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The Myth of the Internet War 71

Swept up by still more media hype, journalists are calling Kosovo the world's first Internet War. In the process, they advance an inherently creepy notion and manage to distort media, technology, the Internet and war all at the same time.

For days now, the media have been calling it the Internet War. "Now," reported Newsweek in its April 12 issue, "the Web is a vivid mirror of the struggle for Kosovo, a first in war." Serb hackers shut down NATO's website, an alleged war criminal named Arkan chatted on, an anonymous journalist filed to, and an Albanian teenager e-mailed her friend in California, an exchanged excerpted on NPR.

CNN websites said they'd served a record 154. million page impressions for the week following the start of the NATO bombing. The CNN sites, which include,, and, said they'd served 578 million page impressions for the Month of March, double the traffic a year ago. Traffic on from Macedonia was up 1025 per cent, Croatian traffic was up 946 per cent, Slovenian traffic was up 797 per cent and traffic from Bosnia Herzegovina was up 570 per cent.

The Net, said the New York Times, had become an alternative source for news-hungry Americans as well as Eastern Europeans. The war, said Michael Kinsley, editor of the on-line magazine Slate, "shows the difference the Web can make. "Unless they shut down the whole telephone system, they can't stop information from getting out, or getting back in."

The myth of the Internet war, media's latest over-hyped meme about the Net, was both widespread and wrong. If the war in Kosovo demonstrated anything about the Net, it showed that it's a dreadful medium for covering a war. This was a New York Times and Washington Post and Times of London and CNN story, a military strategy, policy and politics story perfectly suited for journalism in its traditional incarnation - TV networks and reporters stationed in world capitals.

Like most modern wars, this one was fought at least in part on TV. Three images shaped the Kosovo conflict from the beginning: bombs hurtling towards targets; the three beaten and bruised American soldiers, and the streams of battered refugees pouring into Albania and Macedonia.

The anonymous correspondents, monks and teenagers filing reports via various websites were interesting, sometimes even revealing. But none were significant. None shaped the policy that affected the conflict from either side. None influenced or altered public opinion in any measurable way. The Net isn't about making wars, but the complete anti-thesis of it.

CNN may not know what to do with itself most of the time, but it knows how to cover a war. CNN permits all the principals in global conflicts to see the same images and statements at the same time. Bob Dole went on "Larry King Live" to warn Slobodan Milosevic that he was running out of time. And Milosevic or some close aide was almost certainly watching.

Anonymous posters have little credibility precisely because nobody knows who they are. For all their faults, journalists are accountable for the things they report.

The Net and the Web, in addition, are too fragmented to the primary focus of a story like this. At any given time, millions of people are e-trading, e-shopping, or e-lusting online. Millions more are writing programs, working on Linux, or corresponding with their grand-kids. That techno-diversity is what the Net and the Web are really all about.

The world still can't get used to the idea of the Internet. It's continuously either denounced as a plague or hyped to the skies.

Kosovo is no Internet War. It's all too typical a one - brutal and incomprehensible. Technology is about human beings, not machines. There's nothing digital about the days and nights of the captured American soldiers, the people who live in bomb-torn Belgrade, or the hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming out of Kosovo.

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The Myth of the Internet War

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  • In Puerto Rico, one of the major newspapers printed a first page headline saying "YELTSIN STARTS THIRD WORLD WAR" (referring to aiming the missiles at NATO nations).

    I'm not making this up... When this are the first printed words you see when you wake up in the morning, you jump right out of your morning drowsiness...


  • Posted by pennacook:

    I totally agree -- the Gulf War was more the genre of "internet war" even though i think the media is full of hype anywho...
    I can remember during the Gulf War finding about things on IRC -- but that of course was before everyone and their mother was on the web with their "portal" news sites offering biased information and then having to retract it moments later... oh well - the world is full media...
  • Posted by TRF:

    Panaflex wrote:

    If anybody has truth coming out of the region, I'm more than willing to help amplify. In other words, independant news from Albania and FRY.. What I'd really like to see is people with casette recorders interviewing refugees. Videos and independant reporting from Serbia.
    After all, if government is watched by the media, who watches the media these days? (My guess would be the government.)

    You are so right. This is what would make the difference. I have no doubt that NATO will distort facts to their advantage as much as they can get away with. Misolevich will do exactly the same. CNN will continue to do whatever it takes to make sure that people believe their journalists know better than anyone else what is really going on--even if they know little beyond what NATO tells them.

    Meanwhile we are all stuck here in the middle of political FUD crossfire while the TRUTH sits beyond our reach!

    And, JonKatz, you should be ashamed of yourself for this statement:

    If the war in Kosovo demonstrated anything about the Net, it showed that it's a dreadful medium for covering a war.

    The Net is a tool that we are still learning to use. Television is a tool that the media has had years to "perfect." I would have expected something a little more visionary from you than a flat declaration that the Net is the wrong tool for the job.

    It's quite obvious to me that the Internet is only being used to a fraction of it's potential. Probably to the same extent that people only use a fraction of their brain's potential.


    Every 45 seconds, another arrest for Linux. 695000 last year. It's time for a change.

  • Well, the Vietnam War was the first war that received wide coverage on TV.

    Though, as far as the Internet goes, the war in Bosnia would be the first one that was widely covered on the Internet with services such as BosNet [], etc.


  • Public involvement in US policy is an illusion.

    The public does get involved. Who do the pollsters call? The public. All 1139 of them. The Nielsen Families of this 24/7 TV show called American Politics and Policy.

