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Most commented: Those dumb Americans who went hiking in Iran

Sarah ShourdFor her Thursday column, Meghan Daum writes about the American hikers who were imprisoned in 2009 when they accidentally found themselves on the wrong side of the Iran-Iraq border. More to the point, Daum talks about the contempt for these three hikers, who're perceived by some as careless, entitled and arrogant liberals. One hiker, Sarah Shourd, was released in September, but her companions Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are still detained in Tehran, with no end in sight. To revive interest in their release, Shourd is promoting a "rolling hunger strike," which has drummed up attention but also has agitated what Daum calls the "hiker haters."

Here's Daum, in defense of the hikers:

As locals have explained to reporters, venturing beyond the waterfall was nearly unheard of. The trio's decision to do it anyway represents not just a spirit of adventure but what seems like a particularly American form of hubris, one that, ironically enough, is common to those with an interest in defying the "ugly American" stereotype. They're the types who learn the native language and never take organized tours, the types who smile politely at photos from your Princess cruise and then whip out a snapshot they took of child soldiers in Sierra Leone.

So is hiker hate about blue versus red politics? About America-right-or-wrong patriotism? Or maybe the annoying earnestness of UC Berkeley graduates (Cat Stevens doesn't help).

To some extent, sure, but I think deep down it's it's about justifying the American reluctance to travel outside our comfort zones.

And here are the "hiker haters." From our discussion board:

My grandfather had a saying: "If you decide to lay down on railroad tracks, don't act surprised if you get hit by a train."

Bauer, Fattal and Shourd behaved irresponsibly and stupidly, and then acted surprised when something bad happened. What's next on their agenda... fly fishing in North Korea? 


You missed the point.  The issue is self-responsibility.  Someone who goes hiking in a war zone where they are in close proximity to a police state runs the risk and bears the responsibility for their actions.  Don't come crying to us if you get thrown in prison and used as pawns by zealots.  As you raised the red-blue issue, we'll note that conservatives believe in self-responsibility while liberals tend to look for others to blame. 

It is what it is.

-- TimBowman

Hunkered down, and afraid of losing their jobs to outsourcing to exotic locales in Thailand or India, some Americans may see these hikers as "elitists" who should be pursuing jobs and careers and families, buying American-made cars, and eating at McDonalds.  Love of conspiracy theories also seems to be part of this picture.

-- stephesthe

While I don't think they were CIA operatives sneaking into Iran as part of some big conspiracy.  I do think they were a little irresponsible being in the area in the first place.  There is a war going on in Iraq and the Iranians hate us and they state that fact on a daily basis.  You would think, taking a hike along a trail between the previously listed would not be such a good idea.  It would be like me packing up the family and heading down to Juarez for a weeklong vacation.  I am sure that I could go if I really wanted to, but it wouldn't be a very smart idea.

-- abo42000

Three American Jews vacationing in Iraq?  And then klutzing their way over the Iranian border?  I'm sorry, but the word "morons" forces its way to the surface.  Talk about needlessly sticking one's head into the lion's mouth.  And they thought they were immune because they are Americans?  Such mindless arrogance, these people need their heads examined.


"The trio's decision to do it anyway represents...a spirit of adventure...defying the 'ugly American' stereotype. They're the types who learn the native language and never take organized tours..."

I don't hate the hikers, but I do find it irritating that Daum cannot seem to resist the temptation to romanticize their reckless stupidity.

It is patently absurd to refer to the $500,000 payment to the Iranian government on behalf of Shourd as "bail", because everybody KNOWS what it really was: a ransom, which means the remaining two hikers are hostages.  Had she returned for trial, thus forcing the Iranian government to return the "bail", what do you suppose the likelihood of an acquittal would have been?

The Iranian government has, in the past, captured British sailors in Iraqi waters and held THEM as hostages.  This is the same theocracy that held 52 members of the American embassy in Tehran hostage for 444 days.   What made these three misguided souls think they would be treated any differently?

Iran is one of only a few self-described enemies of the United States.  If you are an American bent on indulging in nature hikes near the Iranian border, you'd better make damned sure you know where the border is and not cross it.

