Darfur Stories Response


There was an entire conversation on Facebook you may have missed. Sierra Scott, the creator of the Darfur documentary, responded to our criticism in the last post. We’ve copied and pasted her responses below and inserted our responses where we felt they were necessary. So, this is one of the longest posts you’ll ever see here on the ToddBlog. Blame Hayley.

Sierra Patricia Scott at 4:12pm June 26
Todd I cannot believe you are attacking what I am saying without having gone to Darfur yourself. I have to say that I am extremely disappointed that you aren’t giving me the benefit of the doubt that I have done a LOT of reserach here and met with a number of academics who have ben studying Darfur for YEARS! since I know you to be a very inquisitive person I HIGHLY recommend that you read “Saviors and Survivors” by Mahmood Mamdani. He is a NOBEL PRIZE winner who is saying EXACTLY the same things that I am. He was recently featured on NPR. I would welcome you to read it, then you and I need to have a meeting to discuss. Why would you not trust me to be telling you the truth? Please take the chance to learn about the other side before you blog again. Please have an open mind about this. I am NOT saying NO ONE IS DYING… because they ARE. But it is not GENOCIDE. I have a copy of the book I am more than willing to lend you. I am NOT supporting the government in any way, shape or form.

It’s true, we’ve never been to Darfur. But we have formed our opinions on the situation there based on the reporting of individuals and organizations who have been there for an extended period of time, in some cases years. As for giving her the benefit of the doubt, we don’t question if she has done research, we just believe that the contradictions to her findings are more compelling and better documented.

Concerning Saviors and Survivors, we had read about Mamdani’s book prior to her mentioning it, but had decided against investing time in reading it due to the vast criticisms of his explanation of the crisis. These critics, who all had very similar problems with the book, were not simply disagreeing with author’s conclusions but casting serious doubt on his entire research process and lack of due diligence regarding his sources. (Sidenote: We were unable to locate the year or category of his Nobel Prize from nobelprize.org.) And, based on the blogs and websites we routinely read, we feel as though we already have a basic understanding of “the other side.”

The impression Scott’s movie gives is that there is a small contingent of people fighting and that the casualty rate is very low. We only saw the movie once, and will watch it again once it’s posted online, but from our recollection, she did not discuss the 300,000 deaths from the fighting. Again, we’re not scholars, but we know that people much smarter than we have determined that what has happened in Darfur is genocide. But regardless of whether we call it genocide or not, it needs to end.

And while it’s unfair to accuse Scott of supporting the Sudanese government, the film certainly felt pro-government.

Sierra Patricia Scott at 4:14pm June 26
By the wya, MILLIONS of people have NOT died there. Even the WHO estimates (not that I am downplying this. death is TRAGIC) between 200,00 and 300,000 people have died there. Compare that to 4 MILLION in the Congo and it begs the question of why “save Darfur” isn’t more worried about the Congo…

We didn’t say millions had died, we said millions have suffered and died, which is true. The exact number of casualties is hard to determine, but more than 2,000,000 people have been displaced, and estimates vary between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths. We never want to minimize the suffering in the Congo, which we know is disgusting and tragic, but the film was about Darfur, so that is what we’re addressing.

Sierra Patricia Scott at 4:23pm June 26
I was in Washington to take part in PEACE NEGOCIATIONS between the Sudanese Government and SPLA. I met with US envoy Scott Gration who was part of those talks as well. AGAIN I am NOT saying people aren’t dying, because sadly THEY ARE. Please Todd, before you write again, read “Saviors and Survivors”. It’s a lot more indepth than I was in my documentary because this COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR is a lot more learned than I am on this subject. I challenge you to listen to the “other side” which hasn’t gotten much attention yet. I promise you it will.

Sierra Patricia Scott at 4:26pm June 26
By the way I have been “invited back” to go to South and West Darfur to do a more “com0plete story” Even the Sudanese Ambassador said he wanted ALL sides to be features to give the story more credibility. So I WILL be going back. I will tell you that many leaders of NGO’s were there and told me they totally agreed with my assessment. I will be featuring their interviews soon.

We are curious to know who invited her to go south and west Darfur and we look forward to seeing her report after she visits those places. We’d also be interested in knowing which NGOs she’s speaking to.

Sierra Patricia Scott at 4:42pm June 26
There are a “few” fact errors I want to correct. 1) Most of the interview on the “Darfur” part of my documentary was from a University Professor and DARFURIAN expert. Even during the interview he said he DOES NOT support the currrent government however he wants to help end the conflict. 2) I did NOT compare Abraham Lincoln to Omar Al Bashir!!!!! I said the comflict was between NORTH and SOUTH just like our civil war. 3) I did NOT minimize the deaths. I think war is TRAGIC!!!! Again I said over and over in the documentary that there ARE people dying. 4) I did NOT CHOOSE not to go to Southern Darfur I ran out of time to go, and as I said I will be going back. The Ambasador even said he wanted me to show the country WARTS and ALL so people can decide. Only with all information available can the truth be known.

1) We apologize that we didn’t see the distinction between the parts of the documentary regarding Darfur and the rest of the documentary. 2) What we remember is Scott saying that not more than 150 years ago our country went through a civil war in which the government-backed north fought against the south. This sounded like a comparison to us. 3) We don’t remember hearing about the deaths over and over, but again, we’ve only seen the movie once. We also do not mean to imply that Scott does not care about people dying, but in our opinion, it just seemed that her failure to discuss the deaths at any length did, in fact, minimize them. 4) Scott did choose not to go to Southern Darfur because she chose to go to somewhere else.

