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Miniature DPRKs in Siberia
December 19, 2011 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Vice.com takes a ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway to visit remote North Korean labor camps.
posted by Burhanistan (50 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
(skip to part three if you don't want to see the drunken train ride)
posted by Burhanistan at 10:31 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why the hell WOULD they let a fat bearded American with sunglasses into their camp? What the hell was he thinking?
posted by ReeMonster at 10:46 AM on December 19, 2011


Because he's Canadian!
posted by Burhanistan at 10:49 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


::rolling eyes:: Of course.. a Canadian living in Brooklyn. ;)
posted by ReeMonster at 10:53 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Double?
posted by lemuring at 10:56 AM on December 19, 2011


The staff at CNN.com has been intrigued by the journalism of VICE

*spit-take*
posted by hellojed at 10:59 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


The journalism of vice seems to be.. send some "dude" halfway around the world, and rely on everyone else to bring the guy around so he can say "Look there's Korean writing.. Hey let's go talk to some Koreans.. Let's bring those Koreans some beer...Anyone want a beer?"
posted by ReeMonster at 11:02 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's bring those Koreans some beer...Anyone want a beer?

I'd bring those Koreans a beer. Damn, they work hard.
posted by Malice at 11:04 AM on December 19, 2011


> The staff at CNN.com has been intrigued by the journalism of VICE

CNN is pretty desperate for relevance with younger audiences. They were in "Page One" briefly and had some back and forth with David Carr about that.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:06 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


> The staff at CNN.com has been intrigued by the journalism of VICE

CNN is pretty desperate for relevance with younger audiences. They were in "Page One" briefly and had some back and forth with David Carr about that.
posted by Burhanistan


I was just going to post about that; I thought Carr laying into the Vice guys about their work versus the NYT's was the high point of Page One.
posted by COBRA! at 11:08 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The journalism of vice seems to be.. send some "dude" halfway around the world, and rely on everyone else to bring the guy around so he can say "Look there's Korean writing.. Hey let's go talk to some Koreans.. Let's bring those Koreans some beer...Anyone want a beer?"

And distract the official types while the camp gets filmed with a bonus of getting some North koreans talking candidly about life in North Korea. I'm not sure how surprised I am or how much I care about North Korean logging camps in Russia, but he got the story.

Should he have spent five years trying to arrange a trip with the ambassador that would never happen?
posted by cmoj at 11:28 AM on December 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


You can bust on this guy, but I'd rather see something like this as opposed to an empty puff piece on Michael Bublé. If it's a little drunk and hipster-ish, so be it.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 11:30 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's a bit too easy to slam Vice for their brand of sensationalism. Yes, it's just kind of some dude putting his nose in places that people might not want him and then him hamming it up a bit. But, they're getting footage and stories of places that no one else is, and it is a start of dialogue.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:30 AM on December 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


I thought Carr laying into the Vice guys about their work versus the NYT's was the high point of Page One.

I thought that was just one more example of a Times representative being haughty and arrogant while failing to understand new models of media. Reporting doesn't necessarily require elaborate field offices and bureau infrastructure.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:35 AM on December 19, 2011


I liked it.

(And not just as another Canadian who lived for many, many years in Brooklyn.)
posted by From Bklyn at 11:38 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a great piece very similar to this where some guys took the Trans-Siberian railroad into North Korea itself, snapping tons of pictures along the way. And Vice Dude just seemed a bit too obnoxious. Like when they're getting drunk on the train and the Russian kid was being, like.. OMG, SO ANNOYING. Well, the kid sees this asshole being filmed, waving around his vodka glass and being all "Oh the worst thing about this train are the Russians.. they're ruining our footage!"

And, so the fact that it's easy to slam VICE for their journalism means we shouldn't slam it? I feel the opposite is true.

And don't get me wrong, I watched all of the videos because I'm interested in stories of people trying to find some news about North Korea and going off the beaten path. I just found Dude insufferable. With better framing and more professional in their umm.. journalism, they could've gotten WAY more information, and not pissed everyone off.
posted by ReeMonster at 11:39 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


And by the way, I bet Vice Dude has some souvenirs from the abandoned Labor Camp in his apartment in Brooklyn now.. "Ohh, that? Yeahhh maaaan, picked it up in Siberia at the Korean Labor Camp.. it was awesome. We just gave the security bro some beer, he was cool with it."
posted by ReeMonster at 11:45 AM on December 19, 2011


With better framing and more professional in their umm.. journalism, they could've gotten WAY more information, and not pissed everyone off.