THAT is the lesson that needs to be instilled into the minds of the bewildered here, nothing more. 

-- GregMaragos

*Spelling errors in the above comments were corrected.


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--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Sarah Shourd speaks to the media in Oakland on Oct. 9, 2010. Shourd and Bauer, on right behind her, are engaged. Credit: Dino Vournas / AP Photo, File


Comments () | Archives (46)

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Hiking Into North Korea

In the spirit of equal stupidity, let's send some Japanese-Americans to hike (swim across) from China into North Korea. And, few Hindu Americans to approach Pakistani Kashmir from India, not to mention a few Greek Americans to cross into Turkish Cyprus.

If we do more of these things, then we can build a serious defense case around one being a "stupid American".

Lanny H

Iran is no North Korea. The US holds quite a few Iranians in their custody, yet not a peep is heard from them. (such as the 2007 helicopter attack on an Iranian consulate in Iraq, resulting in the disappearance of 5 Iranian employees). Israel murdered an Iranian general in one of their prisons early this year "Ali-Reza Asgari". Iran is simply doing what they believe is neccissary in these dangerous times. Who knows what the real story is, we'll probably find out 10 years from now.


Lanny, the real story is known-3 dumb kids crossed into an enemy country and were detained. End of story

c moon

Average Americans are so dumb and naive and out of touch with reality and arrogant. They think that their liberal agenda will be accepted in rest of the world. Rest of the world is struggling everyday just to have the food on the table and these three dumb hikers goes to a country which is so volatile and unstable. What were they thinking? Just because they are from America they could walk around any where in the world. These people deserve to be held in jail and treated according to the law of the land. Just because we do not have a president who does not enforce the existing immigration law doesn't mean rest of the world will allow illegal crossing of the border lightly. This attitude just shows how ignorant and arrogant these Americans are.


hahah stoopid amarecans

why thay so dum?

maxwell smartass

America your head's too big, Because America, Your belly is too big. And I love you, I just wish you'd stay where you belong


This sums up their ignorant actions: "Stupid is as stupid does." - Forrest Gump, slow-witted sage of the big screen.


They were MOSSAD. Simple as that.

Iran has every right to detain them indefinitely.


I'm tired of bleeding heart liberals that go to countries like Iran and North Korea and wonder why their American rights are not valid in those countries.

Let them rot in the jails.

Alex C.

I know the LA Times is in dire straights, but c'mon. Crowdsourcing?

not a hater

Hiking into North Korea - I just wanted to point out that Greek Cypriots can walk into the Turkish side of Cyprus (and so can anyone else, including Greek Americans). The border's been open for several years now. And even before it was open, Greek Cypriot women used to march into the Turkish side as a form of protest each year. I guess they were stupid too.

Alex C.

In the spirit of evenhandedness, should we say those "dumb Americans" down in Arizona deserve to burn because they refuse to accept the over-whelming body of scientific evidence that climate change will only increase the scale and likelihood of such wildfires?


To compare the hikers to "Adventure travelers" and the rest of us as cruise ship gluttons is moronic. Many of us adventure travelers have traveled the earth to exotic locations, but none of us were so stupid as to decide on a lark to take a day hike in a war zone on the border of a country that hates jews and americans with a passion. the only people dumber might have been the "filmmakers" who decided to make a documentary on the north korean border.

It is too bad that the US has to waste a large amount diplomatic resources to free these idiots. Adventure travel doesn't mean suicidal travel.

Gray, Germany

Judging from the discussion thread, I don't think anybody hates the hikers. The opinion seems more to be like 'hope the food isn't too bad there, but don't expect the US to fall over themselves to get those jerks out of jail'. I guess the mood would be more supportive if Sarah and the hikers supporters would acknoledge now that that trip at the border was a very stupid thing to do. But, no, instead they indignantly claim they "are shocked that something so terrible and unjust could happen". OMG, the naivety, it hurts!

And then, they still stomp for Kurdistan as a tourist destination and link to a travel site:
"The Other Iraq Tours - An Unforgettable Journey!"
Unforgettable, indeed.


