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From a letter that I sent to Vice back when the series premiered. Examples of what I mean:
**Contempt for Liberia**
* Discussing wartime conditions, the excesses of wartime, as if they were still the norm. In the case of sexual violence, ok, it’s still rampant. But flesh eating? Murder, mayhem, etc? You’re purposely trying to make Liberia seem worse than it is, just so that you can have a story.
* Conducting conspicuous public interviews, you draw positive attention to former warlords (many of them are now local criminal bosses), right in their communities, thereby increasing their power.
* Stating, “A large segment of the population consumes human flesh.” Don’t get me wrong; there’s real value in exposing the fact that human flesh is used, by a tiny minority, in rites around West Africa. But making this particular statement, in this way, is simply despicable.
* Springing a warlord-turned-local-rainmaker out of jail, by use of bribery. Way to set an example, guy! Had you simply gone away, they would have let him out. As you explain, you were the whole reason he was in jail in the first place! And what was the point of that interview, anyway? To show your friends back home how hardcore you are, hanging out with warlords?
**Contempt for humanity**
* Generally mocking people for being poor, and squeezing your thrills out of the behavior of desperately poor people. This is done willfully and repeatedly and is basically the theme of the piece.
* Going against basic common sense, basic journalistic standards, and even the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by interviewing and photographing (what certainly appears to be) a child smoking heroin and cocaine AND talking about raping someone. Just for future reference, it doesn’t matter even if the kid said he wanted to be interviewed. It’s impossible to get informed consent from a minor. That’s why we have laws on statutory rape, for example.
* Interviewing prostitutes under the flimsy veneer of trying to expose the pedophilia of “UN staff”, but actually doing no such thing. (See Contempt for Journalism, below) Instead you make a group of already extremely vulnerable, traumatized women vulnerable to re-traumatization, calling major attention to them in a community where stigma can be life-threatening, and basically de-humanizing them completely. Let’s be honest; your real motive here was to see what some of the most desperate, damaged people in the world look like, how they act when you shine a light on them. They’re like animals in a zoo to you. Be contemptuous of humanity, if you want. But at least do it to people who can defend themselves.
**Contempt for journalism**
The only excuse you could possibly come up with for what you’ve done might be to claim that it wasn’t meant to be journalism, that it’s entertainment. But you do pretend to be muck-raking in several instances. You are practicing journalism, only very, very poorly.
* In one of the most dishonest edits I’ve ever seen, you ask if UN staff are having sex with children, at which point we get a quick cut to an adult saying “Yeah, they beat me, etc.”, offering no information about the UN or pedophilia. There would be real value in exposing sexual abuse and exploitation among UN personnel. But this is not how it’s done. You have proven nothing except that you have no good tape, and that you have no respect for journalism or your audience.
* Jumping between footage of today, and footage of the war, without making the distinction. The uninitiated viewer would have every reason to think that the team had collected the dead children footage, the militia training footage themselves in 2009.
* Lying to sources on camera. Classy.
* Asking the same old parachute hack question, “What is the government and the UN doing?” As usual, this question is never answered; rather it’s implied, even stated by a source, that they’re doing nothing. I’ll be the first to criticize the UN, and I’ll admit that progress has been frustratingly slow. But you don’t even pretend to care about figuring out what is really happening.
**Just plain stupidity**
* Breathlessly stating, “…the rebels [as if there were one single group of rebels!] could take Monrovia in 2 hours…and the UN is scheduled to leave next year!” Note: “The UN”, by which I guess you mean the peacekeeping mission, is scheduled to leave every year. All peacekeeping missions are renewed on an annual basis. UNMIL’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
* Asking, “There are lots of former combatants around, doing nothing. Do you think that’s a problem?” Helluva question, guy. The government and the international community should have thought of that! Seriously, there are hundreds of UN and NGO youth employment and development programs and projects ongoing all over the country, and many more are planned, in partnership with the government.
**Total fucking hypocrisy**
* For all their faults, I’ll tell you one thing the government and the UN are doing right. They’re not producing media for Western consumption that dissuades people taking a positive interest in, visiting, or investing in Liberia’s future. You’re worried about the kids standing around with nothing to do? Tell you what, bro—how about not making movies that will dissuade foreign investment, a crucial ingredient in job creation. How about not making movies that will (you can bet on it) be seen by Liberians living abroad (AKA the valuable human capital that’s so badly needed back) giving them yet another reason to stay in Minneapolis or Staten Island forever.
An utterly shameful performance.