Here’s an idea! Let’s attack bloggers who do good things!

I just read an article that has me shaking mad.

It seems that a Guardian UK journo doesn’t like the idea of sending bloggers to developing countries to bring back first hand accounts of their experiences. She’s speaking specifically of Heather Armstrong, who has just commenced what I expect to be an eloquent and compelling series about her recent trip to Bangladesh to support the Every Mother Counts initiative.

One I happen to support, by the way, too.

The writer brings up the classic holier-than-thou points: It’s patronizing. It’s “poverty tourism.” It’s more about the visitor than the people they meet. It allows us to alleviate our Western liberal guilt while doing nothing really.

[edited to add: to be clear – some of these points are not her own. They’re quoting a source.]

And then there’s the uber-condescensing line that really got me:  “Bloggers are firmly discouraged from poking paupers with sticks and asking people to wave their stumps for the cameras.”

Get it? Because bloggers are idiots! So cute.

Allow me to offer another perspective:

Bullshit.

This is a line of thinking that keeps westerners in our own little bubbles, afraid to step out and do more– for fear that we’re doing it wrong. For fear that someone with more poverty cred and more commitment to The Cause will take us to task for it.

I see your visit to Bangladesh and I raise you an Oxfam client.

But this isn’t a defense of Heather entirely; she’s pretty good at defending herself. This is personal for me.

In 2000, I accompanied my mother to Sarajevo to meet a family that she had been supporting and corresponding with since the war, through Women 4 Women International. This was soon after the war ended, and the region was still somewhat unstable. You can’t imagine the people in my life who begged me–begged me–not to go.

I haven’t written about it much publicly (although I did touch on it here) for reasons I can’t entirely grasp just yet. But it wholly changed the direction of my life. How can it not? I met families who became my family, like long-lost cousins I had just discovered.

I listened to women tell me, first-hand, stories of rape and abuse at the hands of Serbian soldiers.

I had toasted steins of pivo with friends, dancing wildly to turbofolk albums in bars that were entirely unremarkable–except for the bombed-out shells that passed for the front entrances.

I slept in the bed of an elderly, formerly wealthy woman who rented out her lovely apartment to visitors to be able to afford her rent. We discovered the next morning over strong coffee and sweet rolls that she had slept on the couch.

I graciously carved the small chicken at a family’s home, that was intended to serve 14 of us.

I picnicked in the most gorgeous park, which our friend had to scout for landmines before choosing a spot for our blanket.

I traded smiles with ten year-old children who had to re-learn how to run, that long had they spent in hiding underground.

I sobbed, as my friend Tima took my hand and held it to her throat so that I could feel the shrapnel that remained imbedded under her skin.

And then, I came home, continued doing what I could for these families emotionally and financially, wrote furiously in my journal about it, and hoped that some day I would find the right way to tell these women’s stories to a larger audience.

Then I went on with my life.

Is my experience one that should be dissected and mocked, simply because of who I am and where I live?

Was I simply a “poverty tourist?”

I guess I am one of those “means justifying the ends” types of gals. I don’t care how or why Madonna adopts children in other countries. I don’t care about Angelina’s motives for being a UNICEF ambassador. And I don’t care whether Nike donated $100 million to human rights charities for good publicity and the tax deduction.

These are the acts that make good things happen.

I also believe that one person can make a difference. Whether she has a million Twitter followers or none at all.

I still feel the strong hands on my shoulders of the women I met in Sarajevo at the Women For Women office–mothers and daughters and sisters. I still remember their welcoming spirit and their generosity. I still can smell cigarettes and coffee as they leaned close to whisper,  Hvalah. Thank you. Thank you for remembering us. Thank you for being here so that you can share our stories. There are so many things that no one knows…

 

Edited to add: I think it’s fair to include the writer’s response to one of comments on the article here because it clarifies some intent in a way that her original words didn’t. I still find it hard to believe the piece is not a jab at bloggers, considering the majority of it falls in that direction. Anyhow…

My position is: bloggers can absolutely engage their communities in powerful ways; they can absolutely make a difference, and write in-depth pieces that wouldn’t otherwise get written. But to be truly effective, they need the completion strategy. If I had a brilliant completion strategy at my fingertips, believe me I’d have shared it before now; the lack of one isn’t intended as a poke at Dooce or anyone else – just an observation that NGOs need to up their game on that one. My preference – as other commenters have said – would be for something that addresses IFI structures in a constructive and purposeful way.

I absolutely don’t believe that bloggers who take these trips are smug or patronising: to reiterate, I’ve done similar trips myself. Quasi-journalistic was just meant to distinguish bloggers who hold press accreditation from those who don’t. ‘Earnest’ just means… well, earnest, which is fairly appropriate in these circumstances. There are much worse things to be.

‘Poverty tourism’ is Easterly’s phrase, not mine. I don’t particularly agree with it, but it’s a pretty relevant thing to mention in the context of a piece like this.

{183 Comments}

183 thoughts on “Here’s an idea! Let’s attack bloggers who do good things!”

  1. Amen!I agree 1000% and thank y ou for sharing your story. I dont; know why this journalist thought it was OK to belittle bloggers and our place and reach in the world. I say she’s just a raging ignorant asshole! But that’s just me. YOu and Heather and all the Moms going on the One campaign, keep doing your good. F*ck the morons who don’t get it. They are small minded and cheating themselves!
    Truthful Mommy recently posted..Dadchelor Parties~Because apparently Everything’s an excuse for a Pub CrawlMy Profile

    1. My thoughts EXACTLY! Methinks someone wanted to make a name for herself and decided to capitalize on something she knew would make a buzz. This will DECIDEDLY backfire on her because if the writer KNEW Heather – even in the slightest – she would know that her assertions are ridiculous in the extreme.
      Bren recently posted..Caught You CardMy Profile

    2. I agree, and saw right through that bullshit right away. I wrote a piece about Dooce’s trip yesterday, too. But it was about Dooce’s trip. The end. If the Guardian writer wanted to write a piece about ‘poverty tourism,’ she should have. But this would not have fit as an example.

  2. So what exactly is the “RIGHT” way to help people in need? It’s not good enough to just “like” something on facebook or retweet it, so we donate money. But then we’re too lazy to actually get up and do something so we go to a soup kitchen. But then we’re just trying to get publicity for our blogs and make ourselves feel better…

    Meanwhile, if the person (or people) making these douchey obvservations stepped away from their computers and actually did something, anything, other than complain about someone else helping out, well, wouldn’t that be one more (perhaps a hundred more) people in need being lent a helping hand.

    People with a reach and a captive audience like celebrities, or well-known bloggers, like Heather, *should* do something good with it. Hopefully this is just the first of many.

  3. I have never done anything like that before, but I don’t feel like anyone…even the most cold-hearted person could see what you, or Heather, or anyone else that has witnessed such conditions could do so without be changed somehow. Shame on them for their “holier than thou” attitude. For trying to bring people down instead of just joining in and raising people up. Great post.

  4. There are lot’s of people in this world who have to denigrate others, for lots of different reasons and we’ll never understand why. There is a particular problogger who irritates the bejeezus out of me because she is so haughty, and has specific ‘rules’ about what makes a ‘real’ writer. Please. Do not let anyone tell you your trip was for anything other than the purposes YOU KNOW IT WAS FOR. Good for you and your article and for standing up for your principles, as you see it. Realize you won’t change this person’s mind, but think of the other people you will enlighten. Let the disdainful wallow in their own pomp and narcissicism. You do you. Do what you do, do it gladly, joyfully, and let them deal with their own issues. Clearly this person has a problem, but it doesn’t have to be yours. Let her remain quagmired in her own issues, while you continue to do what you know is right.

    Opinions are like, well, you know…some of them are just a lot more nasty than others. ;)

  5. But here’s the tricky question: Once you have that experience, what do you do? Are you fighting to change U.S. policy? Are you living a simpler life and donating your time and money to causes to transform the world order? Do you educate those around you? There are no easy answers here, but immersion in the Third World or war-torn societies has to be accompanied by a commitment to activism, to transformation. Because, if it’s not, I’m afraid it can become a dipping of one’s toes. (I’m proud to have worked with a group that did just this — that gives people not just “reality tours” of the Third World, but then works to train them to change the policies that leads to Third Worlds in the first place. We’re all, frankly, part of the problem. Our tax dollars make this world shitty. Our affluent lifestyles are built upon the misery of others. It’s those realizations that can — maybe — lead to difference.)

    1. Aren’t all of those answers valid?

      Maybe I’ll start a foundation some day. Maybe I’ll write an Oscar-winning screenplay about Sarajevo. Maybe I’ll take my kids there one day simply as someone who bore witness and never wants the stories to die. Or maybe what I’ve already done there (which I choose not to disclose here) is enough.

      We can’t force people to commit to activism. We can only hope that getting to know the world community in a more personal way will help them come to it on their own.

      Thanks for your comment Matt.
      Mom101 recently posted..Here’s an idea! Let’s attack bloggers who do good things!My Profile

      1. I appreciate the thoughtful response. And I’d be the first to admit that there are no easy answer, no magic bullet, no “Here’s exactly what to do to change the world.” But while I certainly agree you can’t “force” people to activism, you can encourage it. And — I hate to say it — the vast majority of people who have a war-torn, Third World experience are moved — BRIEFLY. They return, a bit shaken, to their comfortable lives. And the shaken fades. And the affluent cocoon warms us. And, perhaps most importantly, no one explains how our comfort — and their misery — are directly related. Until we make and act on that connection, I do fear most — perhaps not you, perhaps not Heather — may be striding in the shoes of many well-meaning, but ultimately fruitless, tourists.

