Robert Matthew Van Winkle, better known by his stage name, Vanilla Ice, is an American rapper, actor and television host. Born in South Dallas, and raised in Texas and South Florida, Ice released his debut album, Hooked, in 1989 on Ichiban Records, before signing a contract with SBK Records, a record label of the EMI Group which released a reformatted version of the album under the title To the Extreme. Ice's 1990 single "Ice Ice Baby" was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts. Although Vanilla Ice was successful, he later regretted his business arrangements with SBK, which had paid him to adopt a more commercial appearance to appeal to a mass audience and published fabricated biographical information without his knowledge. After surviving a suicide attempt, Ice was inspired to change his musical style and lifestyle. While his later, less mainstream albums failed to chart or receive much radio airplay, Ice has had a loyal underground following. In 2009, Ice began hosting The Vanilla Ice Project on DIY Network. His latest album WTF – Wisdom, Tenacity & Focus was released in August 2011. Ice is currently signed to Psychopathic Records.
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Ready to answer your questions about my latest film, POINT AND SHOOT.
Film website: http://www.pointandshootfilm.com
Official trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4I3S2hjbXo
Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution website: http://www.syrianrevolutionfilm.com
What exactly does an international security analyst do? And how did you land that gig?
I provide analysis of international security issues, such as the conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Iraq. One aspect of the work is consulting the media, NGO workers, and others on security issues relevant to their work in those countries. Other times I contribute to security reports on a conflict zone that are published by security firms. But mostly I appear on radio and television networks like MSNBC, Fox News, BBC, etc. as an a analyst and commentator about current events related to the international security (Syria, ISIS, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Ukraine, etc.) My masters degree is in Security Studies from Georgetown University, and combined with my unique experiences on the ground over the years in some of the conflict zones has media outlets calling me regularly to appear as a commentator.
What're are some important facts about the Libyan war that most Americans aren't aware about?
We were organized into a real army, the National Liberation Army of Libya. We weren't renegade militias running around like some are in Libya now, and there weren't radical Islamist groups fighting alongside us in the war. Those problems started after the revolution was over.
From hearing you speak before, it seem you don't really know Arabic very well. Do you feel this limits your ability to perform as a journalist in the Arab world? Do you think that journalists working on the Arab world should know how to speak Arabic?
I am not a journalist, I am an activist and filmmaker. But to answer your question, one doesn't need to know Arabic very well if they have a good, trusted translator with them. Most foreign journalists and filmmakers use translators. I do speak Arabic, but I am not fluent.
Hi Matt, how did you make the leap from being a journalist to actually joining the fight? What was it like to take on that role? I know this is a more generalized question, so thank you for giving us any insight.
I had been to Libya in 2008 while traveling through North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia by motorcycle from 2007-2010. I had always liked Libya the most out of all the countries I had traveled to during those years, and had made great friends there. When the revolution started, my friends were telling me about bad things that were happening to them and their families. One of them basically asked why nobody was helping them. I realized that I could not sit at home and watch this happen to people I knew and cared about. So I went to fight in the revolution, because I believed in the cause and had a personal connection to the country and people there. I have written about it some here as well: http://www.matthewvandyke.com/blog/why-fought-libyan-civil-war/
Have you ever had am experience where you thought to yourself "I need to get the hell out of here?" Where and why?
Yes, many years ago when on a date that wasn't going well.
And after getting hit with shrapnel from a mortar in Libya and realizing it was time to take cover.
Hi Matt. Point and Shoot looks incredible, I just watched the trailer. 2 questions for you, I am a Baltimore native (like you?), any plans to screen it in town? Charles Theater? And, I always believed there's no way for people like me who don't go on adventures half way around the world, entrenched in a revolution like you were, to really understand what's happening in places like Libya and the Arab Spring. How do you think films like yours and storytellers like you give us a glimpse into that world? Will we ever really get it? Life in the States for the most part, is pretty lush. Thanks for all you do, I never heard of you but I'll spend some time today checking out your work.
