Saturday, February 2, 2013

Blowback

NEW EDIT: A petition asking that Brinkley resign from Stanford has appeared online, you can sign it here: https://www.change.org/petitions/professor-joel-brinkley-stanford-university-resign-from-teaching.

The article I discussed in my last post has, understandably, set off an explosion of negative commentary from people both in Vietnam and abroad. On the Chicago Tribune's site it has received 69 comments, almost all of which are extremely critical of Brinkley's ridiculous statements. Twitter and Facebook have been full of discussion. Brinkley responded to one critic, sadly he has no regret over what he wrote:

"I was traveling in Vietnam in late December and early January, and this is what I saw with my own eyes, first hand. And this is what the people I interviewed told me. On the issue of meat and aggressiveness, perhaps that was not as well phrased as it should have been. But eating a diet rich in protein will make you more robust than others, in Laos, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian states who eat rice and very little else. After all half of Laotian children grow up stunted, even today. In Cambodia the rate is 40 percent. That means they grow up short and not so smart. Would it also follow that would be less aggressive than Vietnamese? I think so."

I didn't think it possible, but this defense is almost worse than the full article. Cambodians and Laotians should now be just as offended as Vietnamese. The 'not so smart' sentence is something an 8th grader who can't write would put together, and according to this logic I suppose we should just keep everyone in the world malnourished, that way they won't be overly aggressive. It seems like he wishes Vietnam hadn't experienced major economic growth recently, thus pulling many of its people out of the need to 'eat rice and very little else.' I don't understand where Brinkley is getting his logic from.

Fortunately, the Tribune has been more apologetic. Yesterday they added an editor's note below the story's byline: "Tribune Media Services recently moved an opinion column by Joel Brinkley about his observations from a trip to Vietnam that did not meet our journalistic standards. The column has provoked a highly critical response from readers since its release.

TMS has a rigorous editing process for its content, and in the case of Brinkley's column that moved Jan. 29, all the required steps did not occur. We regret that this happened, and we will be vigilant in ensuring that our editing process works in the future."

It's good to see them admitting that this column should never have been published. There is other bad news though - the column has been syndicated, I've seen it on two other newspaper sites and I'm sure there are more. It is already attracting critical comments on those sites as well, and hopefully word will spread that this should not be taken as a serious piece of writing on Vietnam. Brinkley's illogical defense of his false statements is an insult to the Pulitzer, and the profession of journalism.

EDIT: Since posting this morning, Brinkley's diarrhea of the mouth has struck again. In an article from the San Jose Mercury News, he claimed that his observations were made during a 10-day trip across Vietnam. To quote the story: "I was traveling with a group and this was an observation we all made," he said of lack of wildlife in Vietnam.

In six years of column writing, Brinkley said he has never received so much reaction to one of his pieces. 

"Vietnamese seem to be particularly sensitive to criticism, like a lot of people around the world," he said. "Some of them have told me in emails that this makes them sound barbaric, which was not my intention."

First of all, a grammar point regarding the first sentence in that last section - how can something be particular if it is like a lot of things around the world? Did this guy suddenly forget how English works? Beyond that, the fact that he has never received such a reaction to a column should highlight how terrible it was. I have a hard time believing it wasn't his intention to portray Vietnamese as barbaric, he paints a picture of a country that runs around eating everything in sight. Brinkley also clearly has no idea what audience he is speaking to - San Jose is home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam, and he surely has Vietnamese students at Stanford. I hope they make their voice heard.

5 comments:

  1. It's hard to believe he expected anyone to take him too seriously, especially after reading that virtually inarticulate response. Maybe he'll claim our recent sub-freezing temperatures caused temporary insanity.

    On behalf of Chicago, sorry! We're not all that ass backwards and ignorant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trust me, I know! I love Chicago, several good friends are from there. I don't know where this ignorance is coming from.

      Delete
  2. Although the tribune has apologized, I feel that it has been to late. For the article to published in the first place means that there is still much work to be done to eliminate absurd stereotypes. Also, I'd like to point out that since this person has "credentials" people are more inclined to believe him even though what he says is completely false. I'd don't know how, but I will not be comforted until either Mr. Brinkley retracts his statement ( seems unlikely) or that Standford University should severe ties with him.
    -Wbber

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I won't be satisfied until one of those (preferably both) happen either. Brinkley's statements since the article was published make it clear he does not intend to apologize though. I only wonder what his Vietnamese students (surely he has some, Stanford is in California after all) think of the shit flowing from his mouth.

      Delete
    2. For me, I don't mind a healthy debate whether your opinion might run against the mainstream i.e. gay marriage or not, abortion, affirmative action, illegal immigration vs amnesty etc.. However, what he said is outright slander.

      Probably along the line of "WTF? Here we go with this stupid crap again. How the hell do they always get away with stereotyping Asians but not African-Americans, Native Americans, Muslims, Mexicans" etc... California has a huge population of Vietnamese people and the younger generation is very active.
      - Wbber

      Delete