pelton
January 30, 2003 10:34 PM   Subscribe

"everyone knows the consequences of killing three Americans" from the guy who hung out with the taleban - and one of the few who actually makes the right call on al queda: "But instead of just always knowing that it was a small Mickey Mouse outfit, now they made it into this huge global conspiracy, which it isn't. Which has created all kinds of problems in the Muslim world because we're sort of demonizing the wrong people. The bad guys are living in America and Saudi Arabia and Germany and the U.K.; they're not sitting in caves in Afghanistan." - say what you will about the guy, hes got b*lls that clank when he walks.
posted by specialk420 (26 comments total)

 
Pelton's website: Come Back Alive
posted by homunculus at 11:09 PM on January 30, 2003


"But I was warned off and told it was impossible, and back then I was young and foolish and I didn't do it."

God I love this guy.

Pelton argues reporters allowing themselves to be chased out of areas allows things to get worse. He thinks that when things get really crappy reporters should rush to that area.

He also said the reporters in Afghanistan that claimed they couldn't get the story because the military wouldn't cooperate aren't really reporters. He got to Kabul, didn't ask anyone for permission, got a driver, and went to see what the hell was going on. The idea of asking for permission in Afghanistan struck him as the most absurd thing he had ever heard.

The guy's a goddamn gift, and everything he writes is an exclusive because the rest of the boys are still on the bus.
posted by dglynn at 11:38 PM on January 30, 2003


This guy's brilliant.

"I think their parents drew some type of comfort that at least their kids were in the jungle with someone who makes a living writing books about what to do when you're kidnapped."

What a way to live life.
posted by dazed_one at 12:09 AM on January 31, 2003


No one bothers gathering information, like I did. I mean, I know how you can hike the Darién now. But you have to have a group of armed men with you.

This guy is the real thing.
posted by sophist at 2:35 AM on January 31, 2003


I'd highly recommend Pelton's book "The Worlds Most Dangerous Places" to any Mefi readers who are interested in this kind of thing. A fascinating book.
posted by reidfleming at 4:02 AM on January 31, 2003


B*alls that clank - or the few rusted remains of a human brain, rattling about inside his skull? His book is interesting in that "Oh, that's interesting, but I don't know why I needed to know that" kind of way - then again, I'm still naive enough to believe there's a world of difference between genuine courage and machismo for fun and profit.
posted by JollyWanker at 5:07 AM on January 31, 2003


I'm still naive enough to believe there's a world of difference between genuine courage and machismo for fun and profit.

You and me both. I'm so old-fashioned that I still believe that it takes courage to get yourself out of trouble, but idiocy to put yourself into it.
posted by oissubke at 5:57 AM on January 31, 2003


JW, oissubuke, there's a certain type of person who seems to like to do this kind of thing. I always used to feel the same about people who climb K2 or travel across the South Pole or climb without safety equipment up skyscrapers. Why risk death just to do something that nobody else has done?

But then the reward is that you have seen a bit of the planet that very few have. You experienced things nobody else has. In his case, he's got insights about situations that none of us can imagine. We're all driven by ambitions of one kind or another. This is just his. To describe it as 'idiocy' is, well, idiotic. Especially as it's only himself he's risking.
posted by Summer at 6:16 AM on January 31, 2003


Seems to me his closing advice, "you have to have a group of armed men with you" would make you more likely to die. Unless your group can overcome any other armed group or, like in his case, the group of armed men kidnaps you for "safekeeping".
posted by Dick Paris at 6:20 AM on January 31, 2003


- We were taken to a police base by 11 cops in a speed boat: $5,000

- Then the U.S. embassy sent a plane to pick us up: $10,000

- I know how you can hike the Darién now: Priceless
posted by sebas at 6:55 AM on January 31, 2003


JW, oissubuke His foolhardiness is driven by the desire to expose bizarro situations. Thus, foolhardy maybe. Idiotic, no.

Summer Think about it: a large part of the world's population is *forced* to face certain death on a daily basis. I can't help but it is an insult to be lucky enough to have scaped that situation and go right back to it. "Seeing a bit of the planet that very few have and experiencing things nobody else has" is actually pretty simple, since a large part of travellers do not really experience the place they travel, but rather their own travel. "The Beach", that bible of the modern backpacker, reflects exactly that absurd attitude.

