The soldier son of talk radio relationship counselor Laura Schlessinger is under investigation for a graphic personal Web page that one Army official has called "repulsive."
The MySpace page, publicly available until Friday when it disappeared from the Internet, included cartoon depictions of rape, murder, torture and child molestation; photographs of soldiers with guns in their mouths; a photograph of a bound and blindfolded detainee captioned "My Sweet Little Habib"; accounts of illicit drug use; and a blog entry headlined by a series of obscenities and racial epithets.
The site is credited to and includes many photographs of Deryk Schlessinger, the 21-year-old son of the talk radio personality known simply as Dr. Laura. Broadcast locally on 570 KNRS, "Family Values Talk Radio," the former family counselor spends three hours daily taking calls and offering advice on morals, ethics and values. She broadcast a show from Fort Douglas, in Salt Lake City, last week.
Military leaders have long grappled with how to balance positive publicity and operational security with technological opportunities for troops to tell their personal stories.
The Pentagon last week shut down access to a variety of video-sharing and social networking Internet sites, including MySpace, on its computer systems worldwide. Officials said the change was made to enhance security and protect a strained bandwidth, but critics worried that it might close a public window into the lives of deployed U.S. troops, some of which can be raw, frightening, violent and revealing.
"Yes . . . F---ING Yes!!!" said one blog entry on the Schlessinger site. "I LOVE MY JOB, it takes everything reckless and deviant and heathenistic and just overall bad about me and hyper focuses these traits into my job of running around this horrid place doing nasty things to people that deserve it . . . and some that don't."
Deryk Schlessinger joined the Army in 2004, telling a crowd of Santa Barbara, Calif., Army reservists gathered for an appearance by his mother that he resented the way Americans criticize the war without recognizing soldiers' sacrifices.
"Real people were fighting, and I wanted to be part of that," the younger Schlessinger said, according to The Associated Press.
Since Deryk Schlessinger deployed earlier this year, his mother's talk show increasingly has been focused on the battles being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan and the wars' effects on families back home. Meanwhile, the radio host has taken to referring to herself as "the proud mother of a deployed American paratrooper" and speaks frequently about her soldier son before military audiences nationwide.
Deryk Schlessinger did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment from The Tribune.
Mike Paul, spokesman for Laura Schlessinger, released a statement which said, in part, "We hope all news media outlets will respect his privacy for his safety and the safety of those serving with him." In an interview with The Tribune, Paul suggested that the page could be a fake.
That was a contention echoed by Army spokesman Robert Tallman, who said "it may be possible that our enemies are actually behind this.
"Our enemies are adaptive, technologically sophisticated, and truly understand the importance of the information battlespace," Tallman continued. "Sadly, they will use that space to promulgate and disseminate untrue propaganda."
MySpace is an online social network in which users link pages together through like interests and shared friendships. The Deryk Schlessinger page included nearly a dozen "friends," including a number of soldiers in Afghanistan, several of whom were linked back to Schlessinger's page and some of whom had additional photos of, and comments from, Schlessinger on their sites.
Deryk Schlessinger's Web site indicated the 21-year-old soldier is stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where, the site's author writes, "godless crazy people like me," have become "a generation of apathetic killers."
The site indicated Schlessinger's team has survived numerous mortar, rocket and roadside bomb attacks. It also included several graphic cartoons. In one of the stick drawings, a top-hatted man laughs as he rapes a bound and bleeding woman in front of her family. In another depiction, a man forces a boy to perform oral sex at knifepoint as the child's mother pleads for her son's life.
It's unclear who created the cartoons, but Army spokesman Robert Tallman said the drawings "are repulsive and not anywhere near being acceptable," for a soldier's personal Web page.
The Tribune learned of the Web page earlier this week from a former schoolmate of Deryk Schlessinger. Army officials said they were unaware of the site until alerted to its presence by the newspaper Thursday.
David Accetta, public affairs director for the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, said the Army "will investigate thoroughly and impartially."
In an e-mail to 82nd commanders, Accetta asked to see "how the site is being administered and if we can shut it down." By Friday morning the site was offline, but officials didn't immediately respond to questions about who took it down.
Accetta said the pictures and writings he reviewed from the site were inconsistent with the values of Army special forces soldiers.
J.P. Borda, who administers an online index of thousands of personal military Web pages, said military guidelines and common decency are respected by "the overwhelming majority of military bloggers in Iraq and Afghanistan."
"There are a few bad apples and they have soured the whole bunch," said Borda, who began his site - www.milblogging.com - during his first tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2004.
Laura Schlessinger's appearance in Utah last week included a visit with Army families at Fort Douglas. In an interview with The Tribune, she said, "We raised our son to be a warrior."
After her Utah visit, Schlessinger received criticism for telling The Tribune that she didn't want to hear the complaints of military wives whose husbands are deployed. "He could come back without arms, legs or eyeballs, and you're bitching?" Schlessinger said. "You're not dodging bullets, so I don't want to hear any whining."
Schlessinger later wrote on her Web site - www.drlaura.com - that she was trying to communicate her belief that military spouses shouldn't complain to war-deployed family members, who have more pressing concerns. "I never whine to my son when he is able to call between missions," she wrote.