    Actually, people spend good money to filter damn near everything for public consumption, so we (the public) are left with the wide center-right "spectrum" of opinions when we turn on the TV or read the Op-Ed pages.

    A couple of recent magazine articles: "$1 Billion for Conservatives" [] and "Anti-Feminists Money Can Buy" []. Marketing has triumphed over ideas, independent thought, and enlightening discourse; everything has been reduced to a media war, even when there's no war at all.

    Has CNN and its peers even mentioned how this bombing campaign (which I support, BTW) pretty much trashes international law? If we're not bringing that into public (or talking-head) debate, something is seriously wrong. If the rule of law can be ignored, what prevents some country (or alliance) from launching missiles and smart bombs on the US the next time there's trouble in Los Angeles? I would probably have to support that too. I think I would, in fact.


  • Yes, CNN is great at covering War. Let's not forget how they defamed the Special Operations community in their appallingly inaccurate reporting on Operation Tailwind, of which they knew before hand that the story was false, and they ran it anyway. Ted Turner is to the military what Bill Gates is to the Open Source community.

    The producers, to this day, stand by their story; they're the ones who actually did the reporting and investigating -- I trust their judgment a hell of a lot more than I trust Tom Johnson's or Uncle Ted's. The suits at CNN (and the now-fired Peter "CYA" Arnett) were the ones who caved in to State and the Pentagon. If anyone's a "Bill Gates", you might want to look at Washington, not Atlanta, since CNN and the other major media are in thrall to (and the access to power that it rations out) -- they've been embraced and extended.

    If you think the US military can do no wrong, and that the "Special Operations community" was "defamed" by the report, I question your honesty, albeit ten days too late.


  • I still think the producers wouldn't have let the report see the light of day if they weren't convinced of its authenticity. The same armed forces that can secretly (i.e. unbeknownst to stateside civilians) bomb Cambodia could have pulled something like Tailwind.

    I took a cheap shot at you because you took one at CNN; I'm not the sort of person who normally defends them, but I was trying to be as unfair to you as you were being to them. If they made a mistake, fine; it doesn't automatically invalidate every second of CNN reportage.

    CNN didn't make any great attempt to find the truth of the matter (whatever that truth may be); they weren't in any position to stand up for anything or anyone, IMO -- they just wanted the controversy to go away, and they wanted to remain in the Pentagon's good graces. Then, according to one of the producers...

    CNN didn't [fire Arnett] last summer because they felt it would raise too much of an uproar. They hoped they could do it in such a way as to keep it off of the radar screen, so to speak...

    His firing was a direct result of Pentagon pressure. Perry Smith [a retired major general and former CNN consultant who resigned in protest over the Tailwind report] told the Wall Street Journal last July that CNN would not get cooperation from the Pentagon unless Peter Arnett was fired.

    Arnett's been in limbo since that time, IIRC; now he's officially fired -- I await his uncoerced-by-higher-ups version of events, years hence. All I know is: Doc Kissinger, pissed veterans, and the DoD have enough clout to tell people -- even Turner and Johnson -- that 2+2=5.


  • Yes, but you shouldn't have any illusions of journalism being objective. News coverage of wars are always biased, especially if you live in one of the countries that are fighting. The information you get from Nato about as objective as Serbian television. For example, Nato denied that a Stealth airplane was shot down as long as they could.

    Still, this is nothing new. In order to come closer to the truth you have to gather information from several sources and try to judge which one is closest to the truth. Usually, the mainstream media is pretty close, but not to close, since the truth can be very disturbing and uncomfortable. the quality of alternative media is more varying -- if you're lucky they're telling you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but they truth, but it might as well be nothing but lies and propaganda.

  • CNN's coverage of the Kosovo crisis has been appallingly poor. Slow, out of date, American-centric information. Are they the only news organisation yet to realise that the pentagon has nothing interesting to say on the subject and all the real news is coming out of NATO headquarters in Brussels?

    Try the BBC here [] if you want a decent, up-to-date web news source. Another nice thing about the BBC site is that they use RealAudio/Video for all their feeds rather than messing about with about 6 different formats as CNN are want to do. BBC News 24 (a 24hour news cable channel) is always available over the web here []. You can also get the news in Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Serbian, Albanian, Macedonian and a few others.


    P.S. John, scared Arkan is going to sue you with that "alleged" in there? Arkan is a brutal, murderous warlord, who once referred to himself as "the Hitler of the Balkans". He was responsible for the death of thousands in Bosnia and he's going to do the same in Kosovo if we let him.

  • The anonymous source is such a longstanding journalistic tradition...

    Quite true; however, Deep Throat was fronted by legitimate journalists. There's a difference between a journalist using an anonymous source and an anonymous journalist, which is how I read Katz's statement regarding semi-anonymous postings of events.

  • Every war since WWI has been a media war. The biggest threat to the US's genocidal military policies (not referring to Kossovo in this case) has been and is the American public.

    In every conflict since the FUBARed media PR situation during Vietnam, public discourse about the US's military involvements have been carefully bounded and channeled.

    In the cases of the Gulf and Yugoslavia, there has been no debate about wether the situation warrants US involvement, or wether the US has the mandate to intervene wherever it feels like. The debates are confined to what the length of the operation should be, and wether and when ground troops should be deployed. The American public then takes sides on those issues.

    Public involvement in US policy is an illusion.


  • You're right. We are eating big fat cow pies from CNN (which gets its news filtered by the state dept.).