As for the article on Colombia. I am not sure if it's the writer, the editor or Pelton, but one huge missing item is the fact that the AUC are far-right guerrillas that get support from the rich class, the government and the army. That's why they let them go. The FARC and the ELN have NO problems in kidnapping people for long periods of time. Believe it or not, many guerrilla groups around the world will not be scared by their American captives. Just a word of advice.
posted by magullo at 6:57 AM on January 31, 2003


machismo for fun and profit & idiocy to put yourself into it.

said from the comfort of suburban townhomes watching "fair and balanced" news and their team of crack reporters (read geraldo) getting the real unfiltered story.

pelton tells it like it is.

im surprised more people have'nt asked for a little explanation from our administration of who/what al queda is.... if pelton is incorrect. lets see an org chart? - show us who the "evil ones" are - so we can decide if they (how many? based on what figures?) really amount to the threat we are being told they are?
posted by specialk420 at 7:00 AM on January 31, 2003


I'm so old-fashioned that I still believe that it takes courage to get yourself out of trouble, but idiocy to put yourself into it.

oissubke, certainly the 13 American colonies engendered an enormous amount of trouble by declaring independance from the Empire? Should they have remained old-fashioned, as it were, and remained within the British fold? Further, the Mormons trekked some ways after suffering religious intolerance. Should they have ditched Joseph Smith, and simply stayed out of trouble?
posted by the fire you left me at 7:06 AM on January 31, 2003


I saw Pelton speak at an artsy sort of storytelling event in New York recently. (I can't remember the name of the organizers now; they were recently profiled in Salon.) He was amazing.

He recalled for the audience a meeting he had with Mullah Omar in the late nineties. The most intriguing thing about him is the humility he shows about his achievments. He's got this wonderful kind of DIY message about journalism. You want the story? Get a plane ticket, 2 weeks of rations, rent a camel -- and than start asking questions.
posted by Pinwheel at 7:07 AM on January 31, 2003


This man is incredible. There can't be many people this willing to face the kind of danger he's encountered. Just reading about his experiences makes me shake in my well-polished, pavement-worn shoes. And the way he talks about his experiences - unemotional, informed, analytical, matter-of-fact, objective. As a reporter should be, in fact.

I agree that he's not foolhardy. He's not climbing Everest just because it's there and he's trying to prove himself. He's gathering information and telling people about it - that's his job.

Every journalism school should have his book on the required reading list. We might have fewer bottom-feeders whose idea of journalism is going through people's garbages.
posted by orange swan at 7:20 AM on January 31, 2003


"Everyone knows the consequences of killing three Americans."

There's a certain complacency in that. Hey, I'm probably going to be able to walk through most things because my country has big guns and an Anthony Robbins mindset.

The sense of entitlement in your average twenty-first century North American probably surpasses that of your average sixteenth-century monarch.
posted by orange swan at 8:16 AM on January 31, 2003


The sense of entitlement in your average twenty-first century North American probably surpasses that of your average sixteenth-century monarch.

It trickles down from the top, baby.
posted by the fire you left me at 8:22 AM on January 31, 2003


certainly the 13 American colonies engendered an enormous amount of trouble by declaring independance from the Empire? Should they have remained old-fashioned, as it were, and remained within the British fold? Further, the Mormons trekked some ways after suffering religious intolerance. Should they have ditched Joseph Smith, and simply stayed out of trouble?

That is comparing apples and oranges. We're talking about a guy, a reporter, going to dangerous places, not people trying to end tyranny or escape injustice.
posted by Plunge at 8:36 AM on January 31, 2003


pelton tells it like it is.

And you know, 'cause you've been there, right? You and Jungle Bob, staring down the guerrillas...

Save the ad hominem shit for somebody else. You don't know me, where I live or from where I get my news. I, on other hand, know that you are the kind of person who will swallow this sort of thing uncritically, a living, front-page-posting embodiment of P. T.'s famous appellation. Pelton's neither the first death defying self-aggrandizer with a publishing contract, nor is he the best. I think we can all safely assume he won't be the last either, but as long as there's Danger in the World, bet on a Jungle Bob to be there to bring it to you Live! And! Uncensored! Because only Bob! Tells! the Truth!
posted by JollyWanker at 9:35 AM on January 31, 2003


come on.... you were watching FOX news... in suburban chicago letting your SUV warm up in the garage this AM... were'nt you?. sorry about touching a nerve... seems like im not the first.
posted by specialk420 at 9:50 AM on January 31, 2003


When he mentioned sending the guerrilla groups e-mail I was a bit curious.

