The Fox kid­nap­pings

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

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.

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