        1. “the vast majority of people who have a war-torn, Third World experience are moved — BRIEFLY”

          I don’t think that’s true at all. I know I was changed just by traveling in Africa — without any current wars. Not everyone comes back and becomes a full-time activist. And everyone filters their experiences through their own biases and preconceptions. But people don’t go to Bangladesh for the theatre and restaurants. The only reason I can think of for going there would be to make a connection with some of the people who live there. Not something that slips your mind later.

          1. Thanks Beauzeaux. I couldn’t agree more. I was changed by my own travels profoundly. And now I get to pass my perspectives on war, humanity, and benevolence through to my children. It’s not all I do, but at bare minimum, that’s something.

  6. Bravo! I have heard different variations on the “you’re doing it wrong” theme from different corners of the non-profit world for years. And, I’m sure that lots of us are. I haven’t spent my entire career working in a developing country so my knowledge of what is most effective is certainly limited. But, here’s the thing, even if “you’re doing it wrong” YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING! And that’s about a million times better than a lot of people.

    I think that the Guardian journalist doesn’t get the point of these trips. It’s not so that Heather Armstrong or any other certain individual can go be a “tourist.” It’s so she can bring back just a tiny bit of that reality for her readers, who then understand better what is going on outside their communities and donate to the organization so it can do its good work. That doesn’t diminish the life-changing nature of the trip for the individual involved, but that’s not the only, nor even necessarily the most important thing.

    There are big problems in the world and often money goes a long way toward solving them. But the thing is that no one will give an organization money if they have no idea what it is, what is does, or why it’s important. I’m glad that non-profits are taking bloggers on these trips. Whether it’s Heather with Every Mother Counts or the many bloggers who go on trips with Compassion International, I learn a lot from what they have to say.

    Keep up the good work bloggers!

    1. Wow… you know, if professionals in the aid industry are telling you that your organization is doing things wrong… you’re probably doing things wrong.
      It’s not like those people, who for the most part want to help others, would go out of their way to tell you that for kicks.
      Honestly, if you had an injury, would you want just someone off the street who was well-intentioned to help, or would you want a doctor who understood the situation? Just DOING something without knowing the consequences can be just as bad, or worse then doing nothing at all. All you do is assuage your own guilt, you don’t benefit the community.

      1. I think a lot of people are getting caught up on this word “wrong” that I used here with some degree of hyperbole.
        There is nothing wrong about bearing witness or sharing our personal stories–about anything at all. It’s the first step in creating a more caring world community. And that’s what leads to real change.

  7. Hear, hear!

    Old Media doesn’t get New Media, but they are threatened by it. It’s sad that they have to bash bloggers to make themselves feel relevant.

  8. OK, honestly, I fully read the article expecting to be enraged, I really did. But having read this from a far less personal perspective, I thought the article was fairly balanced — and for the record, I’ve liked what Heather has done with the organization, and have not a bad thing to say about it, because it’s a good thing, and I believe that.

    But criticism and questions like that are more than fair, given the high stakes involved, and the fact that poverty tourism does exist. And it seems to me that her point isn’t so much, “Heather Armstrong is doing it wrong!” so much as it is, hey, these types of things are great to raise awareness, but there has to be some follow through on everyone’s part to make sure it works. I walked away with the totally valid idea that yes, the means justifies the ends, provided people know what the end — and the takeaway for readers to act on — IS. And I didn’t get the idea that the burden is on the bloggers to provide that, but on the organizations that hire them.

    1. I agree with Jonna – I think it’s a VERY worthy cause and endeavor .. if a method of outreach or participation is offered. Otherwise .. and you kind of said yourself .. you “go on about [your] life”, and it’s just a missed opportunity.

      I don’t know that I think it’s povery tourism or whatever they called it, because I know good can come of it. It just has to happen, to be triggered, is all.

      1. I appreciate the respectful viewpoints you all offer.

        Although I think that the idea of a “missed opportunity” implies that there is some sort of quantifiable return on the investment that’s required. While I’m not the type of person who would come home and “do nothing,” I would imagine there’s a whole continuum of action that’s possible and all of it is okay, right?
        Mom101 recently posted..Here’s an idea! Let’s attack bloggers who do good things!My Profile

    2. Yes, thank you. I felt very similarly.

      Not to take away anything from Liz’s personal experiences as written above, but the op-ed in question really isn’t attacking Heather or any blogger. When Heather first tweeted angrily about it this morning, I wasn’t even sure she was serious (and @ replied her to ask, but she didn’t answer) because the op-ed simply calls attention to some things that are happening, and some other things that aren’t.
      Kristan recently posted..Linky WednesdayMy Profile

      1. Oh, and as for the “uber-condescending” statement, I think it was actually meant in *support* of bloggers (who obviously would not poke anyone with a stick; no one needs to be “firmly discouraged” from that). The writer was using sarcasm, which unfortunately doesn’t always come through clearly on the internet.
        Kristan recently posted..Linky WednesdayMy Profile

    3. I have to agree with these comments. Was the article a little harsh? Maybe, but only in the sense that it wasn’t 100% glowing. And that’s okay.

      I think these types of blogger visits can be extremely beneficial from an education, awareness, and fundraising perspective. It is critically important to counterbalance the self-absorption of richer countries with a little slap-in-the-face reality. But such visits have to be handled very, very carefully and I do think anyone who goes needs to ask, “Why am I doing this? What do I hope to accomplish?” and come up with some honest answers.

      (I haven’t been following the Dooce trip, so my comments are general and not specific to her trip.)

      1. I also agree with this line of comments. I think the article is quite fair and balanced. Personally, I think that well-intentioned people in the U.S. need to recognize that we don’t have the right answer for everything. If they are going to do activism with overseas issues they should work with local NGOs who understand the culture and have personal connections to the community they serve. And I would love to see people also tackling social justice issues in their own backyards, such as gentrification, food deserts, and environmental racism.

  9. BRAVO!

    A friend lit into me one night, after she learned I was supporting a woman through Women for Women International and a child through World Vision. She accused me of “trying to earn liberal brownie points” and “collecting adorable people to make myself feel better about my privleged life”.

    She, of course, was too busy blasting me to do anything, for anyone.

    Thanks for sharing your Sarajevo stories. I hope you can write more.
    Clueless But Hopeful Mama recently posted..Happy Anniversary, complete with maggotsMy Profile

  10. Thank you for this, Liz. I’m sure this will touch a nerve with Karen, too (her post on her upcoming trip to Kenya for ONE.org, for Mom 101 readers, here.

    It’s a complex issue, how to render help, how to draw attention, etc. Attention must be paid, yes, and also respect. Your work here, and Heather’s, does both. And also touches a great many folks, in unexpected ways.

    The Guardian critique clearly paints bloggers with a broad brush dipped in a whole lot of disdain, and also evidently no appreciation for the quality and impact of our online relationships. Also, elitist “holier than thou” infighting among fellow activists, whatever the cause, is one of my top 5 not-so-pet peeves. Thank you for drawing attention, in a productive way.

  11. I thought it interesting that one of the author’s chief criticisms of blogger trips to impoverished areas was that there is no call to action for the reader. This is the NGO’s responsibility –to tell the community what they can do to help and use the writer as a conduit for that message. Not the blogger’s.

    And you could level the same criticism at mainstream journalists reporting on the same things. In fact, except on the editorial page, there is even LESS likelihood that a MSM journo would provide the context and call to community in the effort to be “objective.”
    Susan Getgood recently posted..Pitching on the graveMy Profile

    1. OK, but this is a criticism leveled at mainstream journalists for ages and ages, and I DO believe that objectivity in journalism is critical, and that making a call to action to a specific organization is risky. I’m a former (and occasionally current) journalist, so I will fully cop to my own bias here. Journalists’ jobs are to tell a story, period. They cannot, as professionals, get involved with what’s happening. It’s not Anderson Cooper’s job to pick up a gun and help the fighting in Afghanistan, so why is it their job to do anything but report on what’s happening elsewhere?

      These are questions I ask and think about, and are not directed at you, here, except that I think there IS a difference between a blogger working on behalf of a specific charity to raise awareness and a mainstream journalist. A big one. Even if the blogger paid his or her own expenses — and Heather maintains that she did, and I believe her, and in that, I think she is entirely right to be frustrated with the journalist in question — her role in working with the organizations discussed are vastly different than a journalist working on behalf of a news organization.
      jonniker recently posted..BlowMy Profile

      1. No offense taken. I probably wasn’t as clear as I should have been in my comment. The criticism that there is no call to action isn’t the blogger’s or the journalists responsibility.It’s up to the NGO to a) get the writer on scene and b) tell the compelling story that includes a call to action. If that’s missing it is neither the journalist nor the blogger’s fault. The writer can only share that which is shared with her.

        This is an important point in the original article, that gets missed because the language and tone is somewhat snarky.

        Bottom line, you can either be irritated that a writer shares too much of her personal experience and not enough objectivity in a piece OR that she is not engaged enough in the problem (just a poverty tourist). Somehow, I don’t think you can argue both in the same piece.
        Susan Getgood recently posted..Pitching on the graveMy Profile

  12. Wow, thank you, not for jumping to Heather’s defense but for sharing your experience. I too read the article and at first read was angry but at the second read understood a little more what she was trying to say. Although she did a piss poor job doing it, bloggers bring back compelling stories that leave people wanting to do more but not always with information to do so, I think she was trying to say that organizations need better completion plans so people know how they can help. She chose the wrong blogger to use as an example, anyone who reads Dooce knows she will make damn sure that people know how to adequately support this cause if they are inclined to do so. This wont be a series of posts that will fade into the past, she will push, that is what she does, that is why we love her. I would guess this journalist doesn’t know Dooce or her readers which is a huge loss for her.

  13. Thank you for saying so eloquently what I couldn’t. A woman I know very well went into Africa with a group to witness first-hand the poverty and suffering. She was so moved she came home and started Hands of Hope: http://www.handsofhopeonline.org Because what she saw changed her. As Sarajevo changed you and Bangledesh changed Heather.

