Anyone else read this piece in the New York Times magazine by Theo Padnos about the 23 months he spent in captivity — mostly in Syria — after being kidnapped?
I want to call it a cautionary tale for free-lance reporters, and I will admit that as I read the piece I was practically shouting: “DON’T DO IT, DON’T GO WITH THOSE GUYS!”
But I am afraid of sounding as if I don’t admire his courage and his candor — I do, though his reporting goals were more idealistic than realistic.
He’s the first to admit it. Early in the piece, he says:
The cruelty of my captors frightened me, but my bitterest moments in those early weeks came when I thought about who was most responsible for my kidnapping: me.
What we can learn from what he has shared in this piece is some insight into how these kidnappings happen. Sadly, being American marked him to an enormous degree as a target.
In a perfect world, no one would go to a place like Syria to tell stories without all the training they need to stay safe and a network to support them. The price of bearing witness in such places is often too high. And still, we need people brave enough to try. That’s the dilemma.