I disagree with the more information part. They might not have pissed a bunch of people off, but I don't think being more like Anderson Cooper or Christiane Amanpour would have gotten much more out of that situation than those guys did.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 11:47 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait, is part 7 of the Vice series up? It sent me to Kazakh wife-kidnapping after "to be concluded..."
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 11:51 AM on December 19, 2011


The staff at CNN.com has been intrigued by the journalism of VICE

It's actually surprisingly good stuff sometimes, VICE has always been a bit of a strange mix.
posted by atrazine at 11:53 AM on December 19, 2011


I'd much prefer to slog through six or seven Vice videos than get a thirty-second intro to a country, nation or event where the producers are only striving to provide a soundbite in lieu of an education.
posted by jsavimbi at 11:54 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you want to learn more about Vice and how non-journalistic it is I recommend "Page One". It's a documentary about David Carr and the New York Times. He has a fun meeting with the Vice people.

"I'm not a journalist or anything man..."

Right.
posted by Napierzaza at 11:55 AM on December 19, 2011


Double?

lemuring, your post didn't link to the Siberian slaves video. It says it did, but if you watch the video you linked too, it's something else. In fact I don't think the Siberian slaves video was even available when you made your fpp.
posted by stbalbach at 12:10 PM on December 19, 2011


but I don't think being more like Anderson Cooper or Christiane Amanpour would have gotten much more out of that situation than those guys did.

The high-profile journalists would have been shut down far sooner, as they reach more of an audience. I watched this without sound (at work) but I get the sense that there wasn't a whole lot to hide there, and the bosses were actually rather lacklustre in defending themselves and the camp - as if they were saying what needed to be said from the party line perspective while offering up a glimpse of the truth. Those were people that looked rather fed up.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:13 PM on December 19, 2011


You can get part 7 by editing the html in the address bar.

I am pretty strongly love / hate with this vice guy, as a Canadian who has been all through central asia, looks pretty much like him, and has found myself in very similar circumstances, just without a film crew and a well defined mission. He is what I would be if I were pretending to be a journalist.

The drunk Russians on the train almost gave me PTSD... what do you do when your new friend Andrei the boxer has menacingly forced his way into drinking with you on your tab, has managed to invite himself back to your house to drink more on your tab, and by the end of the night has broken down crying about how fighting in Afghanistan fucked him for life, and he is showing you the shrapnel scars on his thigh and cock?

Oh, my. There is something very scary about drinking with Russians, but if you want to get any further you just kind of have to roll with it...
posted by Meatbomb at 12:29 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


depending on the phase of the moon i go back and forth between "VICE at least shows us interesting places in their journalizm, investigative though it may not be" and "fuck VICE, they are a bunch of shithole tourism hipper than thou money-money dickheads". today, maybe more of the former; i have a soft spot for their attempts at DPRK.
posted by beefetish at 12:33 PM on December 19, 2011


stbalbach, it links to the main hour-long feature. The Siberian slave video, along with North Korean Film Madness, are linked directly below it.

Granted, the website is a bit of a pain to navigate.
posted by lemuring at 12:34 PM on December 19, 2011


To be fair, Vice magazine is by far the best source of information on Vice magazine.
posted by outlaw of averages at 12:47 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


They never say if it's a Do or a Don't.
posted by fuq at 1:24 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Though the VICE is a bit lacking in professional "journalism", I find myself amused at those who say this like it's a bad thing. It's no sin for the journalist to be part of the story. It helps sell the thing, and to me it imparts a great deal more sincerity.

And sure, Shane is a little obnoxious, but he's no Tom Green, and I would rather spend forty hours on a train drinking with Shane than either Anderson Cooper or Christiane Amanpour.

I don't get the hipster criticism. Shane comes across to me as a just a disheveled guy who knows how to sell his story. Document your adventures, and get paid to do it. Fuck I would do that. You know, just because something is hip doesn't automatically make it bad anyway. Having disdain for generic hipsterism is just the sort of tribalistic bullshit that hipsters are always being accused of. Pot meet kettle, yes I know you knew each other before it was cool. Time to kiss and make up.
posted by Xoebe at 1:34 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


"The North Koreans are like 'What the fuck kind of journalists are these?' Well we found our North Koreans, now let's get wasted and shoot off guns with the Mafia."

*reads thread*

It seems like the North Koreans aren't the only ones thinking that. I like it, though.
posted by frijole at 1:44 PM on December 19, 2011


Haven't seen Page One yet - on the holiday viewing list - but one thing that does drive me nuts as a journalist (mostly of the longform mag/book variety) is this self-serving idea that you're either the NY Times bureau chief or a clumsy tourist.