Sierra Patricia Scott at 4:45pm June 26
By the way just because a LOT of people “believe something” does NOT make it true!!!! Just a few years back scientists and doctors all agreed that it wasn’t physically possible for someone to run a 4 minute mile. Which was true…. until someone did it. Why because I am saying something that’s NOT BEEN heard much in the media does that automatically make upi assume I am “wrong”?

We’re not disagreeing just for the sake of disagreement, and we don’t believe something simply because the majority does. But in this case, we think the evidence of the majority significantly outweighs the evidence of the minority in both quantity and quality.

Sierra Patricia Scott at 10:00pm June 26
Looking back I can only say [not going to Southern Darfur] was a “bad decision” made on my part. I chose instead to go to Geziera to see the farm lands. If I had it to do over again I would choose differently. That’s why I am so excited at the opportunity to go back again. However I met with representatives from the SPLA in Washington and did hear what they had to say. Todd. PLEASE before you write again, PLEASE read “Saviors and Survivors”…. I am not trying to CHANGE your mind, but I really do want you to understand the “other side”. I will say again I DO NOT support the government. I am trying very hard not to get political at all. I am fighting for the people and I want to make it possible for them to achieve peace. I am VERY SINCERE when I say I fell in love with the ordinary people there. They are the most incredible human beings I have ever come across.

We also want peace, and that’s why we think it’s so important to highlight the issues we had with her film.

Sierra Patricia Scott at 10:29pm June 26
Better yet, would you agree to meet with my Sudanese-American interpreter? I LOVE great debate and obviously you are a well read and well informed person. I would LOVE to set up a lunch where we can all discuss this face to face. The sad thing about writing back and forth through a computer is that you can’t hear someone’s inflection, nor their tone of voice. So what’s “said” can sometimes be misinterpreted. I would LOVE to hear what you have to say…. it can only make my ability to write the next story better. I am not too proud to change my mind if there is evidence that I should. I have done a lot of research but you could bring something to my attention that I have not seen and I would welcome that.

Sierra Patricia Scott at 12:35am June 27
I have to say your phrase “She chose not to tell the whole story” is not only a personal attack on my “intentions”, but is totally misleading. Without really knowing me, and I am a person who would NEVER intentionally mislead anyone. EVER. You can ask just about anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I always tell the truth to the very best of my ability. I may have made a “judgment error” in not going to Southern Sudan, but I can assure you that error in judgment was NOT INTENTIONAL nor was it made with any agenda in mind. I guess saying or implying “bad things” about someone is easier to do over the computer because you don’t have to see the hurt in their faces when you write it, but I can assure you those allegations hurt. In my heart of hearts I am only trying to help.

We do not doubt that Scott was trying to help, and there is nothing in this or the original post that we would not say to her in person. We did not mean for it to be a personal attack, and we’re a little surprised that Scott seems not have expected this type of reaction to her movie. She knew she was creating something controversial, and even stated as much in one of the opening lines of her film.

We’re incredibly interested in continuing this dialog face-to-face. If you have any questions you’d like for us ask, leave a comment a below. 

If you’re interested in seeing our sources, check out our Darfur Delicious page.

Todd and Hayley

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  1. Andrew
    July 4, 2009 at 11:55 am — Reply

    wtf is the deal with the ALL CAPS? As if saying someone is a DARFURIAN expert is more emphatic than saying they’re a Darfurian expert. Which, Josh I might inquire, is a misplaced adjective? Wouldn’t a Darfurian expert be any expert who is Darfurian? Contextually it’s apparent she means the professor is an expert on what is happening in Darfur. And in reading interviews with Mamdani, he’s not actually an expert on Darfur, but rather on the politics of naming, spending 9 months in New York and 3 in Kampala, Uganda each year. Granted that’s closer to S. Sudan than Kansas, but when is geographical proximity necessarily related to knowledge? That he can have more direct contact with refugees, govt. officials, etc., doesn’t mean that he does. Especially given some of the critiques of his book and research. I have a question that you can put to Sierra in your face-to-face: did she go to Chad and meet with refugees there? Well that’s just for me, what I think, anyway.

  2. July 16, 2009 at 5:46 pm — Reply

    […] of the documentary, local broadcast journalist Sierra Scott, responded to Scott through Facebook. Todd posted her comments along with his responses. (I would link directly to Sierra’s Facebook messages but many of you couldn’t see […]

  3. kali
    July 16, 2009 at 10:49 pm — Reply

    I am so glad you shared your response to her “documentary.” I am even more happy to read your responses to her here. I can only imagine how THE PEOPLE who have SURVIVED in DARFUR would feel about her portrayal. Hayley’s response was BRILLIANT.

  4. Steven
    August 18, 2009 at 8:43 am — Reply

    I stumbled upon this ‘blog’ discussion after clicking on a link from another website. I know some of the players involved, and I wonder… do any of you use your time productively? I have already spent about 10 minutes here, and if I weren’t waiting for a rather voluminous document to print, I would be mad at myself for taking the time to engage in this vapid exchange.
    Sierra has a POV – great… but, who cares?
    Todd and Hayley have a POV – great… but, who cares?
    Is this really productive? Picking statements apart and injecting your version of facts?
    I can’t see how either side is doing anything to provide relief for the ‘arguable’ problems on another continent. Both sides are attempting to elevate themselves by their myopic knowlege of the conflict.
    Before you respond in defense of yourself. Think.
    Search deep inside and think about why these words may make you mad right now.
    Is it because you feel attacked? Or, is it because you realize that you are struggling to be heard. Are you struggling to ‘have a strong opinion’ about something topical. OK… now… why?
    Here’s a suggestion (perhaps it’s my need to be heard) – Do something positive. If Darfur is your passion – quitchurbitchin and physically help. I’m sorry – an ‘alleged’ documentary and the criticism of that tape isn’t productive.
    Gotta go – the printer needs another ream of paper.

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Darfur Stories Response