Posts Tagged ‘Greg Mortenson’

By Duganz

If you haven’t yet, take time this weekend to download and read through “Three Cups of Deceit” by Jon Krakauer. It’s free, well written, and will leave a terrible taste in your mouth.

If you have been living under a rock this last week let me summarize the week’s biggest scandal: Greg Mortenson, Bozeman resident, best selling author, and head of the Central Asia Institute, is a big fat liar covered in liar sauce.

Krakauer details each of the lies Mortenson told in his book “Three Cups of Tea,” which include: falsifying why he built a school in Korphe, Pakistan, misappropriating funds from the non-profit CAI (to the tune of over $7million), lying about a kidnapping, and not building schools he’s claimed to have built! There’s more, but I want to encourage you to read the small, free book rather than just watch the 60 Minutes episode that rehashes (poorly) Krakauer’s work.

People have been coming to Mortenson’s defense all week, with his biggest defense coming from Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times. Kristof has written about Mortenson before, and admits in his column that he’s a big fan, and tries to downplay Mortenson, in effect, stealing money from a non-profit.

I don’t know what to make of these accusations. Part of me wishes that all this journalistic energy had been directed instead to ferret out abuses by politicians who allocate government resources to campaign donors rather than to the neediest among us, but that’s not a real answer. The critics have raised serious questions that deserve better answers: we need to hold school-builders accountable as well as fat cats.

Kristof drops that nugget, along with others, to mount his defense of Mortenson based on this: sure he may have lied, but he did do good–the idea being that his works outweigh his sins. As Kristof says, “…even if all the allegations turn out to be true, Greg has still built more schools and transformed more children’s lives than you or I ever will.”

Fine. But that doesn’t excuse Greg Mortenson lying, and deceiving good people giving up their money to make the world a better place. Mortenson’s work, and his lies, are separate issues. Yes, he’s done good, but he’s also a lying shit. Those two facts can exist simultaneously. Education for Afghan girls: Good. Misusing charitable funds for personal gain: fucking evil.

Also, this is not only about good deeds vs lies. It comes down to the fact that Mortenson has been accused (and I think the evidence adds up) of misusing donated money for personal gain. As Krakauer points out in his book, Mortenson uses CAI funds to travel to speaking engagements where he recounts the lies in his books. Upon giving his talk he is reimbursed by the event promoters. But, Mortenson does not then reimburse CAI. (FYI, flying out of Bozeman, Montana costs a fair penny.)

Even Kristof takes a moment from his ham-fisted stroke job of a column to say, “I am deeply troubled that only 41 percent of the money raised in 2009 went to build schools…”

Lying is never good, and using good deeds to justify lies is immoral. I don’t know, nor do I understand, why Greg Mortenson felt he needed to lie to justify his good deeds. I only know that he was wrong to deceive people, and wrong to waste their money on his own frivolity.

Greg Mortenson is not a hero, he’s a lying shit who also did some good. Hopefully a better person will come along to pick up his cause, with honesty.

Mortenson, chilling with his "Taliban kidnappers," who were not Taliban, and also did not kidnap him.

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