    I've been reading war "coverage" on, which has the other sides of most US foreign policies. Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and the other American dissident intellectuals post their articles there.

    As for the 88 Nato dead, where did you read that? I'm sure it's true, no war is bloodless, but I'd like to read it myself.

    If anything, the internet makes it possible to circumvent the media and the state dept.'s propaganda about war. I say god bless it.


  • If Kosovo is an "Internet war", then was VietNam a "TV war", or World War II a "radio war"?

    Your not far off. Calling it an 'Internet War' doesn't refer to where the war takes place, or how it is fought, it refers to the medium which most people get the news about it and what shapes their views. The gulf war was very much a CNN war, where everyone watched CNN for the latest coverage, even those without cable saw CNN via FOX. Vietnam was the first televised war and I have heard it called a 'TV War'. I believe WWII was more News Reels they showed at theatres before the movie (or was that WWWI, it is long before my time.)

    Katz seems to be saying that this doesn't qualify as an 'Internet War' because the dominant medium is still television, not the internet.
  • Actually, it's quite sickening. Every non geek-only news site I visit has links upon links of Kosovo-related material. Even if I did not want to know what was going on over there, I'd have very few choices. I could not use the Internet. I could not watch TV. I could not listen to the radio. Those are THE only options. What's going on over there is tragic, but that's not what I want to hear ALL the time. The situation tomorrow is not going to be any different than the situation today. There will still be airstrikes, injustice, and refugees. What bugs me most is that news sources assume I want to know every "late-breaking" development over there. After all, it's the American way. Americans generally adore soap operas and gore, which strike ME as an odd combination. Be it your OJ, McVeigh, or JonBenet, Americans NEED to know everything. There's public demand for tragedies. That may sound sick, and even absurd, but think about it. America fell in love with the OJ trial.
    Everybody needed to know everything about it. Evidence was misused/misplaced/whatever and this and that and blah blah blah and what happened? He was found not guilty. Yet most of the "He's Guilty" believers still believe he's guilty. Yet he was found not guilty in a court of law. It was a damn soap opera, folks. And neither you nor I had any choice but to hear every bloody detail about it. Flipping through 73 channels of crap on cable, at least 5 channels at any one time have some sort of coverage of Kosovo. I know enough about it within 1 minute of reading in the morning to last me days. And these are just HEADLINES. This whole thing may be tragic, but aren't you getting sick of it? I know I am. Now, if it was World War III on the other hand, I'd be sure to take the steps to be informed. I'm getting sick of "All bad news All the time."
    Call me strange, but I actually ENJOY hearing about GOOD news... It's sad that bad news has priority over good news.
  • There are two things about this 'Internet war' concept which I think are fatally flawed.

    First, remember that old parable of the blind man describing an elephant?

    I think you'll get just as reliable information from a civilian describing a war. All they see is what's happening in their own backyard.

    Secondly, I would like to think that, unlike television, the loudest voice on the Internet is not the one with the most to gain. I would like to think that it is the one with the most to say -- But I would be gullible and idealistic to think that a vast and very personal communications medium is any less succeptable to propaganda or corruption than the mainstream media.

    If you received an email which read "Please stop bombing my home." Would you believe it? If you didn't, would you trust what you read online anymore?

    People are still going to flock to CNN because they know what CNN's motives are.

  • pfft.. whatever.. media is media.. people still form their own opinions.. and hopefully arent railroaded .. actually i'm probably wrong.. the next thing you know.. we will have ground-troop webcams.. sick sick world.. sigh

  • The problem with all this is that we keep getting more and more over our heads. If there was a civil war how many of our own military would turn? if our world were to fall into total economic collapse how far would world wide war be? how far are we from that now? We never intervened in south africa. we never intervened in Turkey killing kurds. How about china? Last I heard they still had most favored trade status who cares that they mowed down their own students with tanks. Now what are we doing? How long untill the world finally speaks up? how about the more cluefull of the american public? how long untill we break the walls that seem to blind us? Do we have to destroy the earth before we understand?
  • Of course there is no site called "", yet. As World War II was the first war with weekly movie news reels, and current radio reports of the fighting, and Vietnam was the first televised war, with the nightly news being filled with carnage, the next step is for live pictures of bomb cameras to be broadcast on the Internet.

    The military will not allow this for a variety of obvious reasons, but I am sure CNN would love to host the streaming video.

    Whether you agree with NATO's actions in Kosovo, this war is not being fought for entertainment value, as it has been argued for several previous US actions. Just wait for the next "Wag the Dog" style war, and see if there is not live web updates from the (highly sanitized) "front lines".

  • I'd like to suggest Americans go to
    Beograd.Com [] and click on the Java Chat. Go tell them you are from the U.S. It is an interesting experience to "hear from the enemy."
  • Some other good sources of information: m html

    US coverage is somewhat biased. I do not believe in wars when on one side there are only knights in shining armor and on the other are only brutal murderers.
  • Good article!
    (which probably explains the low flame count)

  • A lot of ppl seem to have got this wrong, along with Kats (my congrats on a good article btw). NATO web site was not hacked. It was a parody site that was.

    Offical NATO site : []

    NATO parody : []

    Hope that clears some of the confusion.
  • The Onion []'s fabulous new book, Our Dumb Century [], has a faked (as are all of them) headline: "CNN Declares War on Iraq"

    Doesn't that say it all?
  • Possibly the allegation is that the person on the other end of the Internet chat was Arkan, while the criminal nature of Arkan himself is not in dispute.

