Three Cups of Tea disputed


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Trad climber
San Diego
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 16, 2011 - 01:32am PT
What was the book that was so big that Opra got duped on?

A million little pieces.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Apr 16, 2011 - 01:35am PT
It seems odd that a story like this would suddenly appear now. Mortenson has been doing this kind of work in northern Pakistan since the mid to late 1990s, and later in Afghanistan. It's pretty high profile. If there was something significantly off, we'd probably have known it by now. Perhaps his story of his formative experience, stumbling glassy-eyed into Korphe in 1993, grew a bit in the telling - or perhaps he saw what happened somewhat differently than some of those there now say they saw it. Perhaps he hasn't always been exact about recording achievements, and taking and sharing credit - that also comes with the territory. Both non-profits, and that part of the world.

I didn't see the television piece - no TV. But there is no shortage of journalists eager to find stories, not to mention interested Pakistanis, and somehow I think if there was anything much to what was said, it would have been known already. Perhaps he's spun his story a little bit too rosily, or his organization and colleagues have. Is there the slightest suggestion that it's to his own selfish benefit, or that he hasn't accomplished a great deal for education in these places?

Non-profits regularly puff themselves up a bit - our mailboxes are full of their propaganda, eh? And perhaps a few are run by self-serving egomaniacs, where story and reality are far different. But it seems highly doubtful that's the case here. Mortenson has accomplished some very worthwhile things.

Trad climber
Apr 16, 2011 - 01:46am PT
Mortenson, at the event I saw him, was probably THE most unassuming human I have ever seen speaking publicly. He was constantly trying to get the others in his entourage up on stage, he seemed so overwhelmed by the attention. Yet those people knew: The audience was there to hear Mortenson. And they gently pushed him back on stage, time and time again. He constantly lauded the efforts of others involved, minimizing the work he himself had done.

Reading both "Three Cups of tea" and "Stones Into Schools"(which takes up where 3 Cups left off, and brings up to date to...I cannot recall the year, but maybe like 2010?(Correct that, if somebody knows). In the "Stones" book, it details how the organization has grown, and much of the on-hand efforts have been made by people from the organzation living in Pakistan/Aphghanistan, as Mortenson has, by necessity, been spending his efforts at speaking engagements.

I wonder if Krakauer has interviewed any of the military men who have gone on record as stating how helpful Mortenson/CAI has been in their dealings with the people of those countries.

I won't even deign to suggest that "maybe" there is some merit to the 60 M piece.
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Apr 16, 2011 - 01:48am PT


Until anyone has facts this is dense supposition much like the assault on Dean for picking up a lost soul and saying he did it for the compliments.
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Apr 16, 2011 - 02:01am PT
It's like he was poured into that uniform, Apogee:

Credit: Srgt. Rock
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Apr 16, 2011 - 02:12am PT
I don't know anything about this case. I do lament the demise of 60 minutes regarding investigative journalism.

They used to go after big business corruption like the tobacco industry but now their network IS big business in league with other big business and all they can do is fluff pieces and go after little fish.

Anders speculation might be a possible explanation but let's see how this plays out. There doesn't seem to be any denying the positive contribution the man has made to the area and to philanthropic life in general. It's a shame that has to be a target when politics and industry are such cesspools full of lies and corruption without the redeeming elements of this story


Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
How do you like my new weather gear?
Apr 16, 2011 - 09:15am PT
Ricky again misses the entire point.

I get your point... the 60 minutes subject could be Stalin and you would feel the same way. You're one of those people who carefully selects a news source based upon them telling you what you want to hear.


60 Minutes has broken some important stories over the years and has definitely impacted our society for the better, at times.

I never got into this whole 3 cups of tea bullsh#t, so I don't really care if Mortensen lied about it or not.


Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Apr 16, 2011 - 09:27am PT
I'll reserve judgment (if I ever pass it). My interactions with the media demonstrate that it often fails to deliver the truth like due to the fact that their job is to deliver viewers to advertisers. The truth isn't always the best way to do that. In fact, the whole truth is rarely the way to do that. Pretty sweeping statements I've made but that sums it up as far as I'm concerned.

Trad climber
Apr 16, 2011 - 10:11am PT
The news release is basically reproduced here:

I would not be even slightly surprised to learn that many major details of the autobiographical sections of the book are empirically incorrect. That is the case with essentially all memoir and autobiography.

Americans generally believe that the most reliable access to the past is by talking with "someone who was there.". One of the first things you learn as a historian or lawyer is that the are few things less reliable than an eyewitness account. even folks trying desperately hard to give what they believe to be factual accounts of past events collapse different events, replace on person with another, and on and on. that is the way memory works. HUHman memory isn't like computer memory.

And of course, in a memoir that is also partly a marketing document, layers of other redress and editors will have helped to rework material. And again, it is indeed also possible that an author can reshape material in ways he or she knows to be empirically incorrect yet feels to be dramatically authentic.

each of these represents diffent ways that an account can be inaccurate, even wildly inaccurate, without involving deliberate, selfconcscious falsification or fabrication.

Put another way, I never expected the account in Three Cps to be empirically reliable in it's detail. Well have to wait and see just how unreliable, and in what ways.
Stewart Johnson

lake forest
Apr 16, 2011 - 10:20am PT
who do you believe? the little guy making a difference,
or big money.

Trad climber
Apr 16, 2011 - 10:32am PT
Form the link listed above:
"In “Three Cups of Tea,” Mortenson writes of being kidnapped in the Waziristan region of Pakistan in 1996. In his second book, “Stones into Schools,” Mortenson publishes a photograph of his alleged captors. In television appearances, he has said he was kidnapped for eight days by the Taliban. 60 MINUTES located three of the men in the photo, all of whom denied that they were Taliban and denied that they had kidnapped Mortenson. One the men in the photo is the research director of a respected think tank in Islamabad, Mansur Khan Mahsud. He tells Kroft that he and the others in the photo were Mortenson’s protectors, not his kidnappers. “We treated him as a guest and took care of him,” says Mahsud. “This is totally false and he is lying.” Asked why Mortenson would lie about the trip, Mahsud replies, “To sell his book.”"

So - the news is asking us to believe purported Taliban members. Wasn't it last year's theme that the Taliban was a bunch of (insert very negative and derogatory phrases)?

Krakauer is quoted as saying "It’s a beautiful story. And it’s a lie."

I DO hope that Krakauer is shown to be libel in that statement. It shouldn't be difficult at all to find those climb mates and have them sign affidavits if their story holds water.

The article also says Mortenson didn't respond to their inquiry. Perhaps the organization will see they have a need for a PR contact. They requested an interview, and he didn't respond. Looking at the Calender of Events which shows his scheduled appearances (link:; it's not really hard to imagine he may not have felt it all that urgent to speak to them. A person who is hiding something - well, maybe they would rush to defend themselves. But a person who hasn't got time for the bullshit drama of

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Apr 16, 2011 - 10:36am PT
It's gonna be on tv, thus it's gotta be true! They're out to find truth not make money through muckraking after all... Remember even that weasel geraldo jumped ship on 60 minute.

Also all self reported claims fall short of scientific scrutiny.

I'm with Crimp, judgement is the road to all evil.

So the toothfairy may actually turn out to be the dentist? B-the Fing D!
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Apr 16, 2011 - 11:01am PT
Of course publicly noted Pakistanis will deny being Taliban and deny being kidnappers!

What is likely is that Mortenson has done more for relations with Pakistan and Islam than the Entire US government which has spent many billions trying to "Keep us Safe" from radical Islam and told more lies than Mortenson in the process. 60 minutes seems to shy from the big targets since their network's parent company is a big status-quo corporation.

