David Axe in 2011
David Axe is an American military correspondent and graphic novelist who writes on military life and aspects of current conflicts. Axe is a prolific blogger and has published several books. Defense IQ[clarification needed] ranked David Axe's website, War is Boring, as one of the top ten defense blogs of 2011, describing it as "quirky, cutting and very, very good".
Since 2005, Axe has reported from the Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Japan, East Timor, Afghanistan, Somalia, Chad, Nicaragua, Kenya, Gabon, Congo and other countries. He was a regular contributor to The Diplomat, Wired and many others, he also shoots video for Voice of America.
In 2012, Axe reported in The Diplomat that U.S. special operations on the Korean Peninsula may have been infiltrating North Korea to gather intelligence based on quotes he attributed U.S. Army Brigadier General Neil Tolley in a story about. U.S. officials condemned the report, accusing Axe of making up quotes and attributing them to Tolley.
Retired Navy SEAL Brandon Webb circulated a fake suicide note ostensibly written and signed by Axe which depicted him killing himself in shame for making up the story. The note circulated on Twitter and Facebook and caused rumors of its authenticity. Webb later took Axe's name off of it and said that it was meant to be satiracle. Tolley later admitted that Axe had accurately quoted him and said that he had been speaking hypothetically and should have clarified.
Axe is currently a contributor to The Daily Beast and the editor-in-chief of his own digital news outlet War is Boring.
War is Boring
Beginning in 2007, Axe began writing a webcomic called War is Boring and illustrated by cartoonist Matt Bors. The comic chronicled Axe’s often darkly humorous observations of the places and conflicts he covered. The web comic was later adapted into a graphic novel that expanded these stories into a larger narrative.
The name “War is Boring” was intended to be somewhat ironic, but also an observation that much of warfare is about politics, paperwork and logistics more than it is about actual combat. Axe continued to use the name War is Boring for his personal blog, which became an expansion of the brand. As the website’s popularity grew, Axe began publishing posts and articles by other writers with an interest in war and national security. It eventually gained the attention of mainstream media sources, including praise from MSNBC personality Rachel Maddow on the air.
In the spring of 2013, War is Boring joined Medium as part of the platform’s closed beta test, with Axe as the editor. Axe brought on many of the contributors from his blog to work as writers at Medium, along with several new writers and photographers.
War is Boring quickly used the new resources and platform to turn its attention to more frontline reporting. In the summer of 2013 Axe travelled to Syria to report on the civil war, where he traveled with Syrian rebels to the front lines. It was also among the first new media publications to start publishing frontline coverage of the war against ISIS in Iraq after the sudden fall of Mosul in 2014, quickly publishing photos of Peshmerga troops in Combat and the Yazidi refugee crisis.
The publication gained particular attention for its coverage of the defense industry, especially the Lockheed Martin’s controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. The site also began publishing film and videogame reviews of titles that focused on war and violence and published essays reflecting on how war and pop culture influence each other. The site also began publishing comics journalism based on interviews conducted by contributor Kevin Knodell and illustrated by cartoonist Blue Delliquanti.
In May 2015, Medium made significant changes to its company structure. This included massive funding cuts in the editorial department. Medium shut down several publications and forced many others to cut longtime editors and writers. War is Boring’s budget was heavily slashed, most of the staff was laid off and story output greatly decreased. Before long, Axe publicly announced that War is Boring was searching for a new publisher.
War is Boring left Medium to join publisher Editorial Concept and returned to its old web domain. Shortly after, War is Boring and Reuters launched the War College podcast, a joint venture hosted by Reuters Opinion Editor Jason Fields and War is Boring Contributing Editor Matthew Gault.
Though the publication began publishing more articles, many readers began to complain about a decline in quality during its time with Editorial Concept owing to what several readers alleged was a rise in clickbait content. In December 2015, Florida company Bright Mountain Media, a company focused on military and law enforcement web sites, acquired War is Boring from Editorial Concept.
As part of Bright Mountain Media, War is Boring attempted to renew its emphasis on longform journalism. As part of its relaunch, in January 2016 it released an investigation by a team of five reporters examining the May 2015 V-22 Osprey crash at Bellows that revealed discrepancies in Pentagon officials public statements and records.
F-35 “Dogfight Leak”
In 2015 Axe obtained a leaked testing report written by a pilot that recounted how the F-35 joint strike fighter the tester was flying was unable to outmaneuver an F-16 fighter it was facing off against in a simulated dog fight. Not long after breaking the story, War is Boring posted the documents online.
The F-35 program office released an official response that admitted the report was genuine, but stated that the report was “misleading” and insisted the F-35 is so advanced it can defeat its opponents at long range and would never have to engage in a dogfight. The response also stated that the leak would be investigated.
Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cited War is Boring’s coverage during an interview with Hugh Hewitt in which he argued the F-35 program should be cancelled. This possibly helped spur a showdown between Trump and Lockheed Martin execs that Trump claimed reduced the cost of the program, though several analysts have questioned the savings.
Civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq
War is Boring reporter Joseph Trevithick obtained U.S. military documents that revealed possible mistakes by Coalition pilots in the war against Islamic State that could have resulted in greater civilian casualties than initially reported.
After breaking the story, War Is Boring worked with the Air Wars Project to share the documents with The Guardian, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Dutch language RTL News. CBC’s The Fifth Estate would go on to incorporate the data into a larger investigative feature.
“Nalin Afrin Photo” controversy
During the battle of Kobani, a photo taken by British freelance photographer Matt Cetti-Roberts (at the time working with War is Boring) of YPJ snipers in the town of Rabia became widely shared by activists on social media claiming it depicted female Kurdish guerilla leader Nalin Afrin, who was apparently in charge of Kobani's defense. The photo soon became a meme. War is Boring’s Iraq coverage editor Kevin Knodell wrote a post clarifying the photo's origin, and asserted that the woman in the photo was highly unlikely to be Afrin.
The photo, as well as comments by Knodell and Cetti-Roberts on Twitter became a subject of debate in both French and Kurdish media.
“People have very sudden, very emotional responses to things they see on the internet, and they share them with friends and families. But sometimes they do that without checking on facts, or seeing if there's any truth to what they are seeing or reading. Social media is a great thing, but it has its downsides too,” War is Boring’s Iraq coverage editor Kevin Knodell told Kurdish Media outlet Rudaw.
Eventually journalist Carol Malouf tweeted photos of the real Nalin Afrin while reporting from the field and meeting her.
Vertical de Aviación in Afghanistan
War is Boring published an expose on the Pentagon’s relationship with contractor Vertical de Aviación, a Colombian company whose owner Byron Lopez Salazar was repeatedly investigated by the DEA for money laundering and ties to the drug trade. The investigation found that the firm frequently failed to meet safety regulations and overcharged the U.S. government for its services.
- War Fix: Graphic novel war memoir.
- Army 101: Account of Army ROTC life centered on students at the University of South Carolina in the early 2000s.
- War Bots: Examination of the technological, strategic and moral implication of the use of robots in warfare.
- War is Boring: Collaboration with artist Matt Bors.
- From A to B: The story of modern logistics and how it underpins American power.
- The Accidental Candidate: The Rise and Fall of Alvin Greene
- Army of God: Joseph Kony's War in Central Africa: Drawn from on-the-ground reporting, Army of God is the first-ever graphic account of the global phenomenon surrounding Kony—from the devastation he has left behind to the long campaign to defeat him for good
- David Axe & Steve Olexa (2006). War Fix. NBM Publishing.
- David Axe (2007). Army 101: Inside ROTC in a Time of War. University of South Carolina Press.
- David Axe (2008). War Bots: How U.S. Military Robots Are Transforming War In Iraq, Afghanistan, And The Future. Nimble Books.
- David Axe & Matt Bors (2010). War is Boring: Bored Stiff, Scared to Death in the World's Worst War Zones. NAL Trade.
- David Axe (2011). From A to B: How Logistics Fuels American Power and Prosperity. Potomac Books.
- David Axe (2012). The Accidental Candidate: The Rise and Fall of Alvin Greene. [David Axe (Author), Corey Hutchins (Author), Blue Delliquanti(Illustrator) www.ohumanstar.com, Dre Lopez (Cover Design)] CreateSpace.
- David Axe & Tim Hamilton (2013). Army of God: Joseph Kony's War in Central Africa. PublicAffairs.
- Ahammad, Sharmin (2011-06-06). "Results: Top 10 Defence Blogs 2011". Defence IQ.
- 'War is Boring Contributors', War is Boring, accessed 11 August 2011.