Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cool People Profile: Robert Young Pelton

Name: Robert Young Pelton
Age: 55
Nationality: Canada, USA
Profession: Gonzo Journalist, Adventurer, Film Maker, Witness to War
Employer: Self-employed
Quote: "I'm a little different. I find the places that make no fucking sense and that's where I want to go."

Social Networking
1. Black Flag Cafe
2. Facebook

Come Back Alive
Iraq Slogger

A self-described “witness to war” and “iconoclast,” Robert Young Pelton is perhaps best known for his nearly 1100-page “travel guide” to The World’s Most Dangerous Places. He’s also the creators of the websites “Come Back Alive” (named after a survival guide he wrote, the website hosts digital chapters of the World’s Most Dangerous Places, a travel forum frequented by military types, adventure travelers, and loose screws called the Black Flag Cafe, and links to survival gear and videos of his travels) and “Iraq Slogger” (a news website aimed at accurate and current information about the Iraq occupation). He is the author of the books: The Adventurist; Come Back Alive; The Hunter, Hammer and Heaven: Three Worlds Gone Mad; Fielding’s Borneo; and a slew of articles and films that have “long been free filler for print, radio, Internet, and television journalists.”

According to his own biography in The World’s Most Dangerous Places, he has worked as a “lumberjack, boundary cutter, tunneler, driller, hardware store manager, and blaster’s assistant.” He didn’t “get into” journalism... he just ended up there through following his passions. He never believed that everything you need to know about the world can be spoon fed to you through the media so he decided to start traveling to dangerous places during his vacation time while working a desk job. As he kept traveling and making friends with “insurgents, jihadis, rebels, criminals, terrorists” and narco drug traffickers he found himself in the rarified position of war correspondent. The more he traveled the more his stories became marketable and now he’s a full-time gonzo-style journalist (don’t confuse that with a talking head).

He’s survived a “a plane crash, car accidents, a head-on motorcycle crash, killer bees, typhoons, SCUD [missile] attacks, a host of wild animal attacks, Marxist rebels, Russian gunships, Northern Alliance artillery, talib rockets, American B-52s” and being kidnapped by paramilitary drug traffickers in the DariĆ©n Gap of Colombia.

His travels and contacts often allow him “firsts” in journalism. He was with rebels during the attacks on Grozny, Chechnya a decade ago. In his words he “was in the bunkers with the ‘terrorists,’ eating pumpkin pancakes and wondering why the media didn’t give a damn about ‘another war in Europe,’ ethnic cleansing, or even the civilian deaths that happened every day.” He found and saved the life of John Walker Lindh at the Qala-e-Janghi prison in northern Afghanistan in those heady days following 9/11/01.

And perhaps coolest of all, Robert Young Pelton shares all information in a very cynical, pragmatic, and humorous light. Frequently witnessing death as well as courage on far-flung battlefields has made him comment that he “hates war and respects soldiers.” He somehow makes you wish you were there too, which is saying a lot about a war zone.

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