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Saving South Sudan
May 13, 2014 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Journalist and author Robert Young Pelton describes his experiences in South Sudan in the most recent issue of Vice Magazine. It's the first time a single issue of the magazine has been devoted to a single topic and written by a single person. It follows Pelton, the photographer and filmmaker Tim Freccia, and a former South Sudanese refugee named Machot as they travel to Machot's homeland, one of the most war-ravaged countries on Earth. For Machot, the trip was an attempt to help South Sudan out of the seemingly never-ending cycle of war, corruption, and power-hungry strongmen that has ruled the country for generations. For Pelton and Freccia, it was the chance to explore and document the conflict that is rapidly turning the three-year-old country into the world's newest failed state—and to find out what, if anything, could stop South Sudan's slide into hell.
posted by Man Bites Dog (19 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Vice is really a boon to journalism. They get a lot of shit for the things they do for money but this kind of stuff--it takes money.

Thanks for posting.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:32 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


How reliable is Vice these days? 5 years ago they were openly making up articles, and I found photos they had taken of people they "interviewed" for a story in Africa on a stock site once.

(Also I know someone who works for an NGO that says they are the absolute worst people to deal with, demanding, rude, and exceedingly entitled.)
posted by Dynex at 12:15 AM on May 14


Vice is extremely hit or miss. they get a standout piece a couple times a year, a few other decent pieces, some mediocre stuff, a decent lunchroom mashed potato dollop of asshole behavior stuff, and then a few standout really questionable things.

I have serious issues with seeing them as some shining beacon of good in the world, or even an overall positive force. They're like... chaotic neutral. They've written opinion/commentary pieces and later had another writer go back and slam the first one.

it's like there's no one really in charge, and they can't decide on a unified mission. Is it gonzo journalism? Is it like, really brave going where no one else will go stuff? Is it just "do stuff other people aren't doing"? Is it sarcastic, snarky pot shot stuff? there's at least 5 other things i regularly see from them i could list off. And a lot of it kinda conflicts with presenting a solid front or clear, unified message backing up some of the other stuff they do.

Don't know if i have some really clear thesis here, but i mostly just have an issue with slapping on the back and going "god damn you guys are doing good for the world" when in 2 days they'll have posted something that's totally point and gawk.

I really wish i could find the right google keywords to search up someone elses really eloquent rant from a year or so ago making essentially these same points. It described how the magazine is some distillation of the smart educated angry and disatisfied white man. Because just... yea.
posted by emptythought at 1:40 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I don't know enough about Vice to answer, emptythought, but I have been a big fan of their Youtube channel for some time and it there is certainly an amount of inconsistency. Some of their reporters really seem to have their heads screwed on right and have a lot of knowledge about the situation they're going into and how to find out more about it; some of them are just blithe hipster assholes. Some of their programs are aimless 'hey, let's go some place super-edgy and see who we bump into!' and some of them are decent investigative journalism, sophisticated and perspicacious interviews, or timely looks at volatile, inaccessible situations on the ground that no-one else is daring or bothering to cover.

I think they consciously reject the idea of trying to maintain a particular editorial standard or viewpoint, for better or worse.
posted by Drexen at 4:37 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


How reliable is Vice these days? 5 years ago they were openly making up articles, and I found photos they had taken of people they "interviewed" for a story in Africa on a stock site once.

I'd like to know more about this.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:39 AM on May 14


it's like there's no one really in charge, and they can't decide on a unified mission.

There's no money for a unified mission or rational vision. Google and Craigslist took journalism's primary sources of income for themselves, and the public hasn't adjusted to the idea of paying for it out of their pocket yet - if they ever will.

If you're publishing journalism, you do your best to keep the lights on. That's all.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:07 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Google and Craigslist took journalism's primary sources of income for themselves

That's a little harsh. Is Metafilter also taking away income from journalism by providing a public forum for discussion outside of letters to the editor?
posted by Aizkolari at 5:58 AM on May 14


White guys to the rescue !
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 6:15 AM on May 14


That's a little harsh. Is Metafilter also taking away income from journalism by providing a public forum for discussion outside of letters to the editor?

Letters to the editor have never been a source of revenue for print journalism. And people (in the US at least) have always had plenty of channels for discussing their opinions on things. The internet just added new channels. But there's not anything a "little harsh" about the original comment. It's a pretty accurate assessment. Small newspapers long relied on classified ad revenue to stay in the black (when they could even manage that) and the internet completely destroyed the market for those services. It's nothing personal to call it what it is.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:30 AM on May 14


Vice is--well, it's vice. I'm never quite sure if they're on the level or making fun of me when I read their stuff. But who knows. Maybe they're trying to shed their armor of impenetrable irony to become a real little boy now. Enjoy with a grain of salt.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:33 AM on May 14


Meh. The NY Times publishes some awful shit. Journalism requires money if it isn't going to become a hobby for the children of the wealthy.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:42 AM on May 14


Speaking of real boys, I've greatly enjoyed Robert Young Pelton's writing before.

Vice doing good journalism is no more surprising than Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair doing good journalism. It seems no more peculiar than the fact that Nintendo no longer makes playing cards. Vice has also made garbage, although to be honest their garbage hardly seems any more garbage-like than what I see in most other papers.

If Vice has also, as asserted upthread, made up stories, or used stock photos in a deceptive manner, then that's another issue, but my Google-fu is failing me here. I would be interested to hear the background on that.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:45 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


So, not a single comment about South Sudan and the actual article?
posted by spicynuts at 7:55 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


When South Sudan first became a state I was rather optimistic - though perhaps a cynical solution, a Muslim North and Christian South seemed to be at least a straightforward path to peace.

But clearly that view is laughably simplistic. Oil, tribal-allegiances, and revenge all seem to come together to prevent S. Sudan from truly congealing into a state. Just trying to figure out the trajectory and allegiances of Riek Machar makes my head spin.
posted by rosswald at 8:22 AM on May 14


I desperately wish Robert Young Pelton would do another edition of The World's Most Dangerous Places. Best book I ever read showing the legacy of the Cold War and extremism all around the world, precisely because it was written by ordinary travelers in blunt, ordinary prose rather than stiff academic language.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:51 AM on May 14


I'm about half way through. This is a fantastic article. It doesn't shy away from talking about the naivete and futility of westerners trying to 'help' Africa.
posted by spicynuts at 9:03 AM on May 14


So, not a single comment about South Sudan and the actual article?

Including yours? No.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:40 AM on May 14


Thanks for this post… as a complement, here's the beautiful, terribly courageous and sadly informative work of Camille Lepage, a young female photojournalist who settled in South Sudan less than a year ago. She was killed a few days ago in Central African Republic… Way too young…
posted by mugitusqueboom at 1:12 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


This is really great work, btw, skepticism about Vice's credibility aside.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:43 AM on May 15


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