June 8 is an important day for photographer Nick Ut. Not only is it the 42nd anniversary of his classic Vietnam photo “Napalm Girl,” it’s also the seventh anniversary of “Paris Hilton Getting Arrested,” the other famous photograph in his portfolio. In 35 years, he went from a Pulitzer-winning AP photojournalist to an LA celebrity photographer, and he doesn’t regret a thing.
I Got Drunk at the Sesame Street Gala and Met Cookie Monster
When you’re an aspiring journalist/writer/reporter/editor/media person, you’ll take whatever job comes your way. Some of those jobs are red carpet reporting at galas, movies premieres, fashion week parties—you get the idea. It sounds so much fancier than it actually is. It’s the kind of scene that leaves you contemplating your self-worth as you head back to your apartment across from a U-Haul depot. I know this, because I used to do this.
Luckily, I work for VICE now, and we don’t give a shit whether or not Barbara Walters had plastic surgery. Since I gave up those morally deprecating days, I’ve managed to ignored any red carpet invites from publicists and avoid all the rich people who say “GEY-luh” instead of “gal-uh”—until I got invited to the Sesame Street gala last week. I wanted to go, because I wanted to know Cookie Monster’s weight-loss secrets given his obvious issues with gluttony. And what did Elmo think of Katy Perry’s tits?
I grabbed our Photo Editor, Matthew Leifheit, and headed to Cipriani’s in Midtown, New York. I can’t lie; I was excited, but I knew what was in store: Yes, we’d get to go to a really fancy party with really fancy people in really fancy clothes, but depending on the publicist working that night, we potentially risked trespassing charges, if we walked past the velvet ropes.
The most popular Slendervlogs have viewer counts well into six figures, many of them likely to be old children or young adults, and we don’t see hundreds of kids taking to the woods with kitchen knives… or at least not outside of the fevered imaginations of Daily Mail hacks. Whatever happened to these two children to make them into killers was almost entirely unique to their particular circumstances.
Nothing on these sites told them to kill a child; they decided that for themselves, and the truth is we have absolutely no idea why.
Do not believe almost anything you read or hear about Africa, especially concerning the continent’s cultural sensitivity, ethnic peculiarities, or borders. The source of this information usually has an agenda, is an outright bigot or moron, or has some misguided notion of how African salvation might eventually occur at some wholly imagined point in the future. Forget everything and just be honest: Greater Africa is a country, or is at least treated as one by most of the world, no matter how politically incorrect it may be to plainly state such a thing. It’s a market and a marketing hook; it’s a carefully analyzed genre of the fashion, music, and travel industries; and above all else, it is and always has been a singular obsession of the West. It’s the place somebody is always trying to save.
We devoted an entire issue of the magazine to Robert Young Pelton and Tim Freccia’s sprawling 35,000-plus word epic exploration of the crisis in South Sudan. It’s a companion piece of sorts; watch the documentary and read the issue or vice versa. But you won’t get a full scope of the situation without doing both.
The “Saving South Sudan” Issue of VICE is unlike anything done before in the 21-year history of the magazine. It tells a single story over the course of 130 pages, following the writer Robert Young 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.
Understandably, they ran into some problems on their journey. To begin with, they almost couldn’t find a pilot foolhardy enough to fly them into the middle of an ongoing war between the government in Juba and the rebels led by Riek Machar, the country’s former vice president. Then they had to haggle and negotiate their way into an interview with Machar before following his fearsome but undisciplined White Army to a battle in the town of Malakal that turned into wholesale slaughter.
Partly a history of colonialism and misguided Western interference in Africa, partly a profile of Machar as he plots and coordinates his rebellion in the bush, partly a look into one of the most dangerous, dysfunctional countries in the world, “Saving South Sudan” is a terrific, sobering work, and no one but Pelton and Freccia could have produced it. Pelton, the author of the bestselling, one-of-a-kind travel guide The World’s Most Dangerous Places (now in its fifth edition), has profiled “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, been kidnapped by right wing death squads in Colombia, and lived with an elusive retired Special Forces colonel training Karin rebels deep inside the jungles of Burma. Freccia—who like many journalists, was inspired by Pelton’s work—has made it his life’s work to document conflicts and crisis in Africa and elsewhere. His photos provide a stark, sometimes horrific look into the realities of life in South Sudan, and his video footage is currently a documentary now playing on the site.
Survey Says: Journalists Are Old White Cowards
Today’s typical journalist is an unhappily middle-aged white male who complains he’s losing his freedom while declining to use that freedom to threaten those taking it away. That, at least, is the takeaway from a survey of reporters that found they are older, whiter, and better educated than they were a decade ago—and more timid than ever before.
The survey, “The American Journalist in the Digital Age,” was carried out by researchers at Indiana University and is based on interviews with over 1,000 US journalists working for radio and TV stations, newspapers, magazines, wire services, and websites. According to the survey, fewer reporters than ever say they have “almost complete freedom” in selecting stories—a third said that in 2013, compared to 60 percent in 1982—and fewer members of the fourth estate are willing to get their hands dirty in the service of speaking truth to power.
Check out frequent VICE photographer Giles Clarke’s photos of Zapatista families, featured on Social Documentary.
VICE Exclusive: How a Former SEC Official Manipulated the System for His Clients and His Own Financial Benefit
Two years ago, Spencer C. Barasch, a former high-ranking Securities and Exchange Commission official based in Fort Worth, Texas, paid a $50,000 fine to settle civil charges brought against him by the United States Justice Department for allegedly violating federal conflict-of-interest laws. The Department of Justice had alleged that Barasch, as a private attorney, had represented R. Allen Stanford, a Houston-based financier who was later found to have masterminded a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. Barasch had done so even though he’d played a central role at the SEC for years in overruling colleagues who wanted to investigate Stanford’s massive fraud. Federal law prohibits former SEC officials from representing anyone as a private attorney if they played a substantial or material role in overseeing actions regarding them while in government.
In part because of that episode, Barasch, rightfully or wrongfully, has served as an example for critics of the SEC who say that it—and the US government as a whole—has done too little to hold accountable those financial institutions responsible for the 2008 financial crisis and other corporate wrongdoers. James Kidney, a respected trial attorney for the SEC, drew attention recently when he asserted in his retirement speech that the agency’s pervasive “revolving door” has led to a paucity of enforcement actions against seemingly untouchable Wall Street executives. More than two dozen current and former SEC officials that I have interviewed about these matters largely agree with Kidney on the takeaway: Quite simply, American investors can no longer expect the protection they once did, and that powerful Wall Street executives who have violated the law will continue to go unchecked.
A three-month investigation by VICE has uncovered evidence of numerous similar instances of misconduct and potential violation of federal conflict of interest regulations and law by Barasch since he left the SEC. And while Barasch’s legal representation of Stanford might have been the single most consequential and egregious example of such misconduct, the new information shows that Barasch’s actions in representing Stanford were hardly an anomaly. The new disclosures serve as further ammunition for those who argue that the SEC has been tepid in its enforcement of such regulations and its punishment of those who would violate them.