Back in the Vietnam era, the Pentagon and the press played cat-and-mouse games over war coverage. It was a battle of behemoths. No more. Welcome to the Internet age, where unfiltered combat footage garners 12m hits in four days. Where Twitter unleashes Holy hell. Where everyone’s a journalist and no one has complete control over the information flow. Now that every rifle can have a camera-mount for instant upload, and we can second-guess an individual soldier’s actions (“I came out into the open to draw fire so my squad could get to safety”), is truth still the first casualty of war? What does all this mean for the way wars are waged?

36 Responses to Question of the Day: Does YouTube Change the Face of War?

  1. Public Audit of warfare has been a feature of Western civilization since local farmers got together on their own time to form civil militias and ended up building Athenian democracy. The distance at which a nation could project force (and the institution of military censors for mail) narrowed the info channel for a time, allowing more lies to survive, but it’s now reverting to something closer to the kibitzability of centuries past.

  2. He was in a very exposed position. Rounds were kicking up dust very near to him and it was only a matter of luck that he made it as far as he did before he got hit.

    Welcome to the shitstorm. Great way to bring your parents and family with you. I tried to shield my mother from the realities of my time in service and now we got guys youtubing their bad moments.

  3. Robert,
    Loaded up the video out of curiosity. Got half-way through and stopped out of nausea/that sinking pit in my stomach. Like many who have seen this stuff first hand, I don’t care to see it anymore. I think somethings are best kept in the dark. Not sure if this is the appropriate forum for a video like this, but hey, it is your website (an excellent site at that).

  4. Hopefully more people see it and get that sick stomach and think twice about sending our troops to protect the interests of other countries and corporations and leaving our borders wide open and putting our NATIONAL defense last.

  5. It was painful to watch as he lay there yelling “I’m hit!” and “Help me”. I was just hoping to see him get moved as a team mate got him out of there. Glad to know he’s ok. The comment section on youtube pissed me off with all the people calling out fake and then talking of how all engagements are supposed to be like COD.

    • +1 YouTube comments always have a way of drawing out the worst.

      Sure, you can criticize the guy for being in the open when he got hit, but personally, it was painful to watch the video after the rounds started hitting his gun and him… I kept waiting for a buddy to drag him to safety or check him. I’m sure for the guy behind the camera, it must have seen like an eternity before he got out of there.

  6. When my great grandpa fought in WWI for the Canadian army, he didn’t think about the legality of how he ventilated the occupants of two German MG nests that killed almost everyone in his platoon. He did what he had to to survive the war and keep as many of his men alive as possible. Also, nobody at home knew what was going on “over there” so nobody felt a need to question it.

    Now that anyone can whip out a camera and get near instant feedback from millions of people, warfare as our parents and grandparents knew it has more or less become a game of lawyers, ethics, and publicity. The current situation in Afghanistan is hardly a war by early 20th century standards, and our military probably has a thicker rule book than your local DMV.

  7. lets face it, Youtube- no, the INTERNET changed almost everything. In fact, I think it even saved gun rights as well, side-by-side with video games. I’d probably be very anti-gun if it wasn’t for the internet.

  8. Sure, YouTube has changed the face of war, but so what. Nations are still making war on other nations as well as on their own people, so while the face of war has changed, the bodies remain the same.

  9. Personally I don’t see much of a difference between black and white film of Bloody Tarawa beaches with bodies floating in the surf or brave GIs charging out of the surf on Normandy to drop in their tracks when hit by MG fire. Yes its in color, and higher def. But I see it all the same. Matter of fact, Matthew Brady had a helluva influence of public opinion of the Civil War with his haunting photos of the battlefields across America.

    Go back and watch John Huston’s Battle of San Pietro or John Fords Battle of Midway. Tell me that the GIs you see there are somehow less dead, wounded or scared by war.

    http://archive.org/details/battle_of_san_pietro

    http://archive.org/details/BattleOfMidway

  10. What pisses me off the most about combat footage on Youtube (or anywhere else) is the endless Monday Morning Quarterbacking by a bunch of keyboard commandos it generates.

    My response to these twerps is simply: “Why don’t you enlist and show everyone how it’s done?”

    My only thought upon seeing that troop pinned down was: “Screw it. They were savages when we arrived. They’ll be savages after we leave. If we want to change that country, drop a load of Sahara DG at a rate of 10lb/acre over the entire country and call it done. Bring our guys home and quit this Ivy League intellectual onanism that we’re going to ‘bring democracy’ to these nations.”