Yes, the film will be at the Charles Theater starting on November 25, and I'll be at some screenings to answer audience questions. You can find a list of theaters to see the film here: http://www.pointandshootfilm.com/see-it.html. The film has been scheduled for 50 theaters around the country so far and more are being added, so you can check the website once in awhile to find new cities and theaters that have been added.
I think that those who see Point and Shoot will really understand what the Libyan Revolution was about and who the Libyan rebels were. It gives you a very unique look behind the scenes and from within the revolution.
On the lighter side, what is the most unusual food you have ever ate?
Camel meat in Mauritania. It was cheaper than buying beef.
Matt, Also what was your favorite Maryland band? :)
A bad date is the equivalent of getting hit with shrapnel?
That must have been one bad date. Care to share the story?
It was many years ago, before I met my girlfriend, Lauren Fischer, whom I have been with for nearly 9 years now (she is also in Point and Shoot).
What are your thoughts on the material that the SEA leaked after hacking you. Was that all real?
Of course it wasn't real. The press looked at it and determined that the material had been altered and faked, which is why nobody in the media reported on it. The alterations and the accusations that the SEA made sure were funny though.
What kind of documentaries are the most fun to make?
All of the ones I have filmed or released have been very difficult to make, although there are of course many times that filming the motorcycle adventures was a lot of fun.
What do you wish people knew more about, and what do you wish you yourself knew more about?
I wish people knew what their passion in life was so they could pursue it.
I wish I knew more about how to fix mechanical problems, that would be really useful in the field.
What were your thoughts when you were taken a PoW? How were you treated? Did you think you would ever see your bed at your home again?
I thought I would be tortured. I thought I would be executed or spend decades as a prisoner of war. Then later I had auditory hallucinations as a side effect of solitary confinement (which is known to happen to those held in solitary confinement), and I thought something different. Some of those auditory hallucinations are in Point and Shoot, during the prison scenes recreated using the excellent animation of Joe Posner. I wrote some about my time as a POW here: http://www.matthewvandyke.com/blog/gaddafi-prisoner-pow-libyan-civil-war/
Did you see any refugee camps in your travels?
If so, what struck you about them?
what resources did they need the most?
and what would you do differently if asked to design a refugee camp?
I have visited some Syrian refugee camps and it is a very sad situation for people to be displaced from their homes. The needs vary from camp to camp, but what they need most is for the Assad regime to fall so the war will end and they can return home.
As for the design of refugee camps, that is not my field and I am hesitant to comment on it, but modular, pre-fabricated housing would be a better alternative than tents.
I'd like to turn everyone's attention to Exchibit A: A Fox News appearance where the second half of the entire interview focuses on "Not Anymore." Indeed, you gave them a clip from your film to play during your segment. Also in this interview, as you have in many other interviews, you talk about safety for journalists in Syria when you've openly admitted in this thread that you are not a journalist.
You had to provide them that clip so they could plug your film for 50% of the interview, so your above statement about how you "can't remember" such plugging or that it was unintentional or completely up to the hosts is either an obvious fiction or you are very forgetful. Would you be interested in explaining this?
Like I said, if the host brought something up, I replied. I don't get to choose the questions, and out of the dozens of interviews I did around that time you found an appearance that clearly wasn't about James, but about two topics, James Foley and a film I made about a Syrian journalist and the dangers facing journalists working in Syria, which was called "Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution." It wasn't an appearance that was about James in which I brought up any of my work, the host brought up the film because it was relevant to a discussion about the security of journalists working in Syria, and because I had experience filming in Syria under similar conditions to what James Foley and others faced. They obtained the footage they showed from the film because it is available on YouTube. It wasn't provided to them for the interview, and I wasn't expecting them to talk about the film at all. I was surprised that they shifted the focus of the interview to that film considering that the film had been released a year earlier and I haven't done many media appearances lately to promote it. I think they brought up the film because we were talking about the situation in Syria and the dangers facing journalists working in Syria, which is a topic brought up by the film.
As for talking about the security of journalists in Syria, security studies is my field of expertise and I have a masters' degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University. I am a security analyst, and I routinely provide security advice to journalists working in Syria, and have contributed to security reports used by the media and NGOs when planning their trips to cover the conflict because I have access to sources and information on security threats that they might otherwise not be aware of.