It is too bad that the US has to waste a large amount diplomatic resources to free these idiots. Adventure travel doesn't mean suicidal travel.
I am sick of taxpayers paying for people of this ILK!

Bowl Weevils

@ Alex C.

Yes, yes we should. No one made them move to the middle of a desert made habitable only through atmospheric pollution-creating air-conditioned condos and cars.

For millions of years, deserts were deserted. That's where the word comes from. Pushing beyond the population limits of a marginal ecosystem because you can ensconce yourself with technology that degrades that marginal ecosystem demonstrates a massive ignorance of climatology and geography.

This is true regardless of whether global warming is occurring or not.


Ha ha! Iranian fools! The joke's on you! Go ahead and keep them! We mass produce dumb liberal idiots by the millions every year! Those goofs probably thought you guys were just going to give them a hot meal and a bus ticket like what we do with the "surprise tourists" we find on our borders every year. Oh wait, you're not just a foreign country, you're a MEDiEVAL FOREIGN COUNTRY THAT HATES US. Now why didn't these Berkeley grads know that?


What were these 3 Stoogea, er...."hikers'" names again? Larry, Moe and Curly?

american terrorist

forget these idiots! let them rot in jail and throw away the keys. dumb farts who cant tell the difference between left and right.

stop wasting resources on them. period.

american terrorist

forget these idiots! let them rot in jail and throw away the keys. dumb farts who cant tell the difference between left and right.

stop wasting resources on them. period.


If trolling message boards was considered actual work, our unemployment rate would be in the low single digits.


From the homogeneity of the comments it seems that one person has wrote some comment and everybody else has decided to follow the same path! Come on guys: you can be a bit more original. True that one of the aspects of this event is the unwise decision of these hikers. But there are many other issues that can be teased upon and discussed here by the creative people on the web. Maybe a bit of sympathy or empathy for these young hikers> Even recently we all saw how the Iranian government treated the Iranian young women and men who were protesting their election-on the streets and in prisons afterward: the illogical and dictatorial manner of action that is internationally associated to Iranian government should at least spark some kind and sympathetic feelings in some of the commenting readers-we can still feel bad and sorry for the terrible situation that an unwise person is stuck in. Also the possibility of these hikers being US or Israeli spies and whether a dictatorship still has a right to take actions against international spies or presumed spies in the similar manner to for ex. US, European countries or Israel, should lead to some interesting debates. BY "JUST BORED BY LACK OF CREATIVITY AND ORIGINALITY IN PEOPLES' THOUGHTS, VIEWS AND COMMENTS";

Masood Hosseini

The United States has deliberately been promoting extremism in the world, therefore Americans are hated although they do not deserve it. Unfortunately, the current Iranian regime is the fruit of a CIA-backed coup d'etat in August, 1953.
Americans needed to show more compassion towards the Iranian nation after the 1979 revolution instead of covert actions, occupation of sovereign neighboring nations, supporting dictator regimes in the Persian Gulf, and sanctions that have harmed ordinary Iranians who only want to live in peace with the rest of the world.
The so-called "Islamic Republic" of Iran does not have mercy upon Iranian citizens and it's suffocating any voice of dissent but hopefully, commonsense is prevailing and 32 years of totalitarianism may be at a turning point.


Hi, as a humanitarian aid worker who has lived in multiple countries in Africa and now lives in Iraq, this sentence stopped me up "Then whip out a snapshot they took of child soldiers in Sierra Leone."

How can this sentence be used in defense of someone? Tourists who travel to Sierra Leone to take photographs of terribly abused children and then whip out those photos at a cocktail party?! That is a much less ethical, much more concerning & damaging type of "tourism" than some people who save up money for a couple years to go on a carnival cruise. Moreover, the NGOs that spring up from this type of tourism (see: Invisible Children, Falling Whistles) are rarely well designed intervention programs and often, often, often do more harm than good in the lives of these children.

I actually have a lot of sympathy for the hikers -- northern Iraq is very secure and plenty of backpackers travel through on a daily basis -- but I don't think that the paragraph quoted above adequately defends them.


