Unless mine is the only State blog that you read, you already know that there are two HUGE blogging-related, State Department firestorms out there on the internet right now... and both are related. One has to do with State bloggers and the ACLU, and the other has to do with State bloggers and the official list of such on the right-hand side of the State Department's state.gov website.
Simply put, the State Department has two completely opposite opinions when it comes to social media (like blogging). One side of State wants nothing more than to shut down all State blogs. Period. Blogs by employees, blogs by spouses, it doesn't matter - all of them should be GONE.
My husband has personally seen this side of State many, many times, via many different official people, during the course of an uncountable number of official meetings over the last few years. As many of my readers know, my blog has been shut down twice...most recently, just a couple of months ago. The only reason why my blog is up now and still exists today is because my DS Special Agent husband feels most emphatically that:
1.) I am a private U.S. citizen, and
2.) My blog represents/is protected by my right to freedom of speech.
Believe me when I say that he has endured much in defense of his position.
My husband is not alone in his belief that blogging is protected, free speech. Recently, the ACLU has jumped headfirst into the nasty fight currently going down between State and Peter van Buren. In support of blogging/free speech, the ACLU has written quite the awesomest of letters. In it, the ACLU says that State's blogging policies/practices are far, far too restrictive. That State's punitive actions against bloggers are unconstitutional. (And the ACLU hasn't even touched on the issue of other shut-down blogs or even the fact that non-employee SPOUSES write a large amount of State blogs.)
According to Diplopundit, if I understand correctly, State's initial reaction to the ACLU letter regarding bloggers' rights was to immediately... forbid all employees to read the letter.
(Can they even DO that? If so, on what grounds? It sort of looks like they classified the letter. Again, can they do that??)
So, yeah. That's one side of State - the side that hates blogging. With a passion.
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There's another side of State - the side that loves State blogs and blogging. In fact, just as much as the anti-blogging side wants nothing put out on the internet at all, the pro-blogging side can't get enough from us official State bloggers about State, our lives with State, our travels, our experiences, etc.
(And I refer to myself as an "official State blogger" because, again, State keeps an official List of bloggers on the right side of its official state.gov website, and I've been on that List since the very first day it came out a few years ago. I'm actually listed *first*! Alphabetization! WOO!)
When The List first appeared and I was asked to be on it, James and I were overjoyed because we (mistakenly) thought that being on The List would thus mean that James would stop getting harassed by official channels over my blog. Because, you know, we figured that since I was all OFFICIAL NOW AND STUFF, that meant that I would have some semblance of authentication or protection or something.
HA HA HA!!!
Being on The Official Blog List actually painted an even bigger bulls eye on my back. And not just on my back, but on the backs of other State bloggers on The List. To date, to my knowledge, at least three State bloggers (and perhaps even up to five) on The List have since been shut down. And there were probably, oh, I don't know, only about a dozen or so blogs on that List when it began. So, you know, not the best odds of bloggy survival.
So, basically, to recap: The pro-blogging side of State puts The Official List together and encourages bloggers to write tons and tons of State-themed blog posts, and then the anti-blogging side of State goes and... shuts those blogs down because they're writing about State-themed stuff.
Don't know about you, but THAT MAKES *PERFECT* SENSE to me.
Well, State can't have dead blogs (that it shut down) linked to on its Official List after their demise. (Which it did, for a while, actually. I recall a time when two of the blogs were shut down and The List kept the dead blog links up on there for quite a while. They were just... dead links... that went to nothing when you clicked on them. It was odd.)
So someone at State must have realized that The List had to be actively updated. That the murdered blogs must be replaced with fresh, happy new ones! And then they evidently decided that they weren't just going to trim murdered blogs off The List, but also blogs that they felt WEREN'T "STATE ENOUGH," or didn't write frequently enough about State issues. (Which is utterly hilarious, because, like I said, one side of State shuts down blogs that it feels are too State, and the other is now removing blogs from its List when it feels that they aren't State enough.)
One such recently-removed "not State enough" blog is written by my dear, sweet, amazing friend Jen Dinoia. Like other bloggers, I "grew up" in State reading her blog (because she and her husband, Peter, have been with State/DS far longer than many of the rest of us) and wanting to be like her. (Alas, I will never ACTUALLY be like her because she is a total sweetheart and I am... NOT.)
When James was first hired by DS, I read Jen's blog from beginning to end - all of her archives - more than once, and have followed her faithfully ever since. It is a privilege and honor to be able to say... she is my friend online. She is my friend in real life. She and I have literally laughed together and cried together. The Foreign Service is LUCKY to have her in its midst.
She's worth a thousand of me.
Jen isn't *just* a State blogger... she also is the glue that holds together basically all of the behind-the-scenes, morale-boosting, cohesion-building nifty communication-and-meet-up stuff for State folks. I mean, you attack Jen's blog, you attack Jen personally, especially when you drag Jen's breast cancer fight (REALLY??) into the reasoning behind why Jen's blog was removed from The List.
So, yes, I stand in solidarity with all other bloggers who have unashamedly used the word nipple (NIPPLE! NIPPLE! NIPPLE!!) in their blog posts today. (Which my husband thinks is utterly hilarious, by the way. A couple of blog posts ago, I used the word penis, and now nipple. Is there NO END to my irreverence?)
And I also call upon The People Who Make The List to please put Jen back on it. She deserves to be there far more than I do.
[UPDATE: Jen's story is in The Washington Post!! GO JEN!]
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Above and beyond that, though, I will say that there must - and I mean MUST - be a fundamental change behind closed doors at State. State absolutely must wake up and change its senseless, harmful, hurtful reactions to all things social media.
Some of my dear friends (who are all far more intelligent than I) say that State just needs more/better policies regarding social media... but I don't know if I agree. Because until the behind-the-scenes attitude at State becomes blog tolerating instead of blog murdering, additional policies, even if they are initially written by folks at State who are pro-blogging in an attempt to somehow be helpful, could ultimately just be used as bigger bludgeoning clubs against us bloggers by those who are NOT.
And believe me when I say that that's the last thing we need.