Chris Blattman

Buffoonian filmmakers and HuffPo deviously manipulate me into a blog post

I have avoided blogging Vice TV’s Guide to Liberia for fear that I might actually encourage people to watch it. One can only resist so long.

Let the circus begin.

HUFFINGTON POST: You end the film talking about the possibility of the UN mission leaving Liberia in the near future and the consequences that could have. Do you think all hell is likely to break loose if they go?

SHANE SMITH: One of the things I came away with is there are a lot of ex-combatants, a lot of them, who have known nothing but war, are starving, living in slums. They have access to weapons, there are generals who will lead them, who are starving as well, and there’s been no effort to help these guys get back into society, in fact it’s quite the opposite. So you have these guys who’ve got nothing, they’re starving, and if you take away the only barrier between them and food and a mansion on the beach, and they have the guns and kids to do it, and they’re starving too. There’s not a lot of conjecture there, you know what I mean. It’s ripe.

HUFFINGTON POST: So how was the experience of traveling through Liberia different from, say, Iran or North Korea?

SHANE SMITH: At any time, anywhere you would go, you’d be surrounded by 30, 40, 50 kids, and young people and whomever, and they all wanted money, they’re all starving. And if we didn’t have generals with us we would have been totally f**ked up and if we hadn’t quite frankly lucked out a couple of times we would have been f**ked up.

HUFFINGTON POST: You mean they would have just jumped you?

SHANE SMITH: Oh, for sure. The crime rate in Monrovia is astronomical. The crime rate in West Point [a notorious slum] is even higher. If you have 80 percent unemployment, you can do the math: 80 percent of the population is doing something criminal then just to survive.

Gosh. I don’t even know where to start. Fortunately I don’t have to. Kind of speaks for itself.

One thing I will add: I hang out with these guys for a living, and I find New Haven more dangerous. The East Village’s hipsters worry me more. West Point is a standard shanty town with some dark corners, but a rather nice market with good vegetables. I think I am more scared of hanging out with Shane Smith than the ex-combatants.

Of course, saying so is less likely to get Mr. Smith the ratings or the babes. I refer you to Michela Wrong for the root of all bumptious, self-indulgent foreign correspondence.

Remember: they want you to get infuriated. It’s good for business. And I am a pawn in their dark, nefarious plan.

On the other hand, applying Occam’s Razor: they are indeed the naive harlequin boors they appear.

I don’t know which is more disconcerting.

9 Responses

  1. So, Shane Smith just invented the massive landfills and piles of shit festering on West Point’s beach? Is it even fair to call something ‘sensationalist’ or ‘slander’ when all you’re doing is pointing a camera at what’s actually there? Moreover, why aren’t people so up in arms about his North Korea tour video? You could easily make similar arguments about it, yet there’s oddly no outrage about how the Glorious Totally Peace-Loving And Democratic Republic Of North Korea is being slandered and how everything being said or recorded is untrue. Even if there were such outcries, I’d put a good wager that most people would dismiss it as the result of propaganda-fueled brainwashing or some other such excuse. Odd how the standards conveniently change with the country in question’s general rapport with the States.

    I’m sensing a lot of hypocrisy and logical holes in the (almost laughably excessive) hate that’s being dumped onto Shane about this. The video obviously has its fallacies (as any documentary does) but anyone – much less a native Liberian like Eunice – ranting on about how a journalist who hovered his camera over piles of garbage is unfit for human life when her own fellow countrymen have committed some of the worst atrocities since the Holocaust comes off as disturbingly out of touch with reality.

  2. Since birth as a Liberian, West Point has been a slum but never a notorious one comparatively in Liberia. Conversely Shane has found new statistics about west point.

    A frank question to you Shane is “did you compare the effects of civil conflicts in other countries and how these countries evolve out of their quagmire to that of Liberia senario before you allege that nothing is been done to assist re-integrated citizens (former fighters)?

    I think until you can read about these scenarios and campare them to Liberia, as an “investigative journalist”, you’re threaded on a deadly path..

  3. Not only is this Shane person an asshole who is full of himself, he is stupid and vile and not fit to be called a human being. His utterances serves only three purposes, to get himself noticed, make him some money and further hurt Liberia by alienating her internationally. But I got news for Shane, he will get money and get noticed alright, but only as a liar and a fake because the truth will out. I am a Liberian and proud to call myself one. Admittedly, my country has her share of problems, but which country doesn’t after nearly fifteen years of civil war? Atleast we don’t go around shooting people just because they looked at us. Mr. Shane should have asked the very large community of international residents whether they have to travel in and around Liberia with “generals” for protection. I am not even going to dignify Mr. Shane with a response to his outrageous claims. I just want the world to know that he is a liar. I know, because I live here.(Liberia)

  4. It’s too bad that countries can’t sue for slander….but when you put a camera in the hands of an uneducated hick from God-knows-where what would you expect? I have to admit tha Liberia can be scary from a driving point of view…3 accidents out of 10 visits…but the people are fantastic….

    1. Thank you Mihal. Its people like you who would help to vindicate Mama Liberia from those heinous lies. Thank you indeed.

  5. “doing something criminal just to survive”

    Yeah, horrible, scary, dangerous things like running unlicensed taxis, mobile phone charging stands, and those oh-so-horrifying women selling vegetables and rice on the side of the road.

  6. Think positive. The worse people think things are in Liberia, the more research funding you can get and the fewer competitors you will have.

  7. Tell ’em. I hope they see this; I can imagine the idea that they’re really poorly informed never having occurred to them. It’s fun to imagine how they might react to an expert who spends time in the field saying the things you do about them.

  8. Yes, exactly. Well said, Chris. Smith’s video series is sensationalist and rubber-necking, with all the subtlety and journalistic qualities of a monster-truck rally. It’s gonzo travelogue, all about Smith and and his travails amongst the ‘scary’ and ‘sketchy’ Africans.

    I suppose there’s worse dreck out there, but it’s a shame to see this highlighted in HuffPo.


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