Due to: America's foreign policy and it's attempt to forcibly clone the world into our image, our dismal record on human rights, our killing of millions of innocents around the world ( three million in Vietnam alone ), our massive pollution of the Earth's land, air and seas, and our planting of millions of land mines around the world which kill and maim men, women, children and animals indiscriminately, it is a wonder that more American tourists, and more of our infrastructure haven't gone missing.

It is beyond time to recognize that each country has a fundamental freedom to choose it's own style government, it's own economic system, and it's own religion without interference from us or from any other nation.

When this happens Americans will likely be welcomed travelers around the Earth.


The governments involved should send these three Republidiots a bill for the millions of dollars spent trying to retrieve them from their Middle East kidnappers. Let these rightards' rich white Republidiot families pay for the lunacy of their offspring.

Risk Assessment

If you look at the background of these three hikers, they're Republicans who come from rich Republican families. As Republicans they never learned the realities of the harsh world out there, they were protected from harsh realities and from the consequences of their own actions.

Because they're spoiled rich Republican idiots, they never learned how to accuratly measure risk. When Mommy and Daddy bailed them out for snorting cocaine or killnig people while drunk, these Republican idiots never learned what life is like outside of their "gated communities," never were allowed to axcquire experiences that allowed them to make accurate risk assessments.

Typical Republicans

These fat cat rich Republicans are always expecting the government to bail them out of their problems. They grabbed their daddy's money, jetted off to some third world country, thought they would have themselves a pleasent little walk in the park, just like life back in Republican Land where daddy's money kept them clean and safe all theirt lives.

And like typical Republicans they expect the American tax payer to bail them out when something goes wrong.



I would have to whole-heartedly agree that these three people are the receptors of the Darwinian award for the new millenia. However, there is not an award for pathetic, which I assume would have something to do with Cheney. The Iranians would have not told the world of these peoples existence if they were going to abuse/torture these people.


One issue I'm not sure Daum mentioned is the hostages' activist politics, and the resentment of their supporters against the American government, exampled here:

" if you are, like Shane Bauer, a US citizen wrongfully accused of being a spy but whose work has exposed the US government's shame, your case will be no kind of priority." http://www.asafeworldforwomen.org/prisoners-and-injustice/sarah-shourd/shane-and-josh/649-shane-bauer-us-journalist.html

I wonder if the lack of "priority" that seems like hypocrisy of US imperialism to leftists has a more satisfying taste to US diplomats and Middle America.


I hope those liberal pukes rot in jail! I'm sure daddy's money got them to the middle east, too bad it can't get em out!

IRAN - 1


James Scott

With all the jew warhawks in the media, US gov't, and Israel trying to get the USA in a war with Iran can you blame them for not trusting jews that snuck in their country?

Personally I think these "hikers" are Mossad or CIA. That is the most logical explanation when one considers the rhetoric in the jew dominated MSM.

Ross Smith

If our government cared enough about its citizens, regardless of how dumb they are, they would be free in a heart beat. Sure it might be costly (monetary or politically) or it might hurt their pride a bit, but to me saving the lives of our countrymen is worth 120% of our governments stupid pride. In fact it boosts national pride instead. Since when was US government equal to US nation?


I love comments such as that from the poster saying, in broad brushstrokes, that conservatives have self-responsibility while liberals seek to blame others. As always, such generalizations are b.s., and motivated more by the writer's political ideology than by any examination of facts. Just as many conservatives as liberals blame others for probloems. The economy? Government and liberal pols are to blame (no blame for our own spending habits and a belief that taxes can be cut with no sacrificing by ourselves). World problems, including dictatorships and wars? Again, others. Not the U.S. What about the American who entered North Korea to distribute Bibles. Not hubris? I don't know the politics of the three hikers. All of the posters are sure?


I am arranging a soccer tournament on the DMZ between the Koreas and would like to invite the two fine young men to participate after they are released. In addition to soccer, we will have extreme sports events: crossing minefields blindfolded, BMX, running of the bulls, triathalon. Please have them contact me.

