Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Satire in Camo

“ISIS receives a massive wireless bill after sending a ‘Message to America.'”

“Navy christens the USS Gabrielle Giffords, the first gun-free warship.”

“U.S. sanctions Iran with aging nuclear weapons.”

“Judge sentences Aaron Hernandez to serve time on West Point’s football team.”

“Despite switching urine samples, soldier still tests positive for drugs.”

the_duffel_blogSatire in camo served up by the Duffel Blog, the military equivalent of The Onion.

Duffel Blog has been around three years, offering a sly edge to events and decisions that make daily headlines. Its satirical twist is hardly unique or original. Servicemen and women have been poking fun at the military for as long as they have been called to arms.

The blog is satirical right down to its bones.  The “Brief History” section traces the blog’s beginning back to 1797 and its investigative tradition to breaking the story about President John Adams’ “$200 per week cocaine habit.”

Duffel Blog is not the military version of The Onion. “The Onion was actually the civilian version of Duffel Blog.”

KSM-with-cell-phone-750x400Even though the site expressly notes, “We are in no way, shape or form a real news outlet,” its stories have fooled the guileless, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. When confronted by a constituent asking about a Duffel Blog story, McConnell fired off a letter to the Pentagon brass demanding to know if the story  was true. The Duffel Blog story alleged prisoners at Gitmo were going to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits.

Few with any connection to the military escape Duffel Blog’s notice. Its video content includes “Obama fails to salute flag decal on the back of a pickup” and “Gamer who joined ISIL has terrible kill-to-death ratio.”

While Duffel Bag accepts no PR-inspired story pitches, it does invite contributed content – and it welcomes advertisers. Why not since this blog is probably more widely read inside the military services than just about any other publication, with the possible exception of deployment orders.

Bullet_Logo_largeDuffel Blog offers its own version of the “shameless commerce” section on its website, though with the same satirical bite. You can purchase a custom-made, .50-caliber bottle opener that is “forged from the partial DNA of Gen. (James) Mattis and mixed with the tears of unicorns.” The opener helpfully reminds users, “If you’re gonna drink and drive, wear a condom.” Its brand distinction is that it doubles as a bottle opener and live ammunition.

The blog site is packaged so you can follow a humorous trail on a specific service branch, including the Coast Guard, as well as the Pentagon. A quick check of the most recent stories from the military’s world headquarters yielded these headlines:

“Pentagon to bypass Iraqi Army and supply ISIS directly.”

“New battle command network offers unprecedented micromanagement opportunities.”

“NSA overturns court’s overturning of surveillance program ruling.”

Duffel Blog founder and editor Paul Szoldra, who was interviewed by NPR’s Scott Simon over the weekend, served as infantry squad leader and instructor for the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan, Korea and Japan. He graduated from the University of Tampa with a degree in entrepreneurship and is now executive editor of “We Are The Mighty,” a military-focused entertainment company in Los Angeles.

TDB-screengrabWhen asked what topics were off limits for his satire, Szoldra told the Marine Corps Times, “If there’s a firefight somewhere, we’ll never do a story about people being killed there. Everything else is open. I take criticism from people who don’t get satire for touching hot-button issues. I’m fine with it. Military suicide is not funny, but the response to it has been really crappy. So I wrote an article about how people were killing themselves during the PowerPoint briefs because they were so awful. I got flack, but I wasn’t making fun of suicide. I was making fun of leadership and the response to it. With an issue like that, we make sure it serves an end.”

The end is usually a good laugh, even for subjects that aren’t always funny. “Marine informed he is dead by corpsman.” “‘Everyone Poops’ addd to Commandant’s professional reading list.” “Marine Corps spiritual reawakening inadvertently causes zombie apocalypse.”


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