he'd followed last week's link from Inkless Wells (thanks Paul!), and liked the way I'd adjusted budget numbers to account for inflation in my analysis. He couldn't figure out how to do the same, and wanted to talk. Too freaky.
So I had a short chat with Stephen this morning. He asked me what I do for a living, and when I told him, he asked why I posted to this website. I told him *ahem* blogging helped keep me from yelling too much at the TV or newspapers. He laughed when I mentioned my initial misconceptions about him and my mild embarrassment at how wrong they were. I think he was a bit surprised when I pointed out the hotlink to an inflation calculator embedded right in the quote he'd found so intriguing; more proof most dead-tree writers haven't yet discovered what Kate calls "the ethics of the link."
As it turns out, Stephen has DND budget figures dating back to 1987, and wants to do some constant-dollar comparisons. I hope he follows through, because while Canadians have finally woken up to the fact that our military is woefully underfunded, I still don't think they understand the true extent to which we've abandoned our men and women in uniform from a funding perspective. I hope he can help get that story out.
In the meantime, I'm trying to wheedle a copy of the report that started me down this path. Fair trade, right? Wish me luck.