Atascadero State Hospital


@ BERNADET: the problem here is the attitude of the hikers. When you do something like what they did, there's only one purpose: to defy danger and win. In other words, these hikers didn't want to take a nice walk in the forest, and they didn't even want to make sure their right to walk wherever they wanted was respected; what they wanted was to ascertain to the world that they were powerful enough to do something most Americans can't do - get into American-hating territory and get back out unscathed.

It's a completely natural instinct that human beings have, to stretch their boundaries & expand their power, and people have every right to act on that instinct. But if you keep acting on it, if you're never satisfied with the power you've got and always need to get more, there eventually comes a time when it becomes a very risky gamble. What you don't have is the right to ask me to feel sorry for you (let alone bail you out) when the gamble fails and you lose.


I don't think that the hikers were being stupid (they were in a "safe" area, and even the US military knew where they were, according to Wikileaks). But I do think that it's believable that they were being spies (if they weren't, then surely the State Department has better diplomatic capability than what they've shown so far).

dave H

they're heroes for exerising their unfettered right to explore god's green earth and anyone who remotely sympathizes with the Iranian fascists are just that.

touchdown tony

Dumb Americans hike in a war zone along the border of a country that hates us and then they get arrested. They are not entitled to hike where they please. So now they are surprised they got arrested ? In boxing their strategy would be called " Leading with the chin ".

Esther Haman

NO one has yet to admit that they have done anything wrong and the worse part of it is that the hikers themselves have NOT admitted that they have done anything wrong by being there and going there in the first place!! Why is that?!

The worse part of this issue lies in us taking offense in their arrest by the Iranian authorities. we have gone out of our way to change the picture around and lay the blame on Iran for the hikers being their! We are being forced to take a position against Iran by the Zionists, which want to use this event as a propaganda tool to achieve their goal of demonizing Iran.

No major News organization has interviewed these hikers "4 of them" to get to the bottom of this, and no investigative reporter has gone to Iran to visit the 2 hikers and to report their condition. But we are using them as a propaganda tool by putting lies such as they are being tortured daily or they are on hunger strike etc etc.

Just admit it and get it over with!!

Get real.

Typical Republicans

Rich fat cat Republican idiots think they can go for a walk in some third world terrorist hell hole and the American tax payers will bail them out. Typical Republican, Nanny always held their hand and wiped their noses so now the tax payers get to save their bacon again. Typical.


Idiot Americans acting like they have all the rights in the world because they're from the US. Too bad for them!! They should have listened to the locals and they wouldn't be in the trouble they are in. They deserve what they got!


I am glad they are in jail. They need some re-education. Who knows, if they ever get out, they might actually be right wing.

Esther Haman

People get shot if they cross our boarders or for that matter in most countries. what is that would have happened and the Iranians had shot them dead?! Think about it! By the way where is the 4th hiker? I guess he did not want to get shot and knew better!! The one that convenient­ly got sick and staid behind and NO one has seen him or heard from him ever since? Is this how our government takes distance from people who they recruite for this sort of work?! How funny this is.

get real.


yes, while I would like to apply the phrase DIRT DUMB to these shallow, vacuous clowns, at the same time I am reminded that it does seem to be a trait of the liberal, naive left ! the Al Gore wanna be that spent the time in N Korea comes to mind here also.

maybe the liberal media can well up a few tears for these down and out idiots, I say - let them rot in wherever their bloated sense of no harm can come to me has taken them.

poster child Sarah will never get it - we can only hope she will not have a family !

Apolitical Scientist

I sense in many of these negative comments the same self righteous impulse that seems to motivate many to deride all adventure sports. "Oh those (Base Jumpers, Hang Gliders, Big Wave Surfers... - take your pick) are nuts. They deserve to die". Go to any site where such activities are undertaken and listen to the spectators. You'll hear these comments amidst the 'oohs and aahs'.

I believe these are simply the ways in which over-cautious individuals rationalize their life choices. If you make yourself believe that someone is stupid for having an adventure and taking a risk, then you must be smart and are certainly justified in your decision to set restrictive boundaries on your life.

It's a cliche now, but no less true, that everyone dies but not everyone lives. At least the 3 hikers were living...



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