    This “journalist” couldn’t even be bothered to fact-check before writing her slam-piece.

    Thank you again for your rebuttal.

    To a better world for all women.

  14. Great post!!! I wholeheartedly agree that as Westerners it is difficult to know how to help and so people do nothing. Not to mention everyone being so damn judgmental when we do try and help.

    I recall a time when my husbad and I were living in Shanghai and my parents came to visit. I took them to an orphanage where (mostly) ladies would volunteer to help out and if nothing else just provide physical contact to children who severely lacked contact with others and were starving for a simple embrace.

    Sure this experience could be called poverty tourism but I also think by being there for even a couple of hours that day, we provided something those children desperately needed, smiles, hugs and kind words (even though they probably didn’t understand them.)

    On top of that our hearts and minds were broadened such that I still hear my mom say, when snuggling with my newborn, “I still think about those poor orphans in China who craved physical touch so desperately.”

    Perhaps the experience simply reinforced the need to show love and affection to those around us in the western world, but it is also possible someday when we have the means, more permanent help could be provided to the orphanage or one like it.

    How can this really be construed as something bad?
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  15. This post has filled me with the chills in your description of your trip – I commented on the said article in the Guardian asking if she had asked Heather about her expenses and then a few comments on the journalist made a comment saying not. It’s obvious the journalist has “groupies” who agree with everything but also I don’t think she had thought through how tight knit the blogging community is.

  16. Thank you for writing this. I have been writing about Special Olympics for the last six weeks, and one of my readers commented that she hated the sponsored content. About SPECIAL OLYMPICS. And yet, here I am, sitting in Greece, having been completely mind-blown by the amazing things I’ve seen on the sporting fields, and I was afraid to write about it because I was worried that people would be turned off that I am on a sponsored trip.

    And then I realized that my life has been changed by this trip. It’s not the third world stuff that you and Heather experienced, but it’s still amazing and I will forever look at the world in a new way. And no one, not even a snarky journalist or an off-base reader, can take that away from me.

    So I am writing about the experience, and even if no one comments and no one cares, I am still going to volunteer for Special Olympics, and I am going to try to make a difference.

    /rant
    heather… recently posted..Role ModelsMy Profile

    1. I’m coming out of lurkdom to tell you that I, as a mother of a child, a child I was told may never walk, a child who came in FIRST PLACE in her 9 year old division 25 meter race this past May, THANK YOU for volunteering. Thank you for going and learning and opening your heart to something so wonderful as the Special Olympics.

      And I totally agree with William.
      Rae recently posted..UpgradedMy Profile

  17. Goddamn. Thank you. I could not get the words out. But yes. This a thousand timez. How Fucking. Presumptuous. What an asshole,

    1. Can we keep the personal attacks to a minimum?

      I appreciate your support but I think we can have a good discussion about this without name calling.

  18. bravo, well said! Some people just have to be negative about everything- maybe they think it makes them seem intelligent. I think it makes them look like a slacker, some people get up and do what they can, even if it is to only enlighten their small part of the world about problems…and some people just spread negativity and complain.

  19. Delurking to say that this post is a rare disappointment from a blogger I have long respected and admired.

    I believe you conflated the views of Rowan Davies, the author of the Guardian article, with the views of the author of an article she links to (“Should starving people be tourist attractions?” by William Easterly, http://aidwatchers.com/2009/06/should-starving-people-be-tourist-attractions/). Easterly’s article matches the descriptions in your second and fourth paragraphs much more closely. RD’s article seemed to me to be much more nuanced.

    Those who put up supportive comments such as “…what’s the a@#-hole who wrote that piece of crap doing to help others?” and “I say she’s just a raging ignorant asshole!” seem not to have read the article for themselves before commenting.

    1. Well-said. I’m feeling the same way about Heather Armstrong’s Dooce right now, too. She has been sending rude tweets to the author of the op-ed — who, by contrast, has been explaining/defending herself with grace — and it is so disappointing to this long-time fan.
      Kristan recently posted..Linky WednesdayMy Profile

      1. Kristan, I couldn’t agree more. I thought the original piece was actually pretty fair and Ms. Armstrong’s reaction — while understandable, perhaps, I’m sure she felt personally attacked — was over the top. And, it appears, that any reaction during the day in support of the article or the journalist was met with insults. Not everything every blogger does needs to be praised uncritically — nor does everything a particular blogger does need to be criticized just because that particular blogger did it.

      1. True, Liz, you are not responsible for what your commenters say. However, you titled this post “Here’s an idea! Let’s attack bloggers who do good things!” knowing that this would shape the perception of readers, particularly those who are not particularly careful in their evaluation of the original article. The original article does not attack Heather, and it does not even attack the practice of sending bloggers to impoverished areas. It just discusses the problem. If you want to write about this kind of thing I think you do have some responsibility to guide the readers responsibly. And I will give you that there is some patronizing language in the article (one sentence in particular, regarding the poking with sticks), but I think that it’s a tough argument to make that this was an attack on Heather. I have a little experience in this area and have noted that she tends to take all mentions of her that aren’t adulatory as being attacks, when really they are a discussion of her influence in the cultural imagination at large.
        ABDPBT recently posted..Nursery CrapMy Profile

        1. Actually it does attack the practice of sending bloggers to impoverished areas. And the headline suggests that she is on a poverty tourism junket, paid for by an NGO (also intended to shape our perceptions, no?)

          I think a great point to be made in that article–a super great point–is buried in some unnecessary snark and aspersions on bloggers in general. Case in point: she could have followed the contrarian quotes from Easterly about how patronizing vistors’ attitudes are with a line like, “those are harsh points.” Instead, she wrote “those are powerful points.”

          It’s really interesting to me that we can all read one article so differently.

          1. No, the topic sentence of that paragraph is “Some observers are uncomfortable about westerners being flown to dirt-poor regions to solemnly observe the impoverished in their natural habitats before returning home with an interesting infection and an exalted sense of enlightenment.” She then quotes one such “observer.” The article also goes on to say “But such trips are not necessarily queasily exploitative; it’s all in the handling, and in the outcomes.”

            It’s fairly standard journalistic practice here, and those ARE powerful points. Particularly when Heather posted something about Bangladesh today that WAS SPONSORED BY YAHOO, after being adamant that she didn’t have her expenses paid all morning. Not that I even care if her expenses were paid, incidentally — I feel like that is a completely irrelevant point.

            It’s not that we are reading it differently, it’s that you are ignoring the actual text of the post.
            ABDPBT recently posted..Nursery CrapMy Profile

  20. how on earth can we expect to be treated with respect and dignity if we don’t do it ourselves, participating in spreading compassion and awareness no matter if it’s in the states or on the other side of the world?

    a lot of people talk, and not a lot of people walk.
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  21. I totally agree with Katrina
    ” Shame on them for their “holier than thou” attitude. For trying to bring people down instead of just joining in and raising people up. ”
    I’m a firm believer of the ripple affect and blogging about these experiences helps educate others making them think or write or whatever differently. I may not have the money or clout to change the world but I sure can blog and maybe effect one or two readers and they in turn may influence others.
    I hope someone tells this journalist the root of the job- It doesn’t matter who re-tells a story or experience as long as the story is SHARED.

    1. I agree with your sentiment here, but I disagree with the particulars. I don’t think the root of it is that the story is shared. The root is “Now that the story is shared, what’s going to change?” That’s always the question I have and what I think Rowan Davies was asking. Knowing something new about the state of the world is valuable, but it is only as valuable as the action that follows. If we are just going to share the story and pass it around like the newest thing to tsk over and then move on, I think we are dancing awfully close to the “poverty tourism” accusation.

      Now we know the story. Now what?

  22. I think the Guardian piece was pretty fair, and much more critical of the NGOs than the bloggers; even the poke-a-stick comment was a dig at NGO’s instructions to bloggers.

    Heather does herself no favors in responding rudely to the piece, and, since we do care, and we do want truly good things to happen, isn’t a conversation about best practices in philanthropy a valid one?

  23. Hmm, I wonder if this is about the blurred line between journalists and bloggers.

    Whether it was Rowan Davies or William Easterly, would either of these writers be saying this about Nick Kristof?

    Please write more about Sarajevo someday.
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    1. I do wish someone would call out Nick Kristof on his poverty tourism. I mean, he sponsors a contest to witness the horrors of Africa. He writes (albeit often eloquently) about poverty and the social ills associated with it but his whole look-at-us-Westerners theme is too much.

      I fear that influential bloggers — whether they paid their own way or not — will uncritically succumb to whatever aid strategy the NGO favors. Just as Kristof peddles aid strategies of questionable value (see, e.g., his fawning over DIY aid activists).

      When NGOs hire or use or promote famous people, including bloggers, on these trips, we risk the story being all out them — their experience with the poverty, their horror, their discomfort, etc. I direct anyone to http://talesfromethehood.com/2010/10/30/not-about-us/ for an excellent read.

      I think the article in the Guardian is probably peddling on hits/controversy around Heather’s name. And that is bad. But so too is the rampant criticism from certain corners of anyone who thinks that Heather’s trip might have been bad, or at least not well thought out, idea.

      International aid is awfully complicated and I think reporting on it should be evidence-based (as opposed to anecdotal). I cringe when I see Kristof and his (mostly) white (mostly) Western cadre swooping in to save a population with T-shirts and Tom’s Shoes that in the end undermine local production.

      Awareness is all well and good but at this point I feel about international maternity morbidity and mortality the way I do about so much pink in October: Who isn’t aware by now that millions of women die in pregnancy and childbirth in the developing world? To not know means you’ve been living in willful ignorance. What we need *so much more* than another blogger writing about women in Bangladesh — however wonderfully I believe she’d write about it — or Nick Kristof taking another contest winner to Niger is policy making.