The FARC, ELN and EZLN sites.
posted by rotifer at 9:58 AM on January 31, 2003


"Save the ad hominem shit for somebody else. You don't know me, where I live or from where I get my news."

JollyWanker, you need to settle down. You sound like a drunk redneck that just got out of prison.
posted by Pinwheel at 10:31 AM on January 31, 2003


My favorite line of the interview, aboout Americans' view of the news: "But we get bored; we have a, like, 120-day window in which we give a shit."

That could explain to some degree our lack of historical perspective.
posted by alumshubby at 10:45 AM on January 31, 2003


I dig his ‘tude and I’d follow him into the jungle any day. But I don’t want to listen too closely to his ramblings -- our hero keeps contradicting himself.

First he compliments the government on its success in Afghanistan:

It was quite robust. The operation actually was initially run by the CIA. The idea was to engage local warlords or commanders and then outfit them with Special Forces teams and a couple of Air Force guys to call in airstrikes… And the interesting thing is that that actually worked. That was a very successful campaign.

Pelton says the government has the monopoly on information and controls the news.

…the story of the CIA hasn't even been told yet. So we've done a lot of things over there that people will never know about. And the intelligence community may or may not release that information.

And
…obviously the senior commanders and also the Pentagon were going to rewrite the story and make it all pretty and perfect, and after the war they brought some journalists in to sit around and do stroke stories on the brave Green Berets…


But then he flips and says the press are the smarty-pants know-it-alls:

… the press is actually faster and more intelligent than the military is. They can assess a military situation long before the military figures it out.

Really?

…the bottom line is that the American intelligence resources on the ground are infinitesimal compared to the amount of media stuff, the amount of people running around gathering information. I mean, look at the crap that the Wall Street Journal dug up and all the New York Times information. The military doesn't have a clue. I mean there's more evidence in the John Walker case in the public archives than there is in the military interrogations.

The press uses the highest-tech means to gather the information. They spend a cumulative millions and millions of dollars gathering information. I interviewed the top Taliban leadership when I was there. And the Green Berets were blown away: They're like, "Holy shit, you just talked to these guys? You got pictures of them?" And I'm like, "Yeah, you can get them off my Web site."


OK, so the media is smarter and has the upper hand? Darn right. Well, no. Pelton can’t seem to make up his mind. Now it’s the military. Sure, because after all those millions spent and all that high-tech news gathering shit, the media is really only about sending “Christiane Amanpour to Kabul to basically sit and do all those silly stories they do all the time about demining and zoos...

And just between you and Pelton, don’t tell any war correspondents that
Anaconda was made to be a big deal because they had to feed the media something. And so now the media thinks they have this great battle on tape and they were there and so on and so forth, but really nothing happened.

Heck, apparently even the “brave Green berets” don’t even appreciate how easily the press gets fooled because,
the guys who were in the middle of it don't want to talk to anyone except guys like me because they just don't feel like the press gives them any respect. They don't let them tell their story.

But now I am totally confused. If it’s not the military and its not the media, who IS controlling the war news?

Is Pelton the only one who gets it right? Let's see...let’s ask him about casualties.

First he says, There was very little collateral damage.

But a little later in the interview, Well, they kill a lot of people. The thing that doesn't come through is that we have killed thousands and thousands and thousands of people…

Never mind, Robert. You can always hike the Darien.
posted by jellybuzz at 11:13 AM on January 31, 2003


Pelton is an amazing and courageous man, and "The World's Most Dangerous Places" is by far the funniest and most insightful travel book I've ever read. I learned more about geopolitics, the logistics of narcotrafficking, the mechanics of bribery and the effects of colonialism from that book then from all the news articles I've ever read put together. Despite its preponderance of typos, I can't recommend that book highly enough. Those who dismiss Pelton out of hand fail to understand the unique value of his tourist-adventurer brand of journalism.
posted by jcruelty at 3:31 PM on January 31, 2003


This guy sounds awesome, he reminds me of all the crazy motherfuckers ive lived next too, drank way too much with, narrowly avoided incarceration with...

shit, god bless those people.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:07 PM on January 31, 2003


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