147–148: LDS and Pacific Islander Layers of the Manti Te’o Saga

January 24, 2013
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Very little coverage of the story of the cruel hoax perpetrated on Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o has focused on aspects of the Mormon and Pacific Islander cultures that helped shape him and how these might help illuminate and give context to what seems so baffling to so many: how Te’o could be as trusting and naïve as he would have to be to be so victimized, as well as why he might be extra hesitant to share the story earlier than he did. In this podcast, panelists Anapesi Ka’ili, Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, and Stephen Carter, along with Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon look at the Te’o saga with eyes trained on the places and cultures in which he was raised and how they likely helped create a perfect storm for him to be so extraordinarily trusting and captivated by the qualities embodied by the woman he fell so deeply for without ever having met her in person. Both Mormonism and Pacific Islander identities (especially in combination with each other and also their mix in the specific town in Hawaii in which Te’o was raised) help us better understand this story, but in return the story provides a fruitful jumping off point for examination of things Mormon and Islander, such as many largely un-examined LDS (and wider religious) sensibilities and narratives, the prevalence of affinity fraud in Mormon and other close-knit religious groups, and pressures to present oneself to others in ways that fit inspirational molds but which are not fully authentic.

This discussion is rich at many levels. We look forward to your listening and then joining in the conversation below!

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4 Responses to 147–148: LDS and Pacific Islander Layers of the Manti Te’o Saga

  1. Allison
    January 24, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    This podcast was fascinating to me, especially as a writer of fiction. I’m surprised the role of social media didn’t make more of a prominent appearance in the podcast conversation. Stephen was talking about storytelling and how we inherently modify our stories to fit appropriately into the situation. Yes, this happened in the mainstream media as Te’o’s story was molded (by him and others) to create whatever message was most compelling to the consumers of that media. But, what I find even more interesting, is the shaping and building of stories that happens with us all on a more personal level as the virtual facade of social media allows us to move our own narratives forward in a beneficial way. We only post the most flattering pictures of ourselves on facebook. When we carry on a conversation via email as opposed to face-to-face, we have the benefit of time to develop our responses. When we comment on a podcast, we are able to listen, ponder, formulate a set of ideas and then respond in a thoughtful way. We are all creating the stories of ourselves that we want others to see. Even if this wasn’t a hoax, even if this girl happened to be real, Te’o would have been naïve in trusting his feelings for her considering the virtual circumstances of their relationship. Having said that, what happened to him was an inexcusable act of cruelty and I wish him the very best.

  2. Steve In Millcreek
    January 29, 2013 at 5:26 am

    I’m frustrated when a narrative blames the victim. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo (RT) is the purpetrator; Te’o is victim. Media puts attention on Te’o because he is the famous/public figure. It is clear that RT spent dozens of hours advancing his hoax; Te’o was simply living his life. Society needs a penalty for catfishing. In recent years, many of us were caught in misplaced belief too: the housing and financial crash.

    • Allison
      January 31, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      You’re right. Even if Te’o was under the influence of his own naivete, he is absolutely not to blame for what happened to him.

  3. Michael
    February 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Is anyone else having trouble downloading this from Itunes?