      1. Thanks for a thoughtful comment.

        I’d argue that in this case, awareness is essential because awareness equals fundraising, and money can actually reverse maternity mortality statistics rather quickly.

        When a writer (Kristof, Heather, whoever) writes – you never know who it reaches. You never know whose heart they may touch. Maybe all Heather will create is a more compassionate world. Or maybe she’ll create a foundation. Or maybe she’ll save a single life somehow. Are any of those not enough?

        Let’s give her the chance.

  24. I thought the Rowan Davies article you linked to was actually very nuanced and balanced. She wrote thoughtfully about both the benefits and potential drawbacks to inviting westerners to observe situations in developing countries. She had this to say about Heather Armstrong in particular: “Armstrong’s active community page showcases her responsive readers, who are the real target for Turlington. A blogger who has the trust, respect and friendship of her audience will move people to action more readily than the wiliest professional campaigner.” She linked to Dooce’s community page. I didn’t see the article as an attack at all, and definitely not on bloggers.
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  25. I agree wholeheartedly. As a former journalist, I feel the bloggers ARE journalists. They have great power to make others aware of the atrocities that exist outside our little comfortable bubbles. Why would we condemn that? If a journalist’s visit to an impoverished nation has the power to change even ONE heart, it is worth praising.

    That’s my opinion.
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  26. Maybe I’m a little bit cynical, but I thought the journalist’s real (and unsaid) reason for bloggers to not do things like that is because it creates competition and might put mainstream journalists out of work. What’s the difference between Dooce blogging about Bangladesh and this Rowan Whatsit going over there and doing a series of stories? A paycheck.

  27. Bloggers aren’t serious journalists, especially those with their irreverent stories mocking religion and giving way TMI on bodily functions. They can’t possibly be respected at the same level as those who pretend to be people they are not for cameras. AYFKM?

    The point is that they get our attention. And sometimes, as is the case with Heather Armstrong, bloggers share painfully relatable personal experiences that can help and influence people. Ask Heather how many people have thanked her for helping them feel less stigmatized about seeking treatment for depression, or learned to be patient with the process since med-tweaking can be maddening in itself. I’m one of them.

    Personally, I didn’t know about the efforts of Christy Turlington and Every Mother Counts until Heather posted about it. They are getting attention, sharing and relating information that can help mothers abroad as well as here. This is self-serving?

    This isn’t just about what a blogger can do, but what a blogger can inspire.
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  28. This is a fascinating example of how we can read articles online in different ways.

    I had not read the article prior to reading your post and reading it now, I can see why you are a little angry at the writer.

    On the other hand, if I read the article in a different voice, it is actually supportive of the idea of sending bloggers on these trips but warns that there needs to be strategy to the follow-up.

    The byline of the article states “Sending bloggers to developing countries is well meaning, but without a completion strategy risks being just groovy PR”

    I have seen this happen many times with people who go on ‘Mission trips’ to third world countries (me included). They come back fired up about the problems they saw and what they can do to help, but then within a week or two, life gets in the way again and great plans fall by the wayside.

    I’d love to be able to ask the writer of the article what she was actually saying. I tend to err on the side of the positive, but maybe you’re right, maybe she was just being a jerk!
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  29. Woah. I really don’t think that article was an ‘attack’. To be honest, I think this and Dooce’s tweets are more of an attack. I can see this snowballing, really. Dooce knows that with all her followers, her incendiary language on her tweets can cause an uproar. And here, another inflamed post. Firstly, the journalist has been nothing but polite in response, and has apologised for the lack of clarity on expenses. She has made a clarification in the comments. The rest of her article was an opinion piece; surely people are allowed to have dissenting opinions? Even against a famous blogger? I think it should be remembered that journalism is part of how this woman makes a living, it is her job. Complaints and rude comments on twitter are not going to help her. It seems a bit like bullying, to be honest. I don’t think she needs her reputation blasted for having opinions. Dooce has called her journalism ‘shoddy’ and said she writes from the perspective of luxury – untrue – this woman works with developmental NGO’s on an ongoing basis, I’ve looked at her website. On a personal level, I feel if I was in the position of women in Bangladesh I would be hopeful that the being visited by and discussed by westerners might resolve in solid results; I think this is the kind of thing the author was getting at. Awareness is well and good, but if it has little concrete effect then isn’t it just tourism? Anyway, that was a personal aside, this is coming from someone who reads and enjoys you and dooce, and have for ages. I just like to think also that any dissenting opinion I might have regarding your work wouldn’t result in a twitter/ blog attack.

      1. I see that – and I know it’s your blog and obviously you can be as dissenting and personal as you like on it. But, your post-title and content and the tweets are just far more incendiary and on a different, more personalised level in response to what was a journalistic opinion piece. That’s why I said ‘more LIKE an attack’ as the word ‘attack’ was used in your own post-title. I just think when people have power (followers, word of mouth, potential for snowball effect, etc) they should use it wisely and appropriately. The journalist in question seems to have responded very reasonably and appropriately- I just think the whole matter should be dealt with on a similar level. It is her work, and it’s just completely different to the personal nature of blogging. I’d assume you wouldn’t want something like this to happen in response to one of your ad campaigns, for example. As I said, I LOVE reading you and dooce, but really, a polite tweet asking for clarification on expenses, or her own well-thought out response in the comments would have been enough, rather than getting people all riled up about it. I feel that’s unfair.

        1. Hm, I can’t agree with you here. This is my space and I think I’m entitled to be upset about an article, and come out and say why. I haven’t tweeted anything incendiary. In fact, I only tweeted once about this. Here: http://twitter.com/#!/Mom101/status/86112790649118720

          If there is something dooce is saying that you don’t like, you’ll have to take it up with her. (I haven’t been on twitter much – I’m working! Shh…)

          And trust me, the Guardian is tickled to pieces when one of their articles gets linked elsewhere and the discussion continue. That’s page views right there for ya. That’s how they sell advertising. In fact, if it snowballs big enough, you’ll see it on the Today Show tomorrow with the journalist chiming in on satellite ;)
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          1. Oops, I didn’t see this. No, I do think you’re entitled to your opinions on your blog, of course. I was mostly pointing out your title, which referenced an ‘attack’, which I felt was incendiary. You may be right about page views and all that (though the guardian is a fairly principled organization, when all is said and done, one which adheres to strict guidelines and avoids many of the pifalls of other sensational papers, also it already has a colossal readership), but I still think her reputation as a journalist is an important factor to remember.

          2. I’m sorry if I’m being dense.

            Is your point that I shouldn’t challenge her article, because it might compromise her reputation?

          3. No, not at all, more that there are different ways to challenge, for example not describing her article as an ‘attack’. It’s not that I don’t think anyone isn’t entitled to dissent, it’s more that I think the dissent should be proportional to the initial provocation. I just think that people overreacting might create a kind of disproportional hysteria that could be damaging to someone.

            1. Just a reminder: The article is called “Blogging from Bangladesh: More poverty tourism?”

              That stings.

  30. I haven’t read the article yet — and may well not. However, ACs point about people “bullying” her for doing her job isn’t quite fair, either.

    Journalists writing news pieces can be attacked on the facts presented. Journalists writing opinion pieces? Well, that’s really very close to blogging, now, isn’t it? And in blogging (and opinion pieces) you’d best expect to hear dissenting opinions right back at you.

  31. I’m so glad I saw the retweet of this post, and that you linked to Rowan’s article. I’m going to Bolivia with World Vision next month to blog about what WV does there.

    This will be my first trip of this kind, so I have no informed opinion on the issues you both raise… yet. But reading these posts has given me a good sense of the possible pit-falls and the attitudes of at least some readers.

    I hope that our trip will be considered one that has a clearly-defined “here’s what to do to make things better” — our goal is for more children to be sponsored through World Vision. I hope to learn for myself, and also show readers, that even doing a “little” thing, like sending $35 a month, will make a real difference in the life and future of an entire family.
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  32. @Jen I see your point, but the distinction I wanted to make,which perhaps I should have been more clear about, was writing opinion based around fact, with less of the personal, experience-based writing that blogging involves. And also I wanted to recognise the fact that this woman isn’t getting a million twitter followers all riled up with incendiary language, neither is she creating a snowballing effect in a way that could tarnish someone’s reputation. Her article was definitely not a personal attack on anyone. I think responses to it should also really end up in the comments to the actual article, rather than ending up all over the web. That to me is a really overblown response, and unfair. The Guardian is probably receiving loads of complaints too. I think that’s rather serious, to be honest, and could be defined as bullying.

    1. *Her article was definitely not a personal attack on anyone. I think responses to it should also really end up in the comments to the actual article, rather than ending up all over the web. That to me is a really overblown response, and unfair. The Guardian is probably receiving loads of complaints too. I think that’s rather serious, to be honest, and could be defined as bullying.*

      Well, yes and no. If I’m angry at how something was written (and I’m sorry words like pauper and queasy and on and on are used for a specific effect there and it’s not reportage — it’s pointed at certain people she’s talking about. SO, if I’m angry at that opinion, I’m much more likely (if I had a blog or if I used twitter) to NOT try and give them a million comments and pageviews.

      In many cases, stories like these are meant to be incendiary (again, see chosen vocabulary) and meant to drive traffic. So, in the Guardian’s eyes, I’d say they’re likely pretty happy. If not, perhaps they’ll rethink how they frame a story like this, maybe a little less hip-blogger-y speak and heavier on facts and documentable evidence.

  33. Jonniker — No offense taken. I probably wasn’t as clear as I should have been in my comment. The criticism that there is no call to action isn’t the blogger’s or the journalists responsibility.It’s up to the NGO to a) get the writer on scene and b) tell the compelling story that includes a call to action. If that’s missing it is neither the journalist nor the blogger’s fault. The writer can only share that which is shared with her.

    This is an important point in the original article, that gets missed because the language and tone is deliberately snarky.