Great work you are doing. My question is, do you fear any type of retribution from extremists around the world?
My work comes with serious security concerns and risks, but they are risks that I accept and have to deal with.
Whats the story behind the F2000 battle rifle that you had in Lybia? did you find it? buy it?
It was captured from Gaddafi's forces. Gaddafi had purchased a small number of them years before.
How do you get the information about the conflict zones you are reporting on (in the cases of those where you are not on the ground)?
I spent four years in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia making connections with many people on the ground in several countries. I also have extensive professional contacts because of my work as well. I am in regular contact with these sources to get accurate, inside perspectives on what is happening that I use to help inform my analysis of the conflicts.
What is your opinion about Turkey and the Syrian Revolution? Will Recep Tayyip Erdogan do something about it?
I do not believe that Erdogan has done enough, and I don't believe he will do much more.
What is your opinion of the YPG. In your opinion, are they destabilizing by a means of creating an other or are they helping the Iraqi government with their war against the IS?
The YPG is doing an excellent job of fighting ISIS in northern Syria.
Now let's look at Exhibit B: An appearance on BBC World News. In this clip, from September (not August when you claim they all were) you say, "I am hesitant to speak [for Steven Sotloff]" but then go on to speak for him anyway.
If you noticed, Steven and Jim's journalist colleagues have seldom gone on TV or print, yet you shameless continue to parade yourself as someone who can/could speak for them.
Most of the appearances about James Foley were in August, as I said. Steven was killed in September, so of course those appearances were in September. Several of Steven Sotloff and James Foley's colleagues have gone on television and written articles about them, including many who didn't bother to attend the two memorial services for James. I know they didn't show up for James and his family, because I was there and those people, including yourself, weren't there. The Foley family is supportive of me using my media platform to honor their son and talk about his legacy, and for you to question their judgment or approval is quite insulting to them.
TV news programs routinely do "pre-interviews" with the guest and producers before the program, in which they also ask how you'd like to be introduced and go over the breadth of possible conversation topics. Are you saying that in all of these interviews, you never heard them mention your film, but that, nonetheless, it is mentioned at least once in nearly every single interview you do by the hosts? And why did you never object to this promotion of your film, particularly in the above case?
I'd also like to point to the other issue: where you routinely spoke on behalf of Foley and Sotloff, rather explicitly. Do you not find that a bit shameless?
TV news programs very rarely do pre-interviews. In the past three months I have been on radio or television around 75 times, and only 2 or 3 did a pre-interview.
You don't contradict or question a host live on the air. It is insulting and unprofessional.
Are you related to Dick Van Dyke? If not, do you wish you were?
I am not related to Dick Van Dyke. I don't wish I was, but it would be nice to have a wealthy relative to help fund my work.
Matt - Thanks so much for doing this. As an American I love guns. What's you've favorite weapon and what type of gun gave you the biggest issues i the field?
The AK-47 for its reliability.
The DShK was the most problematic.
A close friend of mine has a lot of military experience and has considered getting on a plane to turkey to join the fight against bad people and stuff. do you have any advice for him?
I am routinely contacted by people who want to fight overseas and I give them all the same advice: don't go. If you don't have years of experience in the region, trusted contacts on the ground, and some other factors in your favor, you are unlikely to be effective and won't make much of a contribution, and you will very likely get killed or kidnapped. Western hostages are worth millions of dollars, and even moderate groups may kidnap him and sell/trade him to ISIS or another group.
Why did you go on TV claiming to be a close friend of James Foley upon his death only to use it as a platform to promote your film?
I was a friend of James Foley and that has been publicly known for years. Those media appearances were in August, shortly after James was killed, before we started promoting the film in the media, so I'm not sure what you are referring to about promoting the film during them. The film may have been mentioned if the host brought it up during the interview, or because James Foley appears in Point and Shoot, but out of the dozens of interviews I did at that time about James I can't remember if/when the film ever came up during an interview. Those interviews were done to help tell the world who James was and what he died for, and to help his legacy. The Foley family was and continues to be supportive of my media appearances talking about what a great man and journalist James was.