Monday, November 19, 2007

Making Money Out of a Kidnapping

Ah, so this is why Alan Johnston was quiet and unreachable:

Next week sees the publication of Kidnapped: And Other Dispatches, an account of his incarceration at the hands of the Islamic Army

More from the interview:-

He looks less drawn than in those first euphoric images of him walking to freedom, and more calm. "This whole post kidnap period has been very, very strange. I mean, my mum told me they'd projected my head onto Battersea power station. I mean, I used to think of myself as the correspondent Obscuristan, and when you've been in solitary confinement, and my big old head's being projected like Stalin - well, it's just the strangest thing. And there have been some very strange moments. The other day this chap got chatting to me on a train, and he said, you know, if I were a betting man I'd have put 50 quid on you not making it."

He thought about escaping, but never tried and worried about that. "I wasn't brave enough. I did worry, because there were times when I listened on the radio and there were all these people doing so much, and I thought all it takes is for you to shove that guy when he comes in and you're out of here. And then you could take your whole fate into your hands. It could be, you know, a dazzling response to your crisis, you'd free yourself. But shoving him would be to introduce violence to the game. I'm the least violent guy I know, and he's an urban guerrilla, half my age and twice as strong." And besides, he points out, he probably wouldn't have got very far. "You can't have a westerner imprisoned at the top of the stairs without everyone in the building being on board."

He seems to embody classic BBC qualities of perspective and self-effacement, and the capacity for empathy evident in his work sustained him psychologically. When I suggest this, he winces at the idea of "bigging yourself up" and keeps stressing that he wasn't always strong enough to control his bleaker thoughts. "It was a continual effort. Always. But I kept on thinking that in the great stories of human incarceration, yours of being locked in a room in Gaza where they don't give you a hard time, and you're reasonably fed, isn't so bad.

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