    On the Internet, nobody knows you're a brutal, murderous warlord.
  • "The military will not allow this for a variety of obvious reasons,"

    Huh? Which reasons are those? Surely by the time the bomb-cam coverage hits the Internet, it's far too late for defenders to do anything about it?

    "Oh, look can see our tank from the nose cone of the cruise missi--"
  • I was reading along, going "hey, Katz is actually mocking the clueless self-appointed visionaries [] whom he all-to-often resembles." I, for one, am sick of the endless, senseless hype, just like Katz appears to be.

    And then I run into the bit about anonymous posters and their credibility.

    Two words for you, big guy: Deep Throat. The anonymous source is such a longstanding journalistic tradition that your comment can only be construed as either ignorance or a quick backhand at the gasbags who relentlessly post mindless anonymous flamage regardless of the content of your actual post.

    And we know you're not ignorant. :)

  • I agree that talking about an internet war is a ridiculous mixing of apples and oranges. There is one thing, however, that adds a shade of difference. Check the latest issue of Aviation Week and Space Technology. There is the best public source discussion of the US' use of offensive information warfare to suppress the air defense missiles of the Yugoslav Armed Forces. Penetration of microwave nets and deliberate implantation of viruses figure prominently, as does the deliberate impairment of air defense missile radars to prevent them from achieving a lock up on NATO aircraft. This is certainly an offensive information warfare conflict, even if the Internet content of it is minimal.

  • (It would be kind of like using graffiti as propoganda).

    Three words: YANKEE GO HOME.

    Seen all over Europe in/after WW2.


  • I was an operator on #earthquake during the California earthquake (look for Corax in the logs). My "job" was to stop channel takeovers and, boy, was I kept busy.

    IRC was an important source of information during and immediately after the quake. I can remember chatting to guy from AP and CNN. Ham radio operators set up a channel and news was getting passed back and forth via ham radio and across IRC.

    That was a lot more significant, in my opinion.

  • I received an interesting SPAM yesterday. I can't confirm who it is from, but from the headers it appears to have come from or through It is a very pro-serb letter. For the full body of this email, Click here []. Could governments be using spam to send out war propaganda?
  • Here's my confused tyrade.

    It's just like the "war" on linux. Since 95 - we've known that the linux kernel had surpassed MS's kernels. But it's only in the last MONTHS.. WEEKS even, that Linux has been seen as "okay" for certain uses.

    Now, I'm going to extend this parable into Serbia - even though I admit I don't know what is happening there. The only real contact I've had is with (They're now shut down) So don't beat me up too much!

    I do know that atleast 88 nato soldiers are dead. I've seen the video of the trasfer of the bodies into montinegro(?). I talked with my Mother-in-Law, and casually asked here how many people died in Vietnam.. she said they all died after the "action" was over. In other words, the government knows that if dead bodies were rolling out, there'd be a damn good chance that Opposition in NATO would grow exponentially.

    Currently, 150,000 Ethnic Albanians live in Belgrade. So far, I havn't heard anybody being trucked from there.

    On the other hand, Albanians are telling stories of rape, murder, and other inhuman acts. So what is really going on there? I'd say that sites such as CNN and BBC have a big role in swaying public oppinion. In other words, they arn't telling the truth. Why was Serbian TV destroyed? "Propoganda supression?" Ha, how ironic. Serbia has over 300000 satellite dishes. (Sky TV, CNN, BBC, everyone). Now, suddenly they're silent of local news. Ofcouse in Serbia, people actually know their neighbors.

    My biggest confusion is over They were the independant free press of Belgrade. Yet, even though they chided the government for it's policies - they never reported any riots. Who has the truth?

    In other words, we're not big enough to handle the truth. Everyone in this world is eating a big fat cow pie from the news. And any writer who is writing the truth, is washed out by the noise.

    People are dying.. It's like that machine in Quake II where the bodies are flying out the pipes into the pools. Who's running the machine is anyone's guess.

    If anybody has truth coming out of the region, I'm more than willing to help amplify. In other words, independant news from Albania and FRY.. What I'd really like to see is people with casette recorders interviewing refugees. Videos and independant reporting from Serbia.

    After all, if government is watched by the media, who watches the media these days? (My guess would be the government.)

    Write me at
  • C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre...

    (props to Pynchon :)

  • Katz writes, "Anonymous posters have little credibility precisely because nobody knows who they are. For all their faults, journalists are accountable for the things they report. Anonymous posters have little credibility precisely because nobody knows who they are. For all their faults, journalists are accountable for the things they report."

    The credibility of anonymous posters has less to do with "nobody knows who they are" and more to do with having no reputation capital. To borrow some Katz-isms, geeks build reputation capital by writing code and distributing it. Journalists build it by writing stories. You're judged by what you produce, and if you're truly anonymous, there's no basis for past comparison.

    This does not apply only to anonymous posters. When Katz came to Slashdot, he had no reputation capital as far as I was concern. Heck, I thought he was a professional therapist who wiggled a lot, but that's Dr. Katz. He may be a journalist, but I'd never heard of him.

    Which leads to my main point: Just because you're hearing it from someone who is a "credible journalist" doesn't mean you should accept it on it's face. Bad and even fraudulent journalism happens occassionally. I seem to remember one Pulitzer prize winner in the last decade that was later revealed to be a complete fabrication (some anti-drug piece). Reporters are supposed to verify their stories with multiple sources, doesn't always happen for various reasons.

