Don’t bother what I think is true with your facts (5×8 – 3/8/12)

The problem with the Uganda viral video, update on the Marysville tornado ‘stuff’ story, hockey’s life lessons in St. Cloud, the nature of contemplation and introverts, and the photon torpedo that hit us overnight.


In just 48 hours, 11 million people have watched this video about violence in Uganda. 11 million!

If nothing else, it raises some consciousness of problems in a country most people probably couldn’t pick out on a map. But it also leads to a question: Should videos like this be more than something to draw attention? Should it be more sound journalistically?

This one is not sound, and there’s a danger that our increasing tendency to get our news from social media and not ask “how do I know this is true?” could actually influence foreign policy.

AdWeek’s AdFreak blog considers this question:

Hundreds of thousands of supporters have signed up as fans of Invisible Children since the video went public, and many of them are likely donating money. But a few voices of dissent have emerged as well, such as Mark Kersten, a doctoral student of International Relations at the London School of Economics. “Incredibly, there is no mention in the film or the campaign that northern Ugandans are currently enjoying the longest period of peace since the conflict began in 1986,” notes Kersten, who fears the movie’s “obfuscating, simplified and wildly erroneous narrative” will bolster Uganda’s government–itself accused of killing millions through its war against the Democratic Republic of Congo. Another critic, Canadian political science student Grant Oyston, has started a blog called “Visible Children” to offer counterpoints to “Kony 2012.” “Is awareness good? Yes,” Oyston writes. “But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture.”

Writing on Foreign Policy, freelance journalist Michael Wilkerson describes other factual errors:

It would be great to get rid of Kony. He and his forces have left a path of abductions and mass murder in their wake for over 20 years. But let’s get two things straight: 1) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn’t been for 6 years; 2) the LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.

He goes on to say that ” if the most impactful the result of Invisible Children’s campaign is to cause millions of viewers to think Northern Uganda is a war zone, even if it’s not their intent, it’s hard to defend.”

Maybe people will use the video to start their own research on Uganda and, as a result, have more knowledge of our foreign policy there than would have been otherwise possible. But what are the odds that will happen?

(h/t: Catharine Richert)

Related: What are the limits of literary license?


It was another interesting day yesterday in the story of Marysville, Indiana, its missing “stuff” from a tornado and the people who found it hundreds of miles away (the story ’til now here). Some of the debris fell in Kentucky, 150 miles away. Nita Putterbaugh found papers belonging to Marta Righthouse (the woman whose picture I posted on Saturday) and also, she said, to “Mike Montgomery on Henryville Otisco Rd…”

Erica Thompson, a friend of Mrs. Righthouse’s neighbor, contacted me on Tuesday and indicated that there’s a “connection” there, too. “Mike Montgomery is a relative of my friend, boss, and neighbor,” she said. Bottom line: His papers are heading back to Marysville.

I also heard again from the man near Cincinnati who found a picture of Mrs. Righthouse’s deceased husband and sent this picture of it along.

And arrangements have now been made to return it to Mrs. Righthouse, whose own picture started this story. Why is this such a big deal?

Ms. Thompson writes:

“I wanted to let you know that yes all Righthouse things that have been found so far are all in relation to Martha so if anyone would like to return those things as well they can mail them to me. She was just mainly concerned about the picture though because she has nothing left of Bob. If the people would that found the belongings please write a little something about how they found these and where that would be great. She would really enjoy hearing about it.”

I indicated to Ms. Thompson that I may travel to Marysville this summer and put faces to this story of the things that connect us in the physical and emotional world.

She also said for me to tell you that she would love to meet you and the man that found it. She even said “he could stay with me in my extra bedroom”. Then she stopped and said “oh now wait, I guess I don’t have any bedrooms now”. God love her! She’s so sweet.

And so, we suspect, is Ms. Thompson, who has taken time from the cleanup of a devastating tornado to try to put one old picture back in the hands of one sweet old lady.


goalies.jpgBetween players being paralyzed in recent games, allegations of racist taunts in Duluth, high school teams running up the score on their opponents in the High School League playoffs, and the investigation of Derek Boogaard’s death which exposed the dark side of the sport, it hasn’t been a great year for the image of hockey. Maybe we need more stories of 15-year-olds like the one profiled in a post this week on the Goon’s World blog. The writer details what happened when a goalie gave up the game-winning goal on a penalty shot, ending his team’s season at a Bantam playoff in St. Cloud.

The winning team’s bench emptied in a wave of exuberance, as they always do in these kinds of games. We’ve all seen it a hundred times – the champions hog-pile each other while the other team collapses in sullen defeat. This was no exception, and the teams played their roles as they were supposed to do. The losing goalie lay face down in his crease, overcome with sadness. I watched from ice level in the corner of the rink, only a few feet from the distraught young man. As the winning team celebrated, their goalie separated himself from the pack and skated over to the other netminder. He gently patted him on the shoulder and helped the other player to his feet. The two shared a few words – I couldn’t hear anything over the noise but the emotions and message were clear: you played your heart out; you were a worthy opponent; keep your head up because you have nothing to be ashamed of. Instead of savoring the win, the victor shared the spoils as best he could, choosing to lift the spirits of his foe as best he could. Not because he was told to, or because it was expected, nor did he even consider if anyone else was watching. But I was. I knew I was witnessing the best moment I have ever seen in youth sports. I wish I could have that kind of heart every day. This 15 year old kid showed me the meaning of sportsmanship in a way that I never could have scripted.