    Bottom line, you can either be irritated that a writer shares too much of her personal experience and not enough objectivity in a piece OR that she is not engaged enough in the problem (just a poverty tourist). Somehow, I don’t think you can argue both in the same piece.
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    1. Thinking about this a lot, I think what’s also confusing is that the sources she quotes either attack or defend the traveler–“Easterly’s ire is directed at paying customers; bloggers who make trips for NGOs are usually paid expenses.”

      If her main point is that NGOs don’t have clear calls to action, why spend the bulk of the article on bloggers?
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  34. Staying on the periphery of the debate, I’ll just say that as I get older I care less and less about motive and particulars if an action results in anything positive.

    Credentials.
    Fine print.
    Celebrity.
    Metrics.

    If it’s making something good happen, upping the volume on a story, then who gives a shit.

    Sorry.

    And yes, please write more about Sarajevo.
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  35. It’s easy to get people to talk or write about a cause, but I’ve found that it’s much harder to get them or, even more commonly, the people who follow/read them to act. A lot of people “talk” about my particular cause, but don’t really make an effort to affect real change. I think most people working in an NGO or non-profit environment face the same frustration, and I got the sense that is what Rowan was trying to say. I also felt she was placing the blame not on bloggers but on NGOs that don’t think through how to strategically use bloggers to make a measurable impact.

    What bugged me about the piece, though, was the choice of words that made it feel like she was tweaking Heather, like her characterization that Heather’s writing about the trip to Bangladesh has been “slightly earnest”. Why include the word slightly? What does that mean? Why intimate with the discussion of free vs. paid trips that in the end this is just a boondoggle?

    There is no way for Davies to know how involved Heather or her readers will become with Every Mother Counts, so it feels as though this article was written prematurely. Meantime, I LOVE your story about Sarajevo and how it affected you. There are all sorts of ways to get involved to help a cause. Some people get involved once, some throughout their lives, some early after their experience, some later, some in one way, some in various ways. I try always to remind myself that every act, large and small, adds up to good.

    P.S. We’ll be taking up the discussion of causes and bloggers working together at BlogHer ’11 Pathfinder Day for those who are interested in exploring this topic further. http://www.blogher.com/announcing-new-addition-blogher-11-agenda-pathfinder-day
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    1. Katherine – I read the article quickly the first time and, like you, I didn’t really read it as an attack on bloggers per se. But your (very valid) point on the use of such adjectives as “slightly” with the word “earnest” have given me pause.

  36. I have to agree with AC. Besides, it’s not really a matter of being a fan of Dooce. I think it’s safe to say, most women who follow blogs are – me included. It’s more a matter of thinking critically about the agenda of NGO’s and ways we can, if we choose to, effect change. Yeah, it totally stinks to be singled out like Heather was. At the same time, I think she’d have a pretty thick skin and prove Rowan Davies wrong with thoughtful responses on her blog – not defensive tweets. I’m hoping those are coming.

  37. Wow that’s really absurd. I conceptually understand where they were going, but I feel like it came off extremely antagonistic. Honestly exposing Westerners to worlds outside of Bravo and Target isn’t a bad thing. Especially people who have an audience and can be influential. Its making the mass public more aware of the world outside of their own and expanding ones horizons will only lead to more caring compassionate people.
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  38. Poverty Tourism is not a new concept. I grew up upper-middle class in an impoverished country in Southeast Asia, and as a school field trip during high school, we spent a day watching barely clothed children pick trash at the then famous giant landfill called Smokey Mountain. It opened our eyes to the luxury we didn’t know we had, but it doesn’t mean it compelled us to do anything to help. I multiply this feeling of shock a hundredfold when I read about privileged Americans visiting countries like Bangladesh or the Philippines. Living and enjoying the comforts of my life in the U.S. now, I can just imagine the shock one must feel in realizing how the rest of the world lives. While exploitation is there, and while it may reduce people’s misfortunes to a spectacle, I wouldn’t entirely discount this pastime as a useless touristy thing. To me, if one person could be exposed to this and go home feeling disturbed, haunted, or bothered enough to talk about it, that is great. If it forces them to rethink their priorities and be more thankful for what they have, awesome. If it causes them to raise their children with more awareness about how so many people will never have a tenth of what they take for granted, bravo. The world is filled with so many people who think their lives are miserable because they don’t have everything the next person has. We worry so much about retirement, and college funds, and the right clothes, the wrong car…sometimes we need to see someone who has absolutely nothing to know that we are the luckiest people alive.
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  39. Ha, Davies’ response was to my question in the comments, I was struggling to see her position.

    Your writing on your trip was very moving – I don’t think that other lands, times, experiences can come alive unless there’s a real story, a beating heart and not simply the cold hard facts. The weird thing is that Davies is a blogger who has taken these sorts of trips before: so why include the paragraphs on “poverty tourism” at all if she didn’t believe that’s what these trips are? Or why not, at least, make the case for her real position as a stronger rebuttal of the poverty tourism digs in the body of the article?

    I would be offended and peeved if I were you too, but I’m starting to wonder if the problem is that the tone of the article was poorly judged, or that the writer’s more real, sympathetic viewpoint was edited out and it was made more controversial for the pageviews.

  40. “@dooce: Shoddy journalism: http://t.co/drpM4Pk 

    I’ve just read it and it actually strikes me as a fairly balanced piece making some valid observations- long time reader of both the Guardian AND Dooce so no knee-jerk reaction available to me – hmmm

  41. I first visited New York in the early 1980s, and I wanted to see if Brooklyn really was as it was portrayed on Welcome Back Kotter. Was that poverty tourism?

    I think we all want more ways to “close the deal,” as the author writes. Realistically, there is only so much that we can do without making a cause our full time job (and I applaud those who do). Signing a petition or making a monetary donation feels futile, even when it’s not.

    Of course even the best intentions can grow corrupt. But the initial paragraphs of the Guardian piece take an unfairly critical tone of bloggers as a collective — passing judgment on all without even citing anecdotal evidence of one.

  42. Sometimes these trips do make me uncomfortable, I admit it, for a variety of reasons, many of them I see reflected in Davies’ piece. But there is power in sharing stories that most of us would never otherwise get to see, certainly. And the fact is that needs and suffering of all sorts can feel overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to begin to solve them. How do you create outcomes and affect change anywhere when needs are so great? You really do just have to start. I was in Vietnam three years ago as a reporter, overwhelmed by what I saw and under absolutely no edict to do anything but tell the truth of what I saw. I felt that was even thwarted by an editor’s ego, unfortunately. I hope to go back, I’d like to do more, and I haven’t yet. I wonder why. The usual — time, resources, reach. Would Operation Smile or another group even send me back because I’m not a mother? Hard to say. That’s my own issue with this, but it’s nothing different than what I deal with daily in other situations in the blogosphere.

    But I find nothing enraging in this article, honestly, and maybe that’s because I didn’t see it as an attack — more a thoughtful critique from someone involved with this work. (And you know I like to get riled on occasion. :)) If issue was taken with her comments I do wish that they had been handled on Twitter less combatively, and without language and name-calling as you have graciously responded to here. Just my take, but I’m fairly critical so there’s that. :)

    1. Some of us are maybe “just” storytellers. But you never know where a story may lead. Or who might be reading.

      I hope you get to go back, Laurie. I’d love to read about it from your beautiful voice.

  43. It’s really ashame that this overall conversation started by feeling that bloggers were dissed by the U.K. Guardian piece, because the deeper questions really ARE important ones, and ones that responsible NGOs, policymakers, grantsmakers and journalists often debate. As a blogging community, we should, too–because considering these questions is absolutely not an attack on the good work/intentions/efforts that are made in support of causes. The questions HONOR the work, they acknowledge that the work is important and matters, and so deserves inquiry and attention. If we just say “I meant well, talk to the hand” we are saying our actions, perceptions, roles and reverberations aren’t worthy of inquiry. Just as we can show a particular place or cause, we would do well to talk about the pervasive issues of privilege and racism, because we might be able to help the our culture as a whole understand the issues. Some of the key thoughts underneath the Guardian piece are how DO you provide aid, witness and response while not perpetuating colonialism, nobless oblige and first world white privilege? What role DOES racism play in our efforts to document or to help, and what effect does that have globally? These are good conversations to have. They are also hard conversations to have. I wish we could bring Jimmy Carter to speak about these questions at BlogHer. Thinking on these questions haven’t stopped him from acting, not in the least, but he doesn’t shy away from them or see them as attacks. I tend to think we’re going to need to find a way to have them in order to do all that we hope to do and to be able to address the racial barriers within our own communities.

    1. I loooove all of those points!

      I’m the gal who never stuck a yellow ribbon on my car because it looked to me like that was all you had to do. I’m all for action in every way.

      I also like the comment above that it seems premature to have written an article implying that this trip was a boondoggle with no completion strategy. Let’s wait and see.

    2. “Some of the key thoughts underneath the Guardian piece are how DO you provide aid, witness and response while not perpetuating colonialism, nobless oblige and first world white privilege? What role DOES racism play in our efforts to document or to help, and what effect does that have globally? These are good conversations to have. ”

      Great, great points Deb, truly.

    3. how DO you provide aid, witness and response while not perpetuating colonialism, nobless oblige and first world white privilege

      Variations of this question plague me in reference to so many problems, both here and abroad, and however uncomfortable, it should probably be at the forefront of any discussion on this general topic.

      (You are, without a doubt, one of the greatest thinkers I know, Deb. You always make see things in a new or different way. Thank you for that!)