    In this respect, anonymous writers are no worse off than those with reputation capital: ALL reporting needs some form of independent verification before it should be considered credible. This is where the anonymity comes it: The well-known credible journalists sometimes can't get the story because no one is willing to talk to them, and then it takes the anonymous source to get enough information out for the regular journalists to investigate. Case in point: the previously-mentioned "Deep Throat" of Watergate.

    (If there's a blank comment, sorry. I apparently hit return once too often and it made it submit. Probably not cancelled in time. Might I suggest, CmdrTaco, if you read this, reordering the Submit and Preview buttons, so that the worst-case is that the message gets previewed instead of submitted? I'm hoping the code rejects empty messages anyway.)

  • Is this a Internet war? My initial inclination says a big no. After all, its bombs and guns doing the damage.

    However it undoubtedly is playing a part, even if it is for just spooning spin. 14 days or so ago, the public was totally against sending in Ground troops. Now the public opinion is going the other way.

    This does strike me as an 'Internet speed' turn around in public opinion.

    How big a part has the Internet facilitated in this change?

  • Yes, according to the article, there are Serbs sending out pro-Serbian spam. I wish I had the article with me but I was reading the boss's copy (in other words, couldn't cut it out and bring it home to post here.)

    Ya know, the least effective way to get someone to agree with you on an issue is to spam them about it...but then again to get the addresses someone probably answered one of those "Millions of Addresses!" spams. :o)

    I don't think the Serbian government was mentioned as the spam source, of course youneverknow but I don't really think they would bother with such an inefficient technique.
  • The war is not going to be fought on the internet. But there are a few reasons that the internet can be a positive thing for those in Kosovo. First of all, it gives a fortunate few a chance to get their minds off the war. Secondly, it removes the feeling of total isolation from the rest of the world. Finally, it acts as a source of information when information may be somewhat hard to come by.
    Think about it: Hell's breaking loose in the nearby towns and cities, and you're starting to feel not only scared, but alone. You wonder if there is any news about the chance of a cease-fire. You log on and start looking up information on your hobby (say, car repair). You check out a few sites and begin to relax a bit. Then you go on the #autorepair channel on IRC and talk a little. Finally, feeling slightly relaxed, you head over to a news site (perhaps, in spite of yourself). No ceasefire, and good ol' Milo is still being an ass. Damn. But it doesn't seem as discomforting as it might have before.
    I dunno... I'm not going to give in to the clichè of calling the internet a refuge. But it can be a comfort. And with all that's going on right now, I'm sure those in Kosovo will take any comfort they can get.
    Just my $0.02
  • Apparently by design, but this war attempts to use information as a weapon the same as smart bombs. Instead of ground troops, Bill and co. has decided to win his private little war using threats, sound bytes and by DECLARING ON TV WHERE THE NEXT NATO AIR STRIKE WILL BE. Is not the purpose of war to destroy things, taking them by surprise? And the media does it's part, by taking taking taking all the information they can and wanting still more. I can't wait to turn on the TV and hear about the "top secret rescue mission for the three captured soldiers. According to NATO forces, an elite team of American soldiers will enter Belgrade from the east and secure the hostages. The rendezous point will be an abandoned air strip to the north, and they must be there by 2300 hours Sunday or they will be left behind and the President will deny all knowledge of the rescue attempt."

    Using the internet for information is not the problem; it's the information itself. I know that most people in this audience have a healthy mistrust for the government (I do as well, especially for this draft dodging hypocrite's administration) but let the military have the freedom to run this massive operation without every move being broadcast throughout the world.
  • US coverage is somewhat biased. I do not believe in wars when on one side there are only knights in shining armor and on the other are only brutal murderers.

    For the US public, that's the only kind of war. Most Americans believe without thinking what is said on TV. Our war efforts tend to rely on the fact that our citizens have forgotten that our country was founded on the mistrust of government. The American propaganda machine is one of the best on Earth, and most people here have fallen for it totally. (And yes, I am having a hard time with linear paragraph construction this morning -- it's early yet.)


  • A different twist on this...I remember a few weeks back on TLC their was a show about the kinds of "cracking" and miss-information attacks the US military was conducting on Iraq during the Gulf War. I wonder if this kind of thing is going on agains Serbia/Yugoslavia? I really wonder what kind of infrastructure Serbia has which would be vulnerable to this kind of attack. It would be ironic that a country with very few computer and technological resources would be better protected in modern warefare BECAUSE of this technical inferiority not superiority.
    Has anyone heard of any expliots against the Milocvic (sp?) regime? I'm not sure that this is even possible....

  • Iraq had nowhere near the internet penetration that Serbia has, so I believe this to be the first war that can be "fought" virtually as well as in reality. Certainly there are a lot of Serbian site []s out there, and email lists, and first-hand news from Belgrade is being distributed in the lightning fast way that is the net.

    I wonder how long it will be before NATO decides to have a potshot at Serbia's internet connectivity. Its a difficult target to hit (you can fry the landlines, but not the satellites and certainly not the connectivity of Serbians in the West). On the other hand, they really should leave the link alone, because it allows the Serbians to get some information that does not originate from Milosevic and hence stops him from brainwashing attempts. And it allows us to hear their horror stories and reminds us of the consequences of the actions of NATO in real human terms, so we are not anaesthatised from the tragedy that we participate in.
  • The little stuff that happens over the net regarding this conflict is just that... little stuff. Another cracked website is no big deal. However, i think the email being broadcast makes a strong case for the encryption argument.