(h/t: Molly Bloom)


Is life really hell for introverts? In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. Susan Cain argues introverts should be encouraged and celebrated.


Is everyone OK? Some time in the last few hours, we got bombarded with one of the biggest solar waves in years. It was captured on film. Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t this look like a “photon torpedo?”

The shields held over Swedish Lapland…

Aurora borealis in the sky above Abisko National park during a geomagnetic storm on 03-07-12 from Lights Over Lapland on Vimeo.

The “isn’t it pretty” view of things is that it was likely to cause aurora at low latitudes. While we’re watching the show, though, the danger was possible disruption to high frequency radio communication, global positioning systems, and power grids. Even oil and gas pipelines could fail during these bombardments, a guest told then-Midmorning host Kerri Miller a few weeks ago. The sun is a sneaky neighbor like that.

We have a strange, strange relationship with the sun. Most experts agree that someday, it’s going to kill us (admit it: When you first heard about this …. thing…. heading our way, you wondered for a second, “is this it?”) . But we love sunny days, we equate a “sunny” disposition with happiness, and cartoons with the sun always stick a smile on it. Earthling fools.

The solar storm peaks tonight.

Bonus I: Despite the economic mess, there are now 1,226 billionaires, an ­all-time high. Forbes is out with its annual list. Newcomers to it include Steve Jobs’ widow. Minnesota has six: Whitney MacMillan of Cargill, Barbara Carlson Gage of the Carlson Companies, Marilyn Carlson Nelson of Carlson Companies, Stanley Hubbard of KSTP, Richard Schulze of Best Buy and Glen Taylor of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Bonus II: Women TV news anchors aren’t allowed to age. Here’s the latest example.

Bonus III: Life at The Current.


A House committee is considering a bill to put the public schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul under control of the mayors in those two cities. Under the bill, the mayors would appoint the school boards and chief executive officers. Today’s Question: Is it a good idea to give mayors control of the schools?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: What do the numbers say? Is President Obama making the US more like a European economic state?

Second hour: After the deadly riots following last month’s Koran burnings in Afghanistan, President Obama has made it clear that he has no plans to keep U.S. troops in the country longer than necessary. But how long is necessary and how will Afghanistan fare under UN control?

Third hour: Minnesota hockey concussions.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A live Westminster Forum broadcast with Rachel Simmons on aggressive girls and bullying. She is the author of “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Ethnic mapping and the New York Police Department.

Second hour: TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – In Oregon, end-of-life planning goes beyond a “do not resuscitate” order. The state, which already allows physician-assisted suicide, is breaking new ground in helping people prepare for when the end is near. NPR looks at a new system to get doctors, patients and family all on the same page.

  • Bench

    I have seen the Kony mania occur first hand. After I watched it, I thought there had to be another side. I found info on people who had gone to Uganda saying how Kony hadn’t been there since 2006, and how promoting Americans to blindly go to far off lands to “do good” without doing any research is foolish and counter productive. I found info on how InvisibleChildren has problems and scrutiny with their activities. However, I ran into problems trying to start discussion. Nearly everyone I tried to talk to about it took me as being against their cause and that none of that should matter if it is for a good cause. I ended up with many comments deleted and even someone in friending me on facebook, all because I wanted to mention how IC isn’t a great organization and how maybe we really shouldn’t be calling for someone’s arrest/killing after just watching a 30 minute video.

    This isn’t the first problem I have had with what I call in fleas sharing” on Facebook. I got into discussions too about a picture going around saying how the end of theayan calendar has already happened because of when we instituted leap years. I tried to explain how the Mayan calendar is based off of astronomy like the solstice (12/21) but even that got comment deletes. It is a growing problem with the youth of today simply sharing information that they don bother to check facts or even want to open it up to discussion.

    And people wonder why more and more politicians make up facts and lie to us and get away with it. This is the society we are creating- a tell/share first, research latter life.

  • Paul Weimer (@princejvstin)

    I am an introvert, and consider myself at a permanent disadvantage as a result.

  • gml4

    I watched the KONY 2012 video the other day, and was inspired to share and sign up, but with open eyes about the power this video held over me. I had some prior knowledge about the LRA, so felt pretty confidant that these people are on the right side of this issue, but I did note the absence of info from recent years.

  • Aaron

    If Glenn Taylor is on the billionaire list… why don’t the T’wolves have a better team?

  • Bismuth

    Bob, this is a fantastic 5×8 today.

    My own experience as an introvert doesn’t really match the narrative told by Ms. Cain, as I can’t recall any specific incidents where I was made to feel ashamed for wanting to be by myself. Probably my growing up in a small Minnesota town and my career path (science/academia) play the largest roles in my experience. However, I do recognize that there is a subtle social aspect in that extroversion is treated as the norm, which means that there is a bias in social conventions which more often puts introverts out of their element. In schools I felt it was hard for me to fit in, and I got teased and picked on for being weird and smart, something I didn’t notice happening to the smart extroverts. Nowadays, its things like networking, presenting, going out to bars after hours, etc., things which build your social network and put you on people’s radar for job opportunities, collaborations, excursions, or other beneficial experiences, career-related or not. These interactions come so naturally to many, but not to me, so I feel chronically “out of the loop”.

  • Joanna

    re: introverts, I highly recommend the book by Anneli Rufus, Party of One: A Loner’s Manifesto. Not all introverts suffer, but a lot of us do experience physical and mental discomfort with the social norms and expectations that exhort us to see introverts as unhealthy or lonely.