Tomorrow night’s episode of This Is Life With Lisa Ling titled “Inside Mongol Nation” began last May as something quite different.
The week after the Twin Peaks Massacre a producer named Jessica Chermayeff began pursuing the inside story on what had happened in Waco. Chermayeff works for Part2 Pictures, a production company in Brooklyn that, in Chermayeff’s words, “creates high-quality documentary programming for PBS, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and other major broadcasters. We produce a successful CNN documentary television series called This is Life with Lisa Ling, which explores unique American experiences through personal profiles and intimate storytelling. Lisa Ling is a journalist who is recognized for her nonjudgmental approach and integrity, and her collaborations with Part2 Pictures have been characterized by compassion, curiosity, and beautiful craftsmanship.”
“Normally,” she continued, “we do not jump into the whirlwind of hard news and current events because we look for stories that are much more complex, grey and personal. After seeing the coverage of the conflict in Waco and…just how one sided it has been – we thought Lisa could be the perfect correspondent to take on this misunderstanding, get on the road and talk to real bikers, understanding what the culture is really about, what attracts people to it and where the media has gone totally astray with fear mongering or over simplification.”
Ling, who may be best known as a host of the daytime talk show The View, and Chermayeff, accompanied by Air University professor Will Dulaney, began filming in Texas a couple days later. After returning to Brooklyn, Chermayeff said that she understood “how badly they (which at the time was the Bandidos) have been burned by the media, especially the news on CNN and others. I just want to reiterate” she said, “how different we are and that we are entirely separate from that team. We have editorial control over our material and are not forced to make quick headlines.”
“The FBI has heightened surveillance on motorcycle clubs nationwide,” Ling told Rodney Ho of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month. “I tried to get access to one of the clubs involved in the shootout but because they had so many people locked up, they’ve been unwilling to grant anyone access.”
Intrigued by the idea of doing a sympathetic show about motorcycle outlaws, Ling and Chermayeff made contact with the Mongols before June. The Mongols may be the most demonized motorcycle club in the country and they recently won a seven-years-long attempt by the federal government to seize their insignia. Ling describes herself as having “imbedded” with the club and the result seems to be something unique to television. “We are not exploitative,” Ling told the Atlanta paper. “I’m not an antagonist. I listen. I want to give people an opportunity to tell their story and share their lives.”
Ling told Judah Robinson of the Huffington Post, “We got unprecedented access into the Mongols Motorcycle Club in the wake of that notorious biker shootout earlier this May. The Mongols are the group, of all of the one percenter biker clubs, that the government has been targeting the hardest and they let our cameras in.”
The documentary appears to be as sympathetic and nuanced as Chermayeff and Ling have promised it would be last spring. Everybody can judge for themselves when Inside Mongol Nation is telecast on CNN tomorrow at 9 p.m.