As the anger at Joel Brinkley and his article on Vietnam shows no signs of disappearing I thought it was worth reminding people of this blog. As much as I’d like to post picture upon picture of their collection of birds spotted in Vietnam it’s better they get the hits and I don’t use their images without permission.
But I hope they’ll forgive me showing a list of their tags.
To remind you of the Brinkley quote:
You don’t have to spend much time in Vietnam before you notice something unusual. You hear no birds singing, see no squirrels scrambling up trees or rats scurrying among the garbage. No dogs out for a walk.
In fact, you see almost no wild or domesticated animals at all. Where’d they all go? You might be surprised to know: Most have been eaten.
Interestingly I was about to link Brinkley’s Wiki page that had a section on the controversy surrounding this article but it’s now been removed – leaving only the good stuff. Someone cleaning up after him?
Also of note is that while Tribune Media Services has added this to the post:
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.
…there appears to have been no attempt to stop the subsequent syndication of the article and despite all of the criticism it has since appeared in San Francisco Chronicle among others with no apparent amends and no apologies from publishers.
While TMS are obviously uncomfortable with the content Brinkley himself remains bullish. A friend who emailed him received a response citing his extensive research.
Of the comments below his original post in the Chicago Tribune this one from historian and US-born Hanoi expat Ginger Davis is among the most “liked”. It includes this snippet:
What I can tell you is that the entire neighborhood owns dogs, birds, and/or cats. They have stories of favorite pets throughout the last 30 years and earlier, especially those dogs they named “Nixon” during the war. Today dogs here even enjoy the dubious distinction of wearing sweaters in the winter as they guard their homes. Our local park put up “no pooping” signs for dog owners last year. Bird owners have clubs in cafes around town where the meet up regularly and wild birds sing so loudly that I have to sometimes turn up the radio to hear a song.
Other useful links – sourced via the Vietnam Bird News blog are Birding in Vietnam and Vietnam Birding which apparently specialises in “…custom birdwatching adventures and birding combination tours to Vietnam and beyond.”
A future trip for Mr Brinkley perhaps.
I’d rather link others’ views on here but it’s worth remembering that as much as Brinkley’s failings in research are obvious and much high-lighted we shouldn’t kid ourselves that all is well with wildlife in Vietnam. In terms of media coverage the irritation so often lies with visitors taking home their own mental snapshots from Vietnam based on first impressions and limited research. We can all be guilty of that, the problems start when it’s dressed up as fact rather than the “it appears to me” or “it would be easy to believe” level of information it is.
My final point is this, while trying to remember the url for the bird blog I googled “Birds Vietnam” and this was the third link. Just how extensive could Brinkley’s research have been?
I wanted to share a couple of recent news articles I thought were excellent in terms of giving a really balanced picture of what is happening in Vietnam.
First off this piece from (Twitter’s very own) Mike Ives. Government’s seizing land is always going to be an emotive subject but I’ve bemoaned, for some time now, a lack of explanation from the state. That’s the problem with a state controlled media, sometimes it’s easier to limit coverage than to actually explain. I can’t begin to imagine how much effort it must have taken to bring absolute balance to this piece.
Along the same lines this fantastic piece by Robert Kaplan in The Atlantic offers an incredibly exhaustive overview of modern Vietnam and its diplomatic role in the region. Reading both pieces side by side it feels like the balancing act required to run this country is almost impossible to comprehend.
What worked best about both is that they were written with obviously an incredible amount of research and valued facts rather than just targetting the usual bogeymen. In contrast, a much briefer example perhaps, but the crow-barred in reference to communist Vietnam in this report of a horrific accident just seemed odd and it’s hard to know what it’s suggesting.
Balance doesn’t make one side right or the other side wrong. Balance doesn’t make the worst excesses forgivable. But balance does give us the chance to make our own minds up. Just as there two sides to every story, there are also various agendas.