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VICE: “Egyptian Tomb Raiders” / “Rent A White Guy”

By Jef Dinsmore on May 2, 2015 to Vice


Overview: “Egyptian Tomb Raiders” — In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Middle Eastern countries have seen a surge in the looting of antiquities. In Egypt alone, an estimated $3 billion dollars worth of artifacts have been plundered. Looters have broken into museums and left thousands of empty pits at archaeological sites, all to feed the global demand for antiquities, especially in the U.S. Meanwhile, ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq have organized their own looting networks to fund their campaign of violence. Gianna Toboni goes to Egypt to meet some of the people behind the black market trade — and those trying to preserve what’s left of this priceless cultural heritage.VICE_Ep30

“Rent a White Guy” – Although China is on track to dominate the world’s economy, the country looks at the Western white male as a symbol of cultural cachet. Among China’s growing upper class, nothing spells “cool” like importing a European butler, or having a white businessman appear at your event. In fact, you can even rent a white guy by the hour or day. Thomas Morton heads to China to check out these unusual jobs, whose only requirement is that the applicant be white and male.


Expectations: Most of the time VICE offers political and cultural news that catches a viewer off guard, it opens one’s eyes to a situation you didn’t know about and often it is shocking or unsettling. But, on occasion the media company offers up a two other types of stories and perfect examples are the two segments that make up this installment.

VICE_Ep30pic2Besides the new shocking stories are ones that are just an update of situations or people you are already fully aware and yet another kind of story is the more light-hearted piece. The first, segment this week, “Egyptian Tomb Raiders” tells of nothing new. Ancient tombs have been plundered and looted for eons. Grave robbers and black trade dealers have gotten hold of relics long before modern man entered the tombs. I think this segment will be more of an update of how and why modern-day looters are still up to the same tricks. The players of changed and the game is more high stake, but it is an old scam through the ages.

As for the more light-hearted piece we have “Rent A White Guy” which reminds me of the previous segments from back in Season One about the “ghost cities” of China that look like famous cities from around the world and the one about the dating scene in China . Hey, there is a theme here. All of these quirky cultural incidents are from China! Anyway, it is nice to throw in these lighter stories, but if you look there is always some underlying darker reason behind them. We will see if that’s the case here. Check out the trailer.


Gut Reaction: Gianna Toboni is the correspondent for “Egyptian Tomb Raiders.” This all has certainly gone beyond just the looting of tombs. I have seen footage of vandals smashing museum inventory before but, the total ransacking of these museums and the selling of these items around the world is not cool at all; especially when they fund terrorists like ISIS. I am sure there are many who can’t and won’t be bothered about it, but it bothers me.

This is a two-scale operation all just aiding the destruction of our “cradle of civilization.”  The tomb looters are digging deep pits to raid ancient ruins. They do it out of desperation after the crashing of the economy in the wake of the revolution. The VICE_Ep30Pic3larger money-makers are just ransacking existing catalogs of antiquities in museums or stumbling across a large looted piece; then forging documentation and getting the bidders to bite at auction All this in order to generate big bucks for their nefarious causes. It has escalated to a big, bad business.

Toboni, for this piece, has talked to a lot of experts both at the historical sites and at reclamation operations to learn the whys and hows of the black market business. There seems to be no real answer in sight, but just trying to catch the perpetrators in action and seize the artifacts one piece at a time. As Dr.Hawass, billed the real ‘Indiana Jones’ and someone I have heard of and read about before has said the cultural heritage of the world is being exploited and destroyed at an alarming rate. Though it has been happening for many decades it has now escalated and it is a shame. Thanks for the update Gianna Toboni.

And thank you correspondent Thomas Morton for “Rent A White Guy.” It was the most humorous VICE report yet. Though Thomas was having fun acting and modeling his way to instant fame in the Orient a great explanation was offered by a Chinese professor on why Caucasians men are a hot commodity there. When the Cultural Revolution revealed that China was so far behind the western world they idolized the ingenuity of the West and strived to boost their cultural and economic status in the VICE_Ep30Pic4world. Boy, they sure have achieved that goal, but in the wake of all that was still the attachment to their perception of a “white guy” as the ultimate gold standard. And the rest is overkill.

That is the underlying theme of this humorous segment. The rest of it is Thomas having fun as a fake Scotsman, businessman, butler and doctor. Yeah, it blew me away that a white guy is hired to act like a doctor to promote the opening of a new hospital wing. And he wasn’t just there as a photo op he actually lectured on a topic he knew nothing about to Chinese doctors who didn’t notice (hopefully because they didn’t understand English). It was fun and just another example of the odd cultural habits of the Chinese.


In Conclusion: it was a most informative half-hour which shed light on an age-old problem accelerated in the modern day and took another unique look into the cultural oddity that is China. I am sure there are more timeless issues and cultural quirks to see and VICE is my outlet to discover them. How about you?  I think it is a no-brainer that Gianna Toboni gets the Debrief this week.


I am beginning to really like Gianna’s reporting and it is not totally because she is a pretty lady. She is so personable even in her reporting and not just more candid moments like the clip above.


Next Week: If you don’t really know what GMOs are in your foodstuffs you will with the next installment. Also there is a look at the clean water crisis in India. It all comes up in VICE episode 9 debuting MAY, 8 at 11:00pm. Until then – Peace.

Find Episode # 29 here.
Find episode # 31 here.

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