The Fox kidnappings
When news broke in January of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll’s kidnapping in Baghdad, any American with a television knew about it immediately. The updates were regular and timely until her March 30 release. Fox News journalists Steve Centanni, an American, and cameraman Olaf Wiig, a New Zealander, are not so lucky. They were kidnapped Aug. 14 on assignment near Palestinian security headquarters in Gaza City by unknown perpetrators. They have not been heard from since and have gotten scant media attention to pressure or otherwise satiate the captors.
In the past few years, about two dozen foreigners have been abducted by Palestinian militants, usually for readily apparent motives of attention, leverage, revenge or money. Most cases were resolved quickly and without tragedy. In this case, all the usual Palestinian militant groups have disavowed responsibility. Without a kidnapper to step forward, attention and leverage are moot as motives and so, too, in all probability, is revenge. The possibility of secret ransom negotiations aside, this looks to be a troubling change of tactics by Palestinian militants — if in fact Palestinians committed the crime, which we don’t know for certain.
There are any number of theories being floated to explain the media’s inattention, beginning with the fact that Fox itself has downplayed the story. Some interpret this as a sign of behind-thescenes negotiations. Others see the onset of some American kidnapping-fatigue syndrome. “Are we tired of journalistsunder-fire stories?” asks CBS’ Vaughn Ververs. Still others, like our correspondent Joel Mowbray, cite the case as “part of the arsenal of heavy-handed media intimidation present in the region,” in which the crimes of Islamists are downplayed. Then there is the fact that Miss Carroll, a 28-year-old, benefits from a media environment where Natalee Holloway and JonBenet Ramsey get nearconstant play, whereas men aged 60 and 36 do not.
The likeliest explanation is the most troubling of all, which is that the perpetrators — in a seeming departure from the usual tactics — want it this way. Cameras roll in the Middle East when terrorists or political actors decide that they should. In this case, the opposite has happened. It is a tragedy for the Fox journalists and their families; it is a tragedy for the rest of us, who may be witnessing the emergence of a new type of kidnapping in Gaza.