  44. Thank you for your words. Full of compassion and
    humanity, they make me want to cry.
    The decency is cleansing, since I found Rowan Davies’ piece slimy.
    In using quotation marks to describe – and diminish – Dooce and her writing, she did the opposite. She revealed her own hubris. A writer can use all the jargon he or she wants to defend bias. It’s easy to talk about a need for completion strategies, but I wonder about the reluctance to acknowledge the power of online writers – such as Dooce and you – to bring about change. The potential is huge.
    Why denigrate someone of influence who cares? Why not embrace and join forces to use the strength of the social media realm for good? Davies’ story, the telling of it, is petty. It’s short on decency and journalistic integrity but it certainly makes me question who’s really stuck on being perceived as groovy.

    You writing is beautiful, your story is moving. Thank you again for sharing.
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  45. I can see both sides of the argument here… But this is my conclusion… It was an attack against Heather. Davies specifically called her out. Not any blogger, but blogger who just returned and hadn’t written hardly a word about her trip. If Davies wanted to rant about NGOs paying for bloggers and/or journalists without clear calls to action why is she bitching about 1) a blogger who paid her own way 2) a blogger who hasn’t actually written about her trip. I’m sure there is plenty of other fodder out there.
    So, I question her reasoning for the call out, if not for readership views.

    As to the trip, in my personal opinion, any light shed on a problem is good. Maybe not all of us will get off our butts and do something, but if just 1% of Dooce readers do, then something good is possible.
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  46. It is my belief that journalists do not like bloggers because they are getting their toes stepped on, resulting in articles like that, and frequent odd pieces on “mommy bloggers”. Like it is amazing that anyone would care what people, who are also mothers, think.

    Why is it “poverty tourism” for a blogger, but “international correspondence” for a journalist? I often see old media taking new media to task out of fear of losing their relevance and credibility. It must rankle to see someone achieve your goals of communicating and influencing without relying on a global organisation to employ or pay you and then disseminate your work at their discretion and editing.

  47. I read this post earlier today and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

    Because if I’m honest, there are certainly initiatives that I’ve mocked (like the Facebook stomp out child abuse by posting a cartoon or SOMETHING), and yet, I’m befuddled how anyone can take issue with what Heather, and some other bloggers, are doing.

    I’m fairly certain that all the good intentions in the world won’t cure poverty, heal diseases and make the dream of world peace come true. But is the solution to do nothing? To mock those who travel to an area of turmoil to tell the people’s story?

    And I’m not sure why a blogger’s journey is any less honorable than a journalist’s. I was really moved by Heather’s post today. I can’t believe that its absence would have served a higher purpose.
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  48. I read the article, and saw nothing wrong. That’s what the Guardian does, it is liberal left and I live in the UK (so I guess I’m used to it). It defends a stance that is not the status quo.

    On the point of people usually getting paid for it, I just read it as a general observation from the journalist’s experience of NGO work. It was only when a fuss was made online, that I paid any attention.

    I still fail to see the attack on bloggers – I think the main point was, it is all very well writing about the issue and getting people riled up but what do you do with that energy that you’ve just created? (I am all too familiar with this – I blog on activist issues). As an example, fom the perspective of mummy blogging, Katie Granju has been blogging about the failures of authorities to investigate her son’s death properly. Through her writing Katie has got me completely riled up, angry, sad etc over the injustice of the what she is writing / sharing. However, there is no productivity on my part – I signed the petition, I let others know of it, but there is no productivity on my part. And I actually feel useless. Rowan Davies in her article nailed what I feel about some of the stuff I read online. And perhaps a call to look at proactive solutions.

    I wish people would do somethin with the latter, rather than the response I’ve seen out of @dooce and @blurb. It comes across a tad caring more about self image, than the actual story. (See the latest post). @dooce might have done excellent work, she might have paid of the trip herself etc etc. Let the work speak for itself, rather than trying to defend an injured ego. The latter doesn’t earn respect, big work that is good in nature will easily drown out any criticism.

    However, the thrust of the writer’s argument still remains. Where is the line between teaching to fish / feeding. I don’t think it is always clear cut, and a quest for reflection is never a bad thing.

    1. Perhaps some of this might be a cultural style mismatch – I’m also from the UK & a longtime Grauniad and Dooce reader and didn’t feel the article was incendiary or totally disrespectful (to either bloggers in general or Heather in particular) – although if I was just returned from abroad with my emotions still very raw from all I’d seen and smelt and felt and heard then perhaps I would have reacted differently too…

  49. Love all the attention Heather’s blog is receiving… not because of “Dooce,” but because look at all the people who have now read about Bangladesh. Go ahead and argue. But really, now we’re aware of the issue. Good or bad, Heather’s trip is a success!

  50. I haven’t been following this story in detail but I don’t think that sticking our heads in the sand is helpful. In either sense. Sticking our heads in the sand in the sense of not learning about the conditions (that we Northerners/Westerners exacerbate, if not create) in other parts of the world. Nor sticking our heads in the sand about the potentially counter-productive intersectional dynamics of it all. The acronyms WIWL (well-intentioned White liberal) and WSS (White saviour syndrome) exist for a reason. Maybe they apply here (to dooce’s trip), maybe they don’t. Or maybe somewhere in between. But some genuine reflection is in order but at the same time, we can’t let that lead to paralysis by analysis or an excuse for inaction either. Sometimes it’s a matter of choosing the lesser of evils and considering constructive criticism. And watch out for the WWT (White women’s tears.)

  51. Bearing witness counts. It can and does change people–both the witness and the person sharing their life/story/home. It forges connections that can build communities, and fosters change.

    I understand that the issue is that more follow-up action is necessary, but in my opinion that does not negate the purpose of these type of visits.
    Ann recently posted..Summer Vacation Stockholm SyndromeMy Profile

  52. Well this hits home for me, having recently returned from my third trip to Malawi. I may have to think about this and write something on my own blog in response. In particular, I’m not sure that going on a trip that changes the trip-taker more than the people visited is necessarily a bad thing. Good food for thought…
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  53. This is a tough one.

    I thought Davies’ article was balanced. I agree with the commenter who said that people come to activism in different ways, at different stages of life, for different lengths of time. I loved reading about your experience in Sarajevo in this post. But (call me archaic) I still think that activism has to involve actual ACTION.

    I think about this a lot (perhaps because transnational feminism is sort of my jam). I, too, work with Women for Women International, mainly because I love their definitive involvement leading to direct, positive results for women in developing countries. This trip didn’t really seem to have a focus outside of awareness. Which is fantastic, but I think it’s fair for people to ask “what’s going to happen now?”

    What really left a bad taste in my mouth was Heather calling out the writer for her privilege (the”luxury” tweet). This from a woman who makes a million dollars a year writing about her dog, from her 3rd new (bigger) house this decade? I call bullshit. Not because Heather didn’t work for those things, but because it’s condescending as fuck to allude to someone else’s privilege without acknowledging your own.

  54. This debate reminds me of when I was a student at a women’s college in the Northeast, where the lesbians said that basically you weren’t a “good feminist” if you happened to be straight. Narrow definitions never help change happen (marriage laws, anyone?). Christy Turlington got that movie made and her cause gets funded not only b/c it’s really, really important but also because she’s hooked into a community that can make things happen. Should Turlington have sat on her hands and fretted about whether she should capitalize on her fame? If Dooce’s posts, or Mom-101’s posts, or anyone else’s inspire others to travel to other places, learn other stories, spread the word, bear witness, get involved…how on earth can that be a bad thing?

  55. Thank you for demonstrating that it’s still possible for people to have a civil discussion despite dissenting opinions. You and most of your commenters have shown respect for the writer in question and each other. That’s pretty rare online (and in real life) these days. Bravo.

    Many good points on the subject at hand – I don’t have anything useful to add. But count me in the group who wants to hear more stories told of those you met in Sarajevo.

  56. Poverty tourism? Because seeing poverty up close and personal is how one would *want* to spend their vacation..you know, just for the hell of it.

    What crap.

    Why is it so hard for some people to GET that working with people like Heather; people with an audience; people with a venue in which to inform brings attention to things us first world dwellers would likely be almost completely unaware of and inspires a level of action that a news story might not?

    Once we are informed, regardless of the messenger, we can act and even if most people just read and shake their heads sadly and move on, those that do act, are making a difference and that counts for something.

  57. How else are we supposed to understand other people if we don’t get out there and try to know them & their stories? What a wonderful opportunity for anyone to bring awareness this way and inspire others to help.
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  58. First time reading this blog. Very compelling. I ended up here after reading an article involving a combined group of blogger moms planning a trip to Africa with the intent to blog daily and share details on the effects of poverty in Africa. Some time ago I read the book “The Tipping Point” and upon reading the aforementioned blog, my thoughts immediately went to the book’s take on the murder of Kitty Genovese, a young woman in Queens who was stabbed to death in 1964. The story is a famous example of urban horror because it later came out that 38 neighbors watched the stabbing from their windows, but none called the police. As articulated at the time by Abe Rosenthal (then the Times city editor) and others, the presumed lesson was that big-city life makes people monstrously insensitive. But Gladwell, the author of The Tipping Point, cites a study by two New York City psychologists to argue that, in fact, the problem was that the eyewitnesses were too acutely sensitive to what was going on. Each eyewitness was aware not only that Genovese was being stabbed, but that many others were watching the horrific scene; each assumed one of the other eyewitnesses would alert the authorities. “The lesson is not that no one called despite the fact that 38 heard her scream,” Gladwell sums up pithily. “It’s that no one called because 38 people heard her scream. Ironically, had she been attacked on a lonely street with just one witness, she might have lived.” This story makes me wonder if maybe bloggers taking these trips DOES have a negative effect as a whole simply because the armchair warriors who read these blogs may adopt the mentality of the 38 witnesses, and assume others are taking action, and therefore no action need be taken on their part. Does that make sense? I’m really not a person who posts online but I wanted to share this with you and get your feedback. I guess what I’m suggesting is that in taking on the responsibility involved with alerting the public in detail via blogs, as to the plight of those suffering from poverty in foreign countries, should the writer/traveler also be morally held to contributing proportionately towards the resolution? If too many people assume that the documentation and the personal spiritual progress one gleans from such a trip, serves as a contribution towards resolving the problem, what we may have is a nation wide attitude of “oh good, that’s being taken care of”, a collective sigh of relief from the inactive portion of the public who are content to believe that bloggers like Heather are
    “already making that call to the police”. I just don’t know if I believe that drawing public attention to a problem, without providing even one cut and dry, do it now “action item” people can immediately follow through on, is a worthwhile deed other than the Eat Pray Love moments provided the blogger from the experience itself. I do wish people would take action individually in creative and solution oriented ways without a catastrophe motivating them to said action, but the bottom line is that people seem to be most apt to contribute to international charities when they are given the added comfort of believing their donation had an immediate and notable effect on the intended recipient. I think that’s why the Sally Struthers Feed the Children campaign was so successful. It was the fact that people were told “Here is a picture of the child you will be feeding – Here is what we fed them – Here is how much better off they are today because of you” Anyway, I hope this wasn’t too all over the place and I truly enjoyed your blog and hope to follow it regularly. It’s amazing to me that blogging Moms like you and the other intelligent, creative posters here can find the time and the energy to contribute to the world in such a beautiful and thoughtful way. It makes me grateful to be a woman, and all the more excited to be raising a daughter who will hopefully sparkle and shine in a similar manner when she discovers her own unique voice.