So, certain, Mortenson has built schools and inspired people to do charity. Maybe his story has some embellishments, which is unfortunate but not unheard of in biographies and auto-biographies. If it wasn't, hollywood would do it for him when they make the movie ala "Seven Years in Tibet"


Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Apr 16, 2011 - 02:27pm PT
This seems reminiscent of the current fuss involving the Grameen Bank and its founder Muhammad Yunus, from Bangladesh. Yunus and the bank won the Nobel Prize for their work on micro-credit, and the model has been widely copied. Yunus is now being harassed by the government of Bangladesh, which despite appearances is an oligopoly, not a democracy. His offence being that he suggested that he might be interested in getting involved in politics, in other words that he's a threat to them. He was already, in that he created a large civil society institution that is relatively independent of the government, and reasonably clean. But it's now official.

Naturally they found a few imperfections in the work of Yunus and the bank. It's a large organization. But the one about throwing out the baby with the bathwater may apply.

Apr 16, 2011 - 02:36pm PT
I second everything klk says above.

And I have to add that I found the book darned near unreadably dull. But I never wanted to say so, because, well, after all, it's so earnest, and apparently for such a good cause. But, it's also a little too earnest, a little too self congratulatory. But, then, let's not say so, because it's for a good cause. I have to wonder if all the people who claim to have read the book have actually done so? Reading it, I felt like this was one of those books that people want to like and want to say they've read, when really they just want to support what seems like a good cause.

The most curious thing about the book to me is that Mortenson would be rewarded for the book. For the deeds he describes, fine, good humanitarian stuff. But as a book? Well, for starters, Mortenson himself almost certainly didn't write it. I wonder if his "co-writer" signed a gag order. Mortenson acts like David Oliver Relin doesn't even exist. I'm talking about the first book here--I notice that Relin didn't participate in the second one: I wonder who wrote it?
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Apr 16, 2011 - 02:42pm PT
One of the best damn lies I have ever read.

Trad climber
Apr 16, 2011 - 04:19pm PT
Dolomite - I've read both books, and had a vastly different experience than you. The book was written, at the request of others, for use as a vehicle TO raise awareness of the work of the CAI, and also to assist with fundraising. The books were not intended to be, nor are they, in my opinion, self-congratulatory.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but I cannot imagine anyone who has ever seen the man speak would consider him anything but a humble human being. Perhaps his biggest flaw(from my perspective) might be that he seemed to have difficulty in delegating. It's amazing that, with the work load he carried, he didn't have a sever breakdown from exhaustion(and in "Stones Into Schools" there is a small section detailing one such crisis).


Apr 16, 2011 - 04:46pm PT
Yes, almost everyone has had a vastly different reading experience than I had—the books have been on the NYT best seller list for ages, people like them. I understand why the idea of them is appealing. I’m sure, Happie, that you’re right that the book was written to raise awareness and to assist with fundraising—that’s my take too. The book has been remarkable in raising awareness and fundraising, which proves that it has been an effective advertising tool. For many, this is a measure of a good book, just not one I share.

I am also sure that the books were not intended to be self-congratulatory, but that’s a very thin line. I doubt I’m the only reader who thinks he didn’t cross it now and then.

I’ve seen him in person. I believe he’s sincere. But sometimes too much humility has a way of coming off as . . . well, not humble.

Trad climber
Elk Creek, Idaho
Apr 16, 2011 - 05:15pm PT
Krakauer is quoted as saying "It’s a beautiful story. And it’s a lie."

I'd consider that quote with more concern...if it wasn't attributed to a writer who has made a lucrative career casting aspersions at people.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Trad climber
Will know soon
Apr 16, 2011 - 06:12pm PT
The fact is that Mortensen and his organization have and are doing much good in a Very ignored area of the world.

"Helping to establish" can mean many different things.... all the way from donating money towards something to doing the entire project. I know in some cases they have paid teacher (s) salaries while others built the school. It is still helping establish something wonderful. How jaded some are. Use your energy spent criticizing to help change people's lives. lynne
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