Jon Krakaeur is one of my favorite writers. I came upon his writings after the age of 25-years, wherein his sense of adventure and independent idealism struck me as honest and relatable. It is through this lens that the betrayal of trust exposed in Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way resonated within me a sense of disappointment and anger after reading the detail of possibility lost.
Greg Mortenson is shown in Three Cups of Deceit to be a cheat, a swindler, a and a dishonest profiteer with little management skill or integrity. Mortenson had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize based on his work in building schools and funding the operation of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan as director and chief fundraiser for the Central Asia Institute. The idea and potential of this organization is unique in its ability to bring literacy to a population not adequately educated.
Quoting from a New Yorker article published at the time Three Cups of Deceit was published:
“[Krakaeur] quotes former C.A.I. employees who are scathing in their criticism of Mortenson, including board members who resigned in disgust. According to Krakaeur, in 2009, C.A.I. spent 1.7 million dollars to promote Mortenson’s books, taking out full-page ads in publications like the New York Times, and chartering private planes for him to attend speaking events.”
Mortenson had published the books Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace – One School at a Time and Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Education in Afghanistan and Pakistan with ghost-writers, pocketing the profits from the book sales. In Three Cups of Deceit, Krakauer argues with testimony that many of the reported facts in Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools are untrue fabrications that never occurred. The program Pennies for Peace is debunked in Three Cups of Deceit after having raised much money through the efforts of educated children in the United States and elsewhere.
Like with many of books written by Jon Krakaeur, Three Cups of Deceit includes Greg Mortenson as a central heroic figure first fighting for an idealistic pursuit and then going astray. The degree of nobility within the character has varied from one Krakaeur book to another, with Mortenson showing us a noble idea while never coming across as honest or particularly leader-like. The details here were distinct enough from other Krakauer books to hold my interest for the length of the work.
I was not overwhelmingly impressed by new journalism in this piece, though I acknowledge wholeheartedly the newsworthiness of the material. I feel the betrayal that underpinned the subject matter in the book. That Mortenson chose not to respond within the framework of the book was disappointing to me. My overall rating lands at a 3.0-stars out of 5 stars.
Matt – Tuesday, February 20, 2018