  59. I took a trip last year with World Vision, the non-profit who does so many amazing things around the country. It was a trip that was paid for by World Vision HOWEVER I would have paid to take it, to see it all and to be able to share the store of how kids are dying because they don’t have clean water. I got to take my 10-year old son on the trip (which we paid every dime for and it was 150,000% worth it!).

    In taking the trip, I constantly felt my voice wasn’t good enough to tell the story because who am I, why should I be the one to tell it. But, then I realized why not? I fully believe I have whatever success to be able to stories for others (even though my own blog doesn’t tell stories). To be able to express that people can save a few bucks and save a kids life. I remain committed to World Vision – we have three sponsored kids with them and sponsor other children in other non-profits.

    People who slam Dooce or anyone else for going, seeing and sharing need to do something constructive with their time. Oh and by the way, organizations pay spokespeople to get the big endorsements. While Dooce stated she paid her own way even if she was paid to go, or had her accommodations paid for, what is wrong with that? Is it ok for a traditional celebrity but not for a mom who blogs and authors books and has influence far greater than many celebrities could ever want? There is no difference. period.

    Blogggers can tell the story – it’s not “poverty tourism.” It’s using our influence to tell a story to an audience for those who can’t tell it themselves.

  60. It’s too bad the first two paragraphs of the piece came across as snarky and dismissive, and wrongly implied that the trip was free (Heather says she paid for it, and I believe her). Because without them, I think the piece reads rather neutral. But then, what is a piece without a provocative lede?

    This will be an interesting test to see if a blogger of Heather’s influence can raise awareness enough to effect true change. George Clooney famously called his involvement in Darfur “the greatest failure of [his] life,” but Heather might have an advantage because she can engage her readers more directly and over a longer period of time. Whereas lots of people watched George Clooney so they could watch George Clooney.

    (I wonder if we could get Clooney to grow a mustache for Movember…)
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  61. You hit the nail on the head when you said that this kind of criticism can paralyze us. Because who wants to be patronizing, or engage in “poverty tourism”? No one. But if we end up NOT acting, that’s even worse.
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  62. I do small acts of activism, here on the internet, on my blog too. Sure it’s nothing as big and important as listed here, but I do my small part to bring awareness to healthy eating, and food revolution. I do believe that just because I don’t hold media/press accreditation doesn’t mean that what I have to say doesn’t count, or that my words are unimportant. Sometimes it takes someone who simply has the guts to take that leap, to grab those words and put them on screen or paper, who has the passion to tell those stories, to get it out there.

    The article appeared condescending to me as well. I am damn proud of what I do-and while I don’t have some piece of paper that makes me a journalist, I know in my heart I’m a good writer. If I can use it in a positive way, I’m all over that.
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  63. I really appreciate this discussion. I’ve been to a lot of places in this world and struggle to “not get too comfortable” for all these reasons and so many more. My first reaction to the Guardian article was hopping anger; then a more tempered thought that such reflections are confessions of the writer’s own feelings of inadequacy (which is not to throw a stone; I sit in a glass house when it comes to making significant changes for the better in this world). But really, it’s not like we’re lacking things to criticize in this world– to lash out at people whose intentions are clean and acts have AT WORST a neutral effect on the net good in this world… I mean, c’mon– it’s gotta be the guilt and frustration talking. Let the author of the article bear that weight. You and your fellow bloggers just keep on capturing the world in stories, passing your perceptions along to readers who appreciate the opportunity to understand the nuances, details, perceptions and shades of gray in the world. Most of us really appreciate it.

  64. Every human being needs to be seen and heard. If a trip like Heather’s, or ANY travel embarked upon by people in our community can open eyes and doors to what’s happening beyond our doorstep, how can that be wrong?
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  65. I’d really like to talk to you privately about this because I have been approached about a “blogger trip” afar and was worried about this very stigma.

    I’ve definitely cringed at some things I’ve seen on Oprah in the past, backhandedly belittling other countries because they don’t “live” like we do here in the U.S., and “basics” to us are luxuries to them, and are things maybe those people don’t even care about. But , I also agree with you that more often than not in the situations suggested in the article, we need to lay down the cynicism. Recognize the good intentions, and one person touching even only one life is an amazing good thing.
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  66. As someone who spent 6 weeks in Pakistan in the early 90s and is married to an Indian and has seen rivers of money travel from her bank account to India over the past 8 years?? This stuff is personal.

    I saw this going down yesterday, took deep breaths and just walked away. Listen, anytime I see economically secure folks swooping into a country, taking beautiful shots of poor folks with their pricey cameras, then coming home and writing about it in sweet prose? I can’t help but roll my eyes, just a little. It’s a knee-jerk, gut reaction. Poverty is not beautiful – it has a smell, a feeling on your skin, an entire atmosphere all its own. Driving over the Kala Pul bridge in Karachi? Cannot be captured in any shape or form.

    That said, I still thought the Guardian article was way too prickly toward Dooce and truly unfair in singling HER out when I can think of at least two other bloggers who have done poverty tours. It’s obvious the author pinpointed Dooce to drive traffic and that’s a damned shame. The article actually has valid concerns regarding how poverty tourism ignores the underlying problems in many developing countries. And now the article is being discounted because it took the low road. Sigh.
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    1. Thanks Kelli. I know you have a unique perspective on this and I really appreciate it.

      I actually hope people don’t discount the points about NGOs because they’re quite good.

  67. I was inspired to write a post from a personal perspective, because I’m sick of dealing with nay-sayers. It struck me hard because I have had so many instances of people rolling their eyes at me when all I was trying to do was make a positive change. It’s easy to criticize and hard to actually bumble through the work of trying to make a difference.

    http://suebobdavis.com/2011/06/29/a-stinging-defense-of-giving-a-shit/
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  68. i worked for one of the big global humanitarian organizations for much of my 20s and wondered every day “is doing something better than nothing?” well…obviously.

    but here’s the catch. do you want what you do to make just a kitten lick of a difference?

    after watching my workplace taking numerous celebs to shill for the cause I was always left wondering, really is that it? What comes next? People are DYING here. Trips like this often inspire people (if they are inspired at all) to focus on a Western NGO response. Send a few bucks. There is nothing wrong with that, but wouldn’t it be nice to send your bucks to local people who are actually achieving something in their community?

    The best thing Dooce could do w/ her clout is address how her average reader can REALLY make a difference…assisting local people (not western run ngos) on the ground who have a much better understanding of the social and cultural issues, and who have typically been working on these issues for years. Third world social entrepreneurs are leading the charge here.

    Like it or not, she’s touched a cord. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. She’s obviously been touched by her experiences. Eager to see if she can innovate past the rather ineffectual paradigm to mobilize her vast readership towards actions that have the largest bang for the buck.
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    1. This comment seems so insightful to me. I didn’t realize that for readers Dooce is like a celebrity. I had not thought of that analogy, but it is very helpful to some of the elements that are disturbing. Here’s an example: if she just announced a 2 million dollar donation to the organization she visited- hurrah. Wouldn’t everyone be so pleased? I’d be so happy for her, for the women. It is a completely different scenario, however.

      It helps me to realize that the line I typically hear from those who work in development economics applies: celebrities ought to only ask people with average incomes to donate *proportionately* to what they ask others to give. So if Dooce is asking for others to “become more aware”- and then donate (I assume this is the next step, once she picks a charity), integrity requires that she be upfront about her donations and that they be proportionate. If she does not do that, then I’d apply the same exact concerns anyone who has “ushered” around a (typical) celebrity around a project- wasting days of precious time in cases- uh- where is the money?

      I’m sure that the plan is to donate massive amounts- but (to second another comment here) to say that yahoo is doing it for Dooce makes no sense, corporations give anyway- and not because of anyone’s one week trip. (And, despite all the comments here about clicks on the Guardian’s website! most of us out here had heard of yahoo but not this blogger.)

      Also- this *wonderful* post from a big Dooce fan explains what poverty tourism is- and raises very simple concerns with all sorts of respect for the blogger laced in: http://www.brigidslipka.com/2011/06/dooce-goes-to-bangladesh/

      Just my 2 cents. I’ve really learned a lot from reading the comments here.

  69. Wow.

    Am totally riveted by this discussion.