    All in all, this "war" has nothing to do with the internet other than use it as a medium for communication between the outside world to and from the area of war.

    The internet may be a tool of war, but it is not "the war."

  • I don't live in Serbia, but I do speak Serbian as a second language, so I'm able to compare the TV news that people in Serbia get to see with what is shown on news stations like CNN, SKY news, BBC world etc.

    The main difference is doubt. The western media is full of doubt. They interview Serbian representatives, they question political figures, they have pundits representing various points of view.

    Serbian TV is full of certaneity. There is no doubt, there is only one truth, and that truth can be completely changed from one day to the next. If a foreign politician voices something which can be interpreted as in any way favorable of Serbia, he is a coragous paragon of wisdom. If the next day the same person utters something moderately critical of Milosevic, the same TV anchor will with a straight face declare them a "serb-hater from way back".

    And the Belgrade TV method is to repeat the same point over and over (and over) again, so even when the people see what is true and what isn't they still believe the TV rather than their own eyes. I've had occasion to compare Belgrade TV reports of events I've witnessed to what I saw.

    By the end of the news I was ready to believe in alternate realities, the differences were that bad.

    The internet gives people in Serbia the chance to see other views, but not everybody wants to hear other views, and even when they do, 12 years of Belgrade TV propaganda has brainwashed them to a point where they can't recognise truth when they see it.

  • check out undernet #kosovo sometime

    I've talked to people from the Balkans. One guy
    said he has seen crashed planes and helicopters
    in Bosnia.

    Some nights I can feel the hate some of these
    people have for each other.

  • Although I agree that strictly speaking this certainly isn't an "Internet War," the fact of the matter is that the Internet, as a means of communication, has had a significant impact on those who have access to it, as evidenced by the figures relating to CNN online readership that Mr. Katz has presented us.

    As for his point that this war is more suited to so-called 'traditional' media, I can't help but laugh; anything printed in a reputable paper is available online from various distribution outlets. If Reuters and the Associated Press aren't enough, the CBC, BBC and CNN each produce a plethora of online articles daily. More importantly, they provide searchable databases of past reports, something that no newspaper, radio or television station can provide.

    One might note that television has an obvious edge over print media inasmuch as video coverage is often far more spectacular than a written story and a few photographs, but one must also consider that television isn't particularly conducive to independent thinking. These 'traditional' media tend to present a one-sided perspective of the news, a situation in strict opposition to the eclectic variety of standpoints one invariably finds on the Internet.

    Mr. Katz is right: this isn't an "Internet War". But he's in claiming that coverage of this war is more suited to television, radio or newspaper. If anything, it's more important than ever that each individual makes up his own mind on such an important issue; this isn't a comparison of toaster ovens, it's blood, death and human lives. If a person simply accepts the one-sided reporting found in 'traditional' media without considering the opposing arguments, he is doing himself a great disservice. With all the freedom of expression the Internet provides, it would be a shame to not take advantage of it.

  • Jon:

    I really think you should refrain from commenting about war. Period. The last time you commented, you suggested this was a "technowar". Now it seems you come to the realization that this war has a face that's all too human and that real suffering is occuring. But of course, you are probably only thinking about the families that are either on the receiving end of NATO bombs, or on the receiving end of an atrocity that you will never experience or even see first hand.

    To quote some other genius: "War is Hell". But there is a hell of lot more to it than machines, advanced microchips, sensing equipment and delivery systems. We have sent real people over there to fight, and to guide these machines, nothing more than tools really, to try and end some of the suffering, by inflicting more suffering. As much as you deny it, lives are at risk. The men and women from our country who are over there, and their families who miss them and are worried sick about them, are certainly not mechanical. There is real suffering, of a different nature of course than the other two previously mentioned class of people, being experienced by our countrymen also.

    So, I guess you can remark all you want on the sordid morality of it all, but please don't deny the effort and sacrifices that thousands of others are making to try and end it. It may not be the best solution, but those who have to impliment the plan, didn't devise it. Some other guy who knows just as much, apparently as you, about war and military strategy did.

    The Internet is a media outlet to those who chase news on it. One group is trying to blast the other's antenna(ie; server) from a remote location, nothing more. The Internet is much more than that of course, to many others, but since I don't have a buzzword bingo card handy, I'll refrain from stating the obvious.

    The media is just as ridiculous as you are Jon, for trying to be emphatic and clear about something for which they have little understanding. In their case it's the 'Net, in your case it's war.

  • Yes, CNN is great at covering War. Let's not forget how they defamed the Special Operations community in their appallingly inaccurate reporting on Operation Tailwind, of which they knew before hand that the story was false, and they ran it anyway. Ted Turner is to the military what Bill Gates is to the Open Source community.
  • It seems that you have very little to go on, other than general assumptions, and incorrect ones at that. I have spoken with men who were involved in the planning and the conduct of the mission themselves. I have never heard of, nor has anyone I have spoken with, any mission which targeted POWs or so called "deserters" or whatever CNN called them. The military does not perform such missions and never has. Since I know participants, I am in a position to know. You sir, are not. You are only in a position to throw mud because you've been fed a line and apparently have bitten down hard.

    Don't you remember the part where there were hundreds of angry veterans protesting that the story was a lie? When was the last time you heard hundreds of people arguing passionately about something they had total conviction in that their position was the truth? I didn't see CNN doing that. They released a story saying they would investigate and see if what the veterans said was true. Why would they need to do that, unless they didn't do a good job of it the first time(ie; they were not sure that the story was credible, even after they aired it, to the detriment of every family whose relative as MIA, as well as to the detriment of the men who conducted the mission?

