Bloggers: If you suddenly find Air Force officers leaving barbed comments after one of your posts, dont be surprised. Theyre just following the services new "counter-blogging" flow chart. In a twelve-point plan, put together by the emerging technology division of the Air Forces public affairs arm, airmen are given guidance on how to handle "trolls," "ragers" and even well-informed online writers, too. Its all part of an Air Force push to "counter the people out there in the blogosphere who have negative opinions about the U.S. government and the Air Force," Captain David Faggard says.
Over the last couple of years, the armed forces have tried, in fits and starts, to
connect more with bloggers. The Army and the Office of the Secretary of Defense now hold
roundatbles" with generals, colonels, and key civilian leaders. The Navy invited
a group of bloggers to embed
with them on a humanitarian mission to Central and
In contrast, the Air Force has largely kept the blogosphere at arms length. Most of the sites are banned from Air Force networks. And the service has mostly stayed away from the Pentagons blog outreach efforts. Captain Faggard, whos become the Air Force Public Affairs Agencys designated social media guru, has made strides in shifting that attitude. The air service now has a Twitter feed, a blog of its own and marching orders, for how to comment on other sites. "Were trying to get people to understand that they can do this," he tells Danger Room.
The flow chart lays out a range of possible responses to a blog post. Airmen can offer
a "factual and well-cited response [that] is not factually erroneous, a rant or rage,
bashing or negative in nature."
They can "let the post stand no response." Or they cancan "fix the facts," offering up fresh perspective.
No matter what, the chart says, airmen should "disclose your Air Force connection," "respond in a tone that reflects high on the rich heritage of the Air Force," and "focus on the most-used sites related to the Air
Despite the charts sometimes-stiff language, former military spokesman Steven
Field says hes "a fan." Field,
whos been occasionally critical of the armed services blog outreach efforts,
tells Danger Room: "Ive always thought that a military-like process would be a
good bridge to connect the services with the blogosphere. Theres a field manual for
everything in the military, so this flow-chart presents online communications in a DoD
[Department of Defense]
One stipulation While it should be a guide of communications, it
shouldnt become a ball-and-chain. Online comms require some level of nimble,
on-your-feet response. As long as the Air Force doesnt use the
"evaluate" phase to get approval from every Tom, Dick and Harry in the
Pentagon, it should be a good tool.