Monday, February 22, 2010

Do not buy the Ling Sisters' book, Somewhere Inside

I said I was going to do this, and I make good on my word. There are a whole bunch of reasons, too many to list, but you can get an idea by reading this.

The stupogance™ of Laura Ling, Euna Lee, and Mitch Koss as they put their own journalistic ambitions ahead of the lives of people trying to escape the horrors of North Korea should not be rewarded. How many lives were put in danger by them deliberately and willingly carrying interviews of escapees into North Korea with them? How many people were rounded up, tortured, and even killed?

Don't buy this book.

And if a book is to be written, why does the media-whoring Lisa Ling have to be a part of it? Perhaps this link can provide a clue:
On March 17, 2009, American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were apprehended by North Korean soldiers, charged with trespassing and “hostile acts,” and imprisoned by Kim Jong Il’s Communist state. The women became the first Americans ever tried before North Korea’s highest court and were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. But in August, they were granted amnesty and dramatically rescued by former President Bill Clinton—a drive for freedom made possible in part by the tenacity of Laura’s sister, world-renowned journalist Lisa Ling. Told in alternating voices, Somewhere Inside reveals the complete story of their ordeal for the first time. Laura offers a gripping account of her treatment at the hands of Korean guards. While she recounts the deprivations and rounds of harrowing interrogations endured, she also describes endearing moments shared with her captors. She speaks movingly about the emotional toll inflicted by her incarceration, including her fears that she might never see her family again. An inspiring tale of survival and sisterhood set against the canvas of international politics, Somewhere Inside is a timely, gripping tale that goes beyond the headlines to reveal the impact on lives engulfed by forces beyond their control.
Oh, brother. Is Lisa Ling more equipped than Euna Lee to tell what happened inside the North? If a book had to be written (and its proceeds going to aid those who were put at risk by the Stupogants™), Euna Lee should have been part of it. This stinks all the more of being about professional aggrandizement.

This is what it says about the book at the Harper Collins website:
The electrifying, never-before-told story of Laura Ling’s capture by the North Koreans and the role her sister, Lisa Ling, played in bringing about her rescue by President Bill Clinton—a piercing look inside the world’s most secretive nation and a moving tale of sisterhood and love [emphasis mine]
Gee, you'd almost think that Laura was the only one captured. Really, Euna, call me.

I know some people think I'm too harsh, but I feel my reasons are quite justified:
I’ve worked with enough media people to recognize certain types. My initial or second impressions are not always correct and I change my views accordingly. But I trusted experience-informed gut instincts on Mitch Koss, Laura Ling, and Euna Lee, and it turned out I was right in the end. I predicted a book deal — a no-brainer that everyone else also predicted — but Lisa Ling inserting herself into her sister’s own book deal and crowding out Euna Lee in the process was so over-the-top it made the self-aggrandizement paradigm seem like a poorly written script.

Journalists and reporters are fallible people with imperfect personalities. But there are types for whom the story is the most important thing and there are types for whom their career, fame, and bottom line is ultimately the driving force. I would put Barbara Demick, certainly not a perfect reporter, in the former, but Lisa Ling is so obviously in the latter it baffles me that this is even open to discussion. It is not that she inserts herself into the stories that’s the problem, it’s that the way she inserts herself reveals (to me at least) the kind of media figure she actually is.

And such people are dangerous to the people they report on. Laura Ling and Mitch Koss and Euna Lee endangered the lives of the people they’d interviewed or would have used that crossing point, thanks to their self-aggrandizing stunt. Lisa Ling used a medical NGO as cover to gain access to tell a story those of us paying attention already know. I wonder how many such NGOs will have been denied access in the future thanks to that stunt, thus adding to the suffering of those in need.
Really, don't buy this book. There is blood on their hands, and you might get some on yours. [HT to OFK reader Glans]

Lisa Ling wrote to me after reading this and taking offense. What followed was a cordial online correspondence that can be found here, here, and here. And to give credit where credit is due, kudos to her for engaging someone who has been such a vocal critic.

1 comment:

  1. "How you can say that we have blood on our hands is so upsetting." - Lisa Ling

    According to the NK experts I've heard from there were Christian aide projects inside NK that got shut down as a direct result of the incident. If this is true and lives were lost as a result, it seems the criticism would stand.

    I wonder if either of the Lings would like to comment.

    As for the book profits, is Laura also donating her entire share to charities?


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