  11. Every time I see something like this it reminds me why I didn’t join the military, and makes me pray (though I don’t pray often) that this stuff never comes to our backyard.

  12. Not difficult to watch, difficult to sit still and watch. With that sort of first person perspective, the desire to return fire / help the guy is almost overpowering.

    This is why we need more A10s.

    • Faster A10s with even more guns plz! I’ve loved those planes since I was a kid and I saw them do a simulated attack at Edwards AFB.

      • A10’s have been my favorite airplane since birth. They might not be the prettiest but holy shit that gatling cannon is Thor’s hammer incarnate.

    • Agree on the sentiment that its hard to sit still and watch not being able to return fire or help fix the enemies position. Even harder not to be able to grab his harness able pull him out.

  13. Um…is it just me, or was that one of the worst tactical situations/decisions you’ve seen in a while? Running down a hillside, in the line of fire with no cover…no backup…what was the strategy here? Where was he going? Where was his backup?

    Ok, to the main point – yes, it’s changing warfare. For good AND bad. Good – we have first hand accounts of what our soldiers go through. We can further understand and empathize…it also gives a forum for soldiers to spread their truths/experiences vs the crap that is fed to the US public by the military. Bad in the sense that much of what is seen are snippets, taken out of context and used against our soldiers that are doing a very tough mission.

    I’m all for more transparency but with it also comes a cost.

    • In the video comments it says that he was doing recon on the village below. The rest of the patrol were pinned down, so he went out on the hillside to draw fire. Lucky for him, the distance and rise from the Taliban shooter were great enough that the enemy rounds could not pierce his armor. He took a beating, but everybody got out whole.

  14. It’s a tactic that is probably not so good in hind sight, but stranger stuff has worked before. The down side is that the squad he wanted to get free is now further encumbered to get him out from an even worse situation. But if it worked he would have been a hero.

    I hope he recovers soon. We need more brave men like him.

  15. You tube does not change the face of war, just the way we look at it. We are in a strange situation as a country. We are fighting a war without paying for it, financially or morally. Previous entanglements, Americans were vested in the wars, financially via bonds and morally, because we actually had standing to bring violence to the enemy. Today neither seems to be the case, and as such we have become inure to fighting as a nation, so we seek it out as entertainment, via video games, cinema and now You tube as well. While individually, we may cry out against the posting of this type of videos, as a nation-well let’s just say we hypocritically thrive on the misery of others. For those who dare cry foul-explain “reality” programming’s chokehold on broadcasters’ schedules.

  16. Robert,
    You should have posted the whole section from Military.com or even the youtube video description, where this was originally uploaded from.

    The soldiers squad was doing overwatch when they were ambushed and he was trying to draw fire…

  17. A question for the vets. I’ve seen any number of videos from these wars, but in not one can I actually see what the troops are shooting at. In this one, for example, his shooting seemed in rather random directions, as if he did not kow where the firing was coming from. Is this just an artifact of the video camera, or are we fighting long range shadow wars?

    • Not a vet, but the soldier can not take the time to change the focus of the camera to bring his targets into view, so you are stuck with a fixed PoV.

  18. been watchin FUNKER530 for awhile. whenever they load up the belt fed guns and go to town, all i can think about is my tax money getting transformed into suppressive fireworks.

    -hopefully that’s the closest experience i’ll have to actually being shot at. never know though.

  19. The face of war has never changed. It has always been, and will continue to be, ugly and vile. YouTube and other media/technology have only made it more accessible and visceral, in “real” time. Now that’s progress.

  20. I just don’t get why people have a problem with this video. Does it make you think? Good. Does it get the juices flowing? Good. If we are going to go to be at war, we need to know the TRUTH of what war is. Not someone’s opinion, not someone spinning things for their own benefit.

    Every single American that has gone to Aghan or Iraq did so as a volunteer. I think that those that are willing to go, should have some idea of what could be out there, and those that send America’s sons and daughters to war should see on a personal level what those that serve endure.

    As for myself I don’t care much about Afghanistan. I do care that that brave men and women are seeking out and exterminating the enemies of our country. War is not glorious, but I am inspired by those that have placed themselves in harms way.

    To those that have been and done. I thank you.

  21. The video doesn’t seem real to me. Is it real? He is entirely too calm when he is hit. Also he is yelling and screaming for others but there seems to be no one there but himself. Where is the rest of the squad and why is there just the noise of what seems to be him and a machine gunner? Has the video been verified as real?

    • You apparently have never hunted or been around people that were shot, have you? Let’s just say that most soldiers like to go back to base and relax with some Shoot-em-up games because they are more fun and show more blood.

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