    I wrote a graduate thesis arguing that people traveling to developing countries and participating in short term “service learning” can awaken individuals, and change the world. I later started a non-profit where I argued for the importance of bringing volunteers to developing countries. I said again and again that paying $3,000 for a volunteer to fly to some exotic locale for a 2-week “volunteer” stint was worth it. Even though the “volunteer” always learned one hundred times more than they helped, I believed it could be more effective than sending that $3,000 to a non-profit on the ground.

    Individuals need to experience the world to understand it. Some volunteers won’t be affected. Some will be. The reason I have made any impact on the world is because my parents (and a small village in Nicaragua) let me do that when I was 16.

    But I’ve also seen the opposite.

    My teen grew up in an African orphanage. I lived in that orphanage for a year with him. Over the years, we have seen numerous mission groups of twenty (spending upwards of $3,000 per person) come in, be housed for a week on incredibly limited orphanage resources, and leave, never again to donate to the orphanage. The song and dance that the Kenyan children do to win the eyes of white visitors passing through tries to make them stay, remember, and help. Most visitors don’t. I did. Rather — in that one orphanage I did. But how many thousands of other places in need in the world have I simply passed through?

    Now, I work with non-profits every day, arguing against theories of “slactivism”. I maintain that journalism, blogging, social media, and Twitter can truly lead to valuable social change. I even wrote a book on it: http://www.amazon.com/Twitter-Good-Change-World-Tweet/dp/1118061934

    I’ve read the articles.

    I’ve seen the incendiary tweets.

    I am living, walking, contradiction of how complex this issue is. I see and think both sides at the same time.

    A long-winded way to say how hard this all is.
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    1. Thank you so much for this incredible perspective. You’re right, it’s absolutely complex and absolutely hard.

      I was just pointed towards a recent NPR story (gah, wish I could find it) about this very thing. The author’s point is that the more we find ways to engage with the world, the more human and compassionate we become. Even a single encounter between two different people matters. I would imagine that change is inherent in that.

  70. I love that you have found a reason to share Sarajevo and her stories with us… I am sad that it had to happen as a result of these circumstances.
    Tourism. Tourism is when I take my family or my friends, and we go to see the things that one sees in the once-in-a-lifetime trip and that you will get asked about whenever it comes up.
    Tourism is not going to see scarred civilizations, shell shocked survivors, devastated landscapes, poverty, illness, and need… No one says when you return “how thin were they? Where there any people starving to death? Do you have any pictures of the poor things!!”
    If you can go, as a mom, and see the realities we avoided strictly by virtue of birth – how can it not change you?
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  71. I read the Guardian article just as her reiteration in your italics at the end stated. I think that there is a “shock and awe” sense of going to place of poverty and then taking 30 minute hot showers and complaining about the cost of a trip to Disney World a month later. (Not that we suddenly have no right to complain about anything either. It’s a fine line between forgetting and living.)
    I think that the author’s concern over NGOs not showing how we can help beyond posting pictures and telling sad stories is valid. Although I think that it’s the same thing NPR and CNN often does — telling stories in the hopes that people will be moved to a new understanding, appreciation and action.
    I think that the biggest danger is when people/bloggers/traditional media don’t research agencies to see if they are actually helping. There aren’t a lot of places that keep tabs on NGOs and even well-meaning ones can get way off track.
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  72. Dunno what to make of all this. I can’t tell if she’s seriously trying to malign these charitable people and organizations or if she’s just expressed herself poorly.

    One one hand, the organization of the article is weak. It lacks a clearly stated and supported theme. First bloggers are bad… then they’re good.. but only if they have a “completion strategy” … which she can’t define… but she knows it when she sees it? She tries to rally around the “complete strategy” theme in last paragraph but it’s too late for rest of the article. Her thoughts never really seemed to gel, as evidenced by the flurry of clarification she’s had to issue since. I don’t think she’s an actual Guardian journalist so there’s no editor watching over her work. Hey — we’ve all had those days where we hit the “send” button too early!

    On the other hand, there’s a very definite negative slant in part of the post which she’s also tried to mitigate since publishing, e.g. the quotes are from other people, she didn’t actually say Heather Armstrong got paid to go, etc. I can’t decide if she’s being disingenuous or if she’s just inexperienced as a professional writer. ( In this context, I use professional writer to mean somebody who is accountable to an editor. )

    I do know this : if I were her, I would take this opportunity to write a another, better article, one that clearly stated my opinions without slyness or ambiguity and wasn’t just a collection of my inchoate thoughts.

  73. I’ve been watching this all with a lot of interest, but as a complete outsider. I’ve never been to your blog before – A real life friend of mine and I were talking about the whole kerfuffle and she said you were sane and rational, and I have to say that I agree with that whole heartedly. Having said that…bloggers and their dedicated commenters (the majority of whom seem to also be bloggers) have a evolved a community that is completely separate from the rest of the world. There seems to be an assumption that Heather (dooce) is being attacked for doing good work, but there is no good work here. Nothing has been done except that dooce took a trip.
    She and Jon keep insisting all over the internet that a huge corporation is going to give money to charity, that this trip is related and that all this criticism is hateful…the reality is that huge corporations don’t need bloggers to give money to charity. If a huge corporation is going to give money to charity and use Heather’s blog as a vehicle, then it’s because huge corporation and dooce the corporate entity have come to a mutually beneficial agreement and they are both doing so for monetary gain, name recognition and future ability to gain market share by trading on the goodwill that a large public charity campaign is meant to engender. This is obvious. If it was not the case, dooce could have gone to Bangladesh, written a very large check to help those she met and gone home a better person and that would have been the end of it.
    From the outside, it is obvious that Heather and Jon have absolutely no inkling of how to behave professionally, that they had a vision of how they were going to design and present this story and that they are absolutely enraged that a journalist had the audacity to interrupt that.
    This self-righteous crying that she’s “doing it for the women of Bangladesh” and for all the bloggers that have been “attacked” is transparent, silly and makes her seem unhinged.
    The difference between what you did, and what dooce is doing is that it seems that you took a deeply moving experience and used it to gain an understanding of a horrible situation and did what you could to help without attention whoring all over the internet and twitter.

    1. Thanks for visiting Linda. I think two things are being conflated here–Heather took a trip to Bangladesh on behalf of Every Mother Counts, so that she could recount her experience (perhaps more) and hopefully get the word out about the cause.

      Separately, Yahoo (via FM) enlisted Heather in a campaign that included a donation to the charity of her choice. I know this because my own site, Cool Mom Picks, is also part of this effort.

      Totally separately, there was the twitter incident in which Heather snapped after being antagonized by a particularly difficult blogger, after years of this woman disparaging her and her family. So I’m a little uncomfortable with the “attention whoring” suggestion since that just isn’t really Heather’s MO.

      I think that the three things happening all together has created an unfortunate sequence of events. But knowing Heather just a bit, I have to believe her intentions are good, and in the end, a lot more people will be aware of maternity mortality issues than were before.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  74. You know why I’m angry? First of all, when I heard of Dooce’s trip I shrugged and thought how nice. Then she had a public meltdown and appparently asked a friend to threaten Anna, etc. But the personal is political, or something like that.

    I adopted two third world daughters from China whose mothers laid them on a street corner and walked away. Dooce commented once that she felt so good about motherhood that she understood why SOME WOMEN IN CHINA KEEP THEIR KIDS. By implication, I guess that means my kids just didn’t make the cut.

    That’s why I posted an angry post about “Sensitive, Caring Dooce.” Because it wasn’t too long ago that she was far from sensitive or caring. Hope the trip truly did change her life and good things will happen.

    1. I am open to all different perspectives on the my post topic, but I really am hoping this comment section doesn’t devolve into why I do/do not like Dooce discussion.

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  76. You know, you managed to point out the flaws in AV’s way without actually attacking her. You allowed her piece to be said as well. This was both beautiful and tactful… something that most people only dream of achieving. Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.
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  77. It has been very sad for me to read people cheering on Armstrong for her tweet about the Guardian opinion writer, implying that someone who has worked at NGO’s for years (Rowan) has no right to write an Op-Ed without interviewing her. (Don’t bloggers get enough of their own say?) Armstrong’s one week turnaround/education in world poverty should not mean that she should assume others did not have any experience working for third world/ poverty relief causes.
    Why is there cheering for this? Actually cheering (above and a few times on twitter).

    The viciousness displayed by Dooce is not good for anyone- a campaigner, a blogger, a budding journalist- no one. It is not how other journalists are allowed to act. Why cheer it on?

    I’m just bewildered.

    And on the blog Dooce there is no sense- zero- that poverty tourism has been looked into as a well-established concern. It is not the idea that one is vacationing in a poor place to gawk- it is the idea that you insert yourself into the story of the poor and it becomes about you feeling better/ superior/ like a savior. That attitude is exploitative.

    The comments after the Guardian piece are very good and thoughtful- and they do call the opinion writer out for not being clear. I noticed some Dooce fans writing in. They complained about what Armstrong did- the shoddy journalism. The readers of the paper pointed out the complaint makes no sense- it was an opinion piece. I was just very embarrassed to see the same immature defensiveness I saw on twitter being tried out over there. In contrast to the other comments, it was so clear how completely off the topic of poverty such sentiments are.

    Many of us have spent time in the third world helping, year after year, before Dooce got offended that someone thought her trip was paid for by Turlington (as was implied on the Dooce blog). I understand if posts about life are about one person- but posts about aid to India- they are not just about Dooce, are they? I’m just bewildered by your original post here.

    1. And I am equally bewildered as to how you are bewildered by my original post, when I haven’t done any of the things you suggest here. You are describing comments made by other people in other places – not by me. So you’re not actually addressing any of my points.

      1. I’m sorry! You are right. I think I did get the blogs mixed up (I’m new to them and probably had over the legal number of screens open). I re-read your post and didn’t recall it at all. I’m really sorry. I’ll never remember where I saw the vicious posts being cheered on – and you are right- my points don’t apply here. I loved your discussion of your time in Europe.
        Please feel free to delete me.

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