    If you think a multibillion dollar company won't stand up to pressure put on them when the stand is based on principle, ie; the chance that Arnett was correct, then you are wrong. They would never have done that unless, low and behold, they found out that Arnett was wrong.

    As to them standing by their story, they are involved in litigation over that story and the stakes are very high. Do you seriously think they would admit fault, pay $100M and lose all credibility as a source of news? Guess again. You say you trust their judgement "a hell of a lot more", etc... I guess the profit motive and CNN using this story to try and propel their new "hardcopy" type show means nothing to you? Did you even consider that, or did that not hit your stream of ill-concieved logic since it may disprove your theory that they have good judgement?

    Selective reporting? Heavy editing? Ever hear of it? Perhaps I can insinuate that you are an idiot, and include the parts of your comments that would support my argument and omit the ones where you sound credible. Perhaps that is something that people would want to hear since I could write it in such a way as to sound scandalous? Perhaps I could use that in a new venue I could create and a lot of people would tune in to see how stupid you really are. I could sell ad space there and perhaps some of those visitors would tune in again and I'd get some repeat viewers. Sound familiar? I don't suppose that is what CNN did to get their ratings, is it? No, they are far too honest for that, aren't they?

    Also, I never stated the US military can do no wrong, did I? That's just more cold water you are trying to throw on me. But since you don't know me, and can't possibly know what I think, then I guess that kind of sums up your position on "embracing and extending" now doesn't it?

  • If you think I took a cheap shot at CNN, imagine how the men who performed that mission felt at what CNN did to them.

    You are correct in that if the military could secretly bomb a country, that it is also capable of performing other covert operations. There is no leap involved in that deduction. However, that does not include shooting the citizens of our own country, and fellow soldiers at that. That crosses a line that no man I know would be willing to EVER cross, and that includes the ones I know who were involved in that mission.

    Arnett was fired because he deserved to be fired, for broadcasting a story that insinuated a lie, and for omitting significant facts that would debunk the insinuation (ie; he was the one who hid the extra "1" and made 2+2 appear to equal 5). Look to see if he files suit against CNN for it, then look to see how it is resolved. That's where the truth will be determined, where disinterested parties make the decisions regarding where the truth really does lie. I know where the smart money will be bet, and it's not on Arnett.

    If Arnett fabricated a story, or left out significant facts on an event and the story was about you, I don't think you'd be wrong to tell Arnett to get fscked either, and give him no more additional information on anything. I think it would be entirely appropriate that you did so, whether you did so as a private citizen, major public figure, or government entity.

    He didn't burn a bridge by exposing the truth, he did it by fabricating a false conclusion and ommiting facts from his story. There is a difference. But, I can understand how someone might misinterpret that and see it as he is banned for exposing a truthful story that no one wanted out. The fact that there were no veterans stepping forward, even anonymously, to corroborate Arnett is pretty significant to me.

    Now, if your bar tilted higher in favor of the media cause you think the people working there are inherently more honest that people who have served in the military you should consider that we're all pretty much the same. We have the same same desires and fears and hate a lie about ourselves more than anything. Is it just that you trust people - more or less - based on what they do for a living? Is that a leap?

  • I don't know about the overall validity of this site, but it seems to present a much different side of the conflict (i.e. Why do you keep bombing empty buildings 350 miles away from Kosovo?)

    It takes more than one perspective to see things objectively. That's simple reality folks.

    check it out(http://solair.eunet.yu/~djuricic/) [eunet.yu]
  • I seem to remember getting a message on a similar topic a few weeks ago (it was a totally different message though, so it probably wasn't from the same source). It seems unlikely to me that a government would use spam as a form of propoganda, seeing as it is a highly distrusted form of information. (It would be kind of like using graffiti as propoganda). Just a guess, but this type of message is probably from the same group of people that send out the "I'm dying from cancer please keep this chain mail alive so that I can stay alive....." nonsense.
  • Agreed, BBC coverage has been much better all around than CNN's. CNN has gotten really shallow in their reporting and I rarely bother with then anymore -- they are ear/eye snippets for tv junkies.

    From what I remember when I used to watch CNN, they seem to be much more interested in selling advertising than doing news: The number of ad minutes per hour is horrendous.
  • ....when 85% of the world's population have never made a telephone call.

  • Interesting idea there, that the internet is the medium of the "Kosovo conflict." Some of the other commentors commented on the lack of effectiveness and news organizations only going to the official source for information, which is sanitized for your protection.

    Now, we have the opportunity to get the information on a war, but unfiltered. Its all editorials from amateur correspondents, with no professional ones at all.

    While it is rough, it is a start. Now we, the net community have a chance to bypass official sources and get first hand opinions and facts. We no longer have to engage the debate solely on the predefined terms that the media uses. With a wider range of information avaialble, we can begin to finally decide for ourselves what to beleive or not, and on what terms the debate will be engaged.

    Lord only knows what will come of this, but it will be interesting, especially for the next war.
  • I'm just addressing this one bit directly, because I happen to have knowledge of it.

    The Patriot was 50% effective. The attempt to discredit it further was done by the Israel, who wants the US to fund their development of a competitive missile.