You want to slam Vice for doing a bit of unfocussed random adventure journalism? Point out that's not how we do it at the Times? Well, sure, but put it on the continuum properly. Start at the Times and Al-Jazeera and (on their best days) CBS News and CNN and such. Then move on to any given failing local rag relying almost exclusively on wire service stuff if they run foreign stories at all. Then you've got local Action McNews, whose "journalists" are almost exclusively people who really, really wanted to be on TV but figured becoming an actor would be too competitive, people who if the name Kim Jong-Il appears on the teleprompter they're going to need it spelled out for them phonetically. Then there's Discovery and TLN and the other ostensibly reality-based cable networks, which would only bother going to North Korea if someone there was bungee-jumping onto a flaming trampoline mounted on top of a monster truck's bed while being berated by Gordon Ramsay in a tiara.

So: Where's Vice on this continuum? I'd put 'em on the closer-to-the-Times side of Action McNews and most of the non-city sections of my local rag myself.
posted by gompa at 1:47 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


In another universe, Metafilter is actually discussing the North Korean labour camps in Siberia.

I enjoyed this. Thanks for posting it.
posted by alan2001 at 2:10 PM on December 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Shane with the Russian transit cop...

What is it with those big hats over there?
posted by Twang at 3:40 PM on December 19, 2011


That's nice travelogue. Not great journalism, but good travelogue. Like a lot of travelogue, it captured the feeling of being there, and also like a lot of travelogue, it didn't have much in the way of hard facts.

It was good to hear the workers speak. It'd be nice if the 'journalists' could've asked questions that were more open-ended and less leading, but the few answers we got were interesting.
posted by jiawen at 4:04 PM on December 19, 2011


I actually really like Vice. Been reading since it was on newsprint.
posted by Hoopo at 5:41 PM on December 19, 2011


It's good Vice is reporting something few people know about, and not the same old stuff like Chernobyl and Liberia which have been done to death by others before and better. The story actually is pretty old, here's an article from 1994. But new to me so glad to see the video, and the sense of breaking into a place. Town vs gown escapade type stuff.
posted by stbalbach at 5:45 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Information isn't a zero-sum game. Vice being Vice doesn't take away from the allegedly "serious" journalism that should be done by "serious" news organizations.

You know, like the "serious" New York Times who paid "serious" journalist Judy Miller lots of money to lie us into the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq.
posted by bardic at 7:29 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why y'all hatin'? This is awesome. It's not filet mignon, but it's a hella good barburger with a cold mug of domestic beer.
posted by LiteOpera at 7:53 PM on December 19, 2011


Surprised it took this long for someone to bring up Judy Miller.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:49 PM on December 19, 2011


ReeMonster, maybe if you could talk about what's in the videos rather than bitching about Vice, that would be swell.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:50 PM on December 19, 2011


What's there to talk about in the videos besides the Dude's strutting? They got predictable responses from everyone they spoke to, and I watched every minute of every video. I saw the drinking on the railroad and the Dude's impatience with the well-documented and well-known fact of drinking passengers. I saw the cluelessness with which Dude followed his translators, scholars and helpers around; those who facilitated his addled adventure. I saw the frustration and impatience with which the unfortunate souls greeted these mysterious attention-seekers; those who knew full well than no amount of scruffy non-journalists will create a better situation for them in the short term. I don't even believe that institutions like Vice with these puff pieces will have any long-term effect either. But, it's a video to watch and they'll get a firm amount of traffic from it.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:36 PM on December 19, 2011


Yes, it's a video to watch. What were you expecting? Go out there and change the world, champ.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:38 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


[we might be in danger of making the whole thread about one person's opinion; maybe we could try to avoid that?]
posted by taz at 10:56 PM on December 19, 2011


Perhaps I am not hip enough, but before this I had no idea that there were N. Korean labor camps in Siberia. I watched this with fascination.
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:00 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have literally zero qualms with how someone presents themselves in one of these pieces, if the mission of the story is accomplished. This is why I think jiawen has it right - this is a travelogue. I got a pretty accurate feel for getting there and visiting there, and moreover learned quite a bit here. The stylistics of the piece mean little to me. Having said that:

I would rather spend forty hours on a train drinking with Shane than either Anderson Cooper or Christiane Amanpour.

For real? I would totally get hammered with Christiane Amanpour. I bet she'd have amazing stories.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:03 AM on December 20, 2011


Perhaps I am not hip enough, but before this I had no idea that there were N. Korean labor camps in Siberia. I watched this with fascination.

Seconded. I don't really get all the hipster-punching criticism going on in here, either. Sure, this type of self-absorbed "making-myself-a-part-of-the-story journalism" is more Hunter S. Thompson than Edward R. Murrow but I found this story entirely riveting on its own merits. The character-driven aspects just happened to be a nice bonus for me.
posted by the painkiller at 7:18 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I recommend the Vice Liberia piece. I've had a few arguments with friends about it but I found the whole thing fascinating.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:50 AM on December 20, 2011


Sounds like somebody didn't get that internship at Vice.
posted by bardic at 8:49 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Character-driven travel pieces can very well be interesting.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:28 AM on December 21, 2011


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