    The major in command of the Patriot batteries protecting Tel Aviv is a friend of mine, and he's spoken a fair bit about the situation there. The Israelis took credit for much of what the American millitary did, and Israeli reporters were afraid to say otherwise for fear of being drafted.

    After the war, an Israeli military official came to him and insisted -- with videotaped evidence -- that the Patriot had been completely ineffective. Turned out that the actual strikes between Patriot and missile had occurred between frames (once one considers the speeds involved, this becomes quite reasonable). This tape, however, made it onto the news and to Congress, giving the public the impression that the Patriot had been ineffective. When, in Congress, the Patriot finally cleared itself... well, no coverage was forthcoming.

    Something 'bout that "only-covering-bad-news" thing; Even the topics do cover, they cover ineffectively. Effing' media !#$$@s.
  • Hmm... Anyone remember the IRC - Gulf War connection? I am sure someone can discuss it much better than me. But, if there was a "first internet war" wouldn't that qualify more?

    Just reading some IRC history may remind me enought to come back and comment, but, I am supprised no one has already said something significant about it. Anyone?

  • Katz is right to note that a lot of the "Internet
    War" hype is just that --- hype. However, the
    existence of the Net does make small differences.

    For instance, let's grant that this is a war best
    covered by traditonal press (if only because one
    side has only access to reporters, and not
    directly to the Net). Still, there's more than
    one traditional press in the world, and the Net
    does give access to the others. Some of the best
    coverage I've been reading, for instance, is in
    the French daily Le Monde ( --- of
    course you have to read French to get the full

    (BTW, they've been covering some aspects of
    the situation which I really haven't seen in
    American media --- for instance, reflecting on
    how this situation impacts the mess in Russia,
    and vice versa).

  • I've got to agree somewhat. To many of us, the Internet is the biggest and best source of news around; however, I'm sure >90% of the world rarely or never uses the Internet. Until a larger chunk of the population gets Internet access, (and I doubt it will reach TV levels anytime soon, too many couch potatoes) TV/radio will be the dominant news medium.
  • The media tries to get people to read/watch/listen
    They look at the internet and say "ooh, this newfangled thing, people will pay attention to us if we talk about it!". They look at war and say "ooh, war! If people are still people, they WILL read about war!". They figure that if they combine the two, and hype it a lot, instant success! readers/watchers/listeners galore! So they do...and the average Joe reads watches and listens.
  • Bill and co. has decided to win his private little war using threats, sound bytes and by DECLARING ON TV WHERE THE NEXT NATO AIR STRIKE WILL BE. Is not the purpose of war to destroy things, taking them by surprise?

    Not necessarily. During World War II, the United States would announce to the Japanese public which cities would be bombed, so that they could evacuate before the attack. The idea was, factories and military emplacements cannot be relocated as easily as civilians, the civilians would evacuate, reducing civilian casualties, etc. In practice, it also had an incredibly demoralizing effect on the Japanese citizens: if the enemy could announce an attack beforehand and carry it out, then the enemy was superior.

    ________________________________________________ ___

  • by Kestrel ( 1301 ) on Monday April 12, 1999 @09:31AM (#1939130) Homepage
    "The establishment" -- whatever that means -- has learned their lessons from Vietnam in how they will allow a war to be covered. We don't see frightening images from front lines anymore. We see the press conference images that the military wants us to see. During the "Gulf War" we saw nightly images of some general or another showing tapes of "smart bombs" hitting targets and patriot missles hitting Scuds. Never mind that the patriot BARELY works at all and that plenty of innocents were killed by the bombing, we are presented images of nice clean "surgical" warfare where hypothetically only the bad guys are killed.

    What is a shame is that people go flocking to CNN for the "official" government spoon fed fare and we don't see a proliferation of alternative means of news being used on the internet.

    I think that very soon gone will be the days of stories like the CIA drug operations and soon all we will see on the net is "E-commerce" sites that we go to via the approved "web portals". Witness the "Linux revolution" being played out in the press. When I look at the mainstream press cover linux, what do I see? Red Hat, and sometimes Caldera being covered, with Linus as a sanitised folk hero and RMS as a nut. I have yet to see a review of FreeBSD, Debian or any other totally free project... even Gnone fits in only in that it will become part of commercial offerings.

    Even Slashdot, I hate to say, has really become just yet another way of supporting commercial interests. "Look at the neat new gadgets you can buy" or links to approved official sites. Those ZD people must love all the traffic slashdot funnels to them. Less attention is given to non-profit sites run by members of our "community".

    Anyway, it just saddens me how well what Mills would call "the power elite" has become at not squashing revolutionary new movements, but how well they can embrace them and make them their own. The enviromental movement, Open Source software, the "free" internet... they either control or are in the process of taking total control of all of these things...

    Sorry for rambling, gotta get to class..

  • by Stephen Williams ( 23750 ) on Monday April 12, 1999 @09:22AM (#1939131) Journal

    If Kosovo is an "Internet war", then was VietNam a "TV war", or World War II a "radio war"?

    Nowadays, the Web can be used as TV and radio are used - as a mass communications medium to broadcast to the world. It can carry truth, and it can carry propaganda, in the same way that TV and radio do. In the past (and indeed in this war), opposing forces have worked to knock out the opposition's communications, by destroying TV and radio transmitters and jamming signals. Cracking NATO's website is analagous to this kind of activity; the difference being that Web-based attacks aren't purely the domain of the military.

    The war isn't being fought with the Net. It's being fought with aircraft, missiles, bombs and guns. Those are the things that are killing people.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen