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  • to page content Home Selected Articles Awards Two Hours What Lies Beneath Stonehenge Ed Caesar The Smithsonian Magazine 31st August 2014 www smithsonianmag com history what lies beneath Stonehenge 180952437 all return to list of articles website by www gardenshed

    Original URL path: http://www.edcaesar.co.uk/article.php?article_id=81 (2016-02-16)
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  • 19 May 12 Do We Not Bleed Inside the Stephen Lawren GQ 31 Mar 12 Kidnap Tales From The New India GQ 4 Jan 12 Steven Spielberg The Sunday Times 27 Nov 11 Sammy Wanjiru The Runner They Left Behind The Sunday Times 20 Nov 11 Aung San Suu Kyi The Lady in Waiting Dazed Confused 31 Aug 11 Eva Gabrielsson The Girl Who Loved Stieg The Sunday Times 18

    Original URL path: http://www.edcaesar.co.uk/article-archive.php?page=2 (2016-02-16)
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  • the Seleka s grim regime a ground level militia sprung into action armed mostly with knives and sticks They were called the anti balaka The word means anti machete in Sango it derives from the supernatural protection against machetes the militia are thought to possess A few years earlier the anti balaka existed as a vigilante force to deter bandits as well as to protect cattle against theft from a nomadic Muslim group called the Peuhl Now in their new guise as enemies of the Seleka their numbers swelled with loyalists of the deposed President Bozizé In early December just as the United Nations was voting on whether to enlarge a peacekeeping mission to the country there was an attempted counter coup by the anti balaka A fierce battle ensued in Bangui Precise tolls are nigh unreachable in this conflict but it was estimated that more than 1 000 people were killed and tens of thousands displaced in that week or so of heavy fighting France s military deployment known as the Sangaris grew to 1 600 the African Union peacekeeping force or Misca Mission internationale de soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite Africaine to 5 000 It was nowhere near enough The refugee crisis worsened By the New Year around one million Central Africans had been driven from their homes by the fighting At the international airport where the newly enlarged French force was based a vast camp sprung up Christian refugees camped in the fuselages of old propeller planes and made fires alongside the runway By February this year that airport camp had become a city Around 100 000 people were living there still too scared of the Seleka to return to their homes They had built barbershops public showers and T shirt stalls There were even makeshift cinemas where enterprising kids charged 25 Central African francs around 3p to watch a film on a tiny screen or for a 25 franc premium Manchester City vs Chelsea International pressure eventually told on Djotodia s government He resigned on 10 January and the phantom state lurched into a fresh limbo There was no leadership no army no tax collection and no civil servants a complete absence of national agency By the time I arrived in Bangui the CAR had elected a new president a former mayor of Bangui named Catherine Samba Panza but it was unclear what she could do to halt the violence At a ceremony she attended to reform the national army in February a suspected former Seleka soldier was hacked to death and burned by uniformed members of her newly minted army in full view of the international press As Seleka s power waned after Djotodia s removal the anti balaka took their opportunity to exact revenge All Muslims became targets The anti balaka s rhetoric became increasingly extreme At the time of writing Seleka continued to terrorise northern areas of the country but there was no doubt which way the pendulum of power had swung The Muslims were being run out of the country and those who remained risked annihilation Despite the naked evidence there was for a long time an unwillingness in diplomatic circles to use precise words to describe the situation in CAR To do so was to invoke the ghosts of previous tragic failures of the international community Bosnia Rwanda Darfur And then on 12 February Antonio Guterres UN high commissioner for refugees became the first high profile figure to say it What was happening in CAR said Guterres was massive ethno religious cleansing Guterres was right Whole neighbourhoods disintegrated before your eyes Bangui a ramshackle tightly packed city of fewer than a million people which sits on the stately Oubangui river in the southeast of the country was like Seventies Belfast on fast forward And although the conflict had no observable frontline its general progress was inexorable Area by area the capital became a place where it was increasingly dangerous to live as a Muslim On the morning of 1 February we visited the neighbourhood of PK5 the last predominantly Muslim area of Bangui at the invitation of a man named Nouroudine Sy A large eloquent man of 39 who wore a freshly ironed shirt and a Bluetooth headset Sy had been a diamond trader before the war Now he was in the process of funding and organising a new Muslim militia in PK5 with the express purpose of fighting back against the anti balaka He called his new army the Movement Musulman Centr Africaine and claimed he had 300 volunteers We saw a few dozen of his eager young men at the MMCA s makeshift headquarters PK5 was buzzing that morning Market stalls were open and the streets teemed with people But the grounds of the mosque overflowed with refugees displaced Muslims from other parts of Bangui Sy said that the neighbourhood was becoming a jail And even this jail he said might not be safe for long We are surrounded he said in crisp English The anti balaka want every Muslim out They think every Muslim is a Seleka We are not Seleka We are just Muslims The Seleka did bad things but Seleka is over That s why we are buying weapons That s why these young men have volunteered to risk their lives To understand Sy s predicament you had to view his neighbourhood from the Christian stronghold on its border Looking south and downhill from the roundabout at Place de la Reconciliation with its statue of a dumpy white dove of peace mocked by the mayhem that regularly unfolded there one could see all the way through the district of Miskine a formerly mixed Muslim Christian area to PK5 Between those two points fighting broke out in sporadic and unpredictable ways Often the anti balaka arrived from other districts to attack the remaining Seleka and Muslim militias here The violence would be followed by a bout of looting in which shops and homes were destroyed Every day brought the sound of gunshots and a tally of wounded or dead In six days in February the International Red Cross treated more than 150 victims of gunshot or machete wounds at their nearby emergency room Most were from Miskine Over a three day stretch in the same period they collected 56 dead bodies from the streets Corralled the remaining Muslims in PK5 could feel the heat Most fled when an opportunity arose Some decided to stay and defend themselves That was where men like Sy came in We drove north from PK5 in convoy and into Miskine through a no man s land policed by a dozen or so Burundian troops Buildings lay empty In the near distance smoke spiralled from a burning rooftop Standing on the main road at the southern end of Miskine was a posse of Muslim men carrying guns On the other side of the street Christian civilians went about their business It was an uneasy moment When the Burundian troops patrolled past the Muslim gunmen their rifles were stashed away the peacekeepers have a mandate to disarm militias and this militia were not in the disarming mood As soon as the Burundians left the illicit weapons re emerged There would the boys promised be fighting that day They were as good as their word Later that afternoon the sound of gunfire rang out across the neighbourhood The Muslim militia had attacked the anti balaka in Miskine and killed four or five Christian fighters But their victory would prove pyrrhic By Monday the Muslim community relinquished any claim they had to the southern end of Miskine Their houses were ravaged Roofs were taken off furniture stolen The cab of a monster truck was set on fire while looters removed its tail lights Despite the attentions of French troops who fired warning shots and tear gas at the crowd there was nothing that could be done to stop the destruction Days later PK5 itself began to empty This pattern repeated itself across the capital and the country The exodus of Muslims was monstrous in scale and origin The anti balaka may have begun its life as a self defence force against the Seleka but it had transformed into an aggressor whose aim was the destruction or removal of the entire Muslim population of the CAR The anti balaka were everywhere They stood at makeshift checkpoints vast machetes slung around the necks occasionally a stockless rifle at their sides Their dress was deliberately eccentric Some wore women s wigs One fighter who was driving towards Bangui on a motorbike had somehow attached a live pigeon to his maroon beret Another wore cut out swatches of an Yves Saint Laurent carrier bag on his chest All of the anti balaka wore gris gris amulets made from cloth plastic or spent AK 47 rounds and then blessed by a witch doctor to offer protection against attack Even though many of their number would associate themselves with the Catholic or Protestant church the Christianity of the anti balaka was underpinned by a powerful connection to traditional animistic beliefs Many Muslim fighters also wore gris gris a reminder that the Abrahamic faiths barely began to explain this war The secrets of gris gris were closely held At a checkpoint on the outskirts of Bangui I asked a lavishly decorated anti balaka chief named Eric Seleboy about his medicine He said he had learned how to fight by visiting a witch doctor It was he said the only military training he had undertaken But what was in the medicine that gave him strength Without it we can t fight he said I can t explain it In early February the anti balaka s stated mission appeared to be almost complete In the capital and the south of the country the Seleka were largely ousted But the anti balaka s vengeance for Seleka s crimes was not yet sated and they were increasingly well armed and well organised At their main base in Bangui in the district of Boeing so named for its proximity to the airport there were hundreds of anti balaka fighters most of them dead eyed and hungry boys with a cache of automatic weapons Many of the fighters repeated their justification for violence against Muslims Every one of them is a Seleka It wasn t true but the narrative had become convenient as well as deadly for the remaining Muslim population In this way the conflict continued its cruel progress In Bangui the fighting was bad enough but worse seemed to be happening in the countryside where civilians were offered scant protection from the thinly spread peacekeeping forces The Seleka largely pushed north towards the Chad borderlands continued to commit atrocities The anti balaka s campaign of revenge against Muslims everywhere else gathered momentum The reports reached Bangui in fragments 75 Muslims killed by anti balaka in Boda 25 massacred by Seleka in Nzakoun In early February we visited the gold trading town of Yaloke 230km north of Bangui driving past many villages where every single house had been burned Yaloke had once held as many as 30 000 Muslims and eight mosques but since the fighting began the population had been scattered and divided Now the town was split three ways into an anti balaka force on its southern border a central Muslim area where one mosque still operated and another anti balaka force to the north Despite the assurances of the French commander in the region who promised to protect the Muslim population the writing was on the wall Several days later the anti balaka gave the Muslims 24 hours to leave Most were evacuated by Chadian troops and watched as their homes and businesses were burned to rubble As of 13 February according to Amnesty International only 742 of Yaloke s Muslims remained Life went on and it didn t The war was a strange waking nightmare Most foreigners who spent time in CAR s furnace remarked on the conflict s psychedelic horror How to explain it For one thing there were so many actors each with their own abbreviation and agenda French Sangaris Misca from Congo Brazzaville the DRC Rwanda Burundi Equatorial Guinea and Chad Chadian special forces anti balaka Seleka the national army FACA and a clutch of short lived militias Because of this odd conflicts alliances and dissonances occurred In Yaloke the Muslims had daubed their mosque with paeans of praise for the French Merci Francois Holland sic in PK5 where the Muslims believed the French were arming the anti balaka the graffiti read Non A La France In Bangui we twice witnessed anti balaka engaging Misca troops Once in PK5 there was a ferocious battle between a Muslim militia and a Burundian patrol But the war was worse than confused There was a macabre theatricality to the violence For instance the anti balaka said they cut off the hands of their Muslim victims because it was the same hand that killed their parents Their savagery in other words was not random but designed to send a particular message This semiotics of mutilation is nothing new or particularly African When the Roman orator Cicero was lynched by the mob in 43 BC his head and hands were displayed in the forum Fulvia the wife of Mark Antony who had been the target of Cicero s invective took pleasure in piercing the dead man s tongue with pins Many anti balaka also sent a message by wearing the Muslim boubou robes of their vanquished enemies It was a form of mockery In a looted Muslim house in the capital one Christian man split his sides as he held a Qur an and pressed his forehead to the ground in imitation of Muslim prayer Another anti balaka fighter we met in a village about 100km north of Bangui named Wilfred Doulou wore a particularly lavish boubou with a large crucifix over the top I asked whether his stolen robes put him at risk from his fellow Christians No he said Everybody here knows I m a Central African that foreignness of Muslims again everybody knows me Wilfred made a small concession to his safety by taking the boubou off at night and changing into his jeans His neighbours he said might not recognise him so easily after dark Another flavour of the craziness in formerly Muslim areas houses were looted and then claimed by someone who wrote his name and telephone number on the wall As often as not the house was then destroyed Steal a house and then knock it down It made no sense Once I witnessed a large villa which formerly belonged to a Muslim minister in the CAR government ravaged in the PK8 district of Bangui while a Porsche Cayenne stood untouched in the front yard Even the most tragic moments were touched by the insanity On 24 January another former government minister a Muslim named Dr Joseph Kalité was dragged from his car attacked with machetes and mortally wounded A few days later his remaining family and entourage were still living in their walled compound in Combattants when a grenade was thrown at their front door Anti balaka gathered up the road seemingly ready to attack Some Misca troops decided it was time to evacuate the besieged household I was among four or five journalists who arrived to witness the moment We were talking with Kalité s people by the grenade shattered gatehouse when one of them mentioned that he was worried about his giant tortoise Tortoise we asked The animal was brought out It was vast perhaps 80kg One of Kalité s security guards demonstrated how strong the animal was by standing on its shell as it walked around Kalité s family couldn t take the tortoise with them they said But they didn t want to leave it behind either because the mob would surely kill and eat it And so a French journalist rescued the unfortunate beast It was placed shell down in the spare wheel of his 4x4 and spirited away as rifle fire rang out The tortoise now lives in the garden of a Bangui guesthouse where it eats salad leaves and grass Another strange story About an hour and a half southwest of Bangui in the village of Berengo is Emperor Bokassa s old palace Jean Bédel Bokassa ruled CAR for 13 years from a coup in 1966 to his deposal in 1979 For eleven of those years he was content with being called president but for the final two years he crowned himself emperor after his hero Napoleon in a ceremony that cost 20m and nearly bankrupted the country He renamed his new domain the Central African Empire The palace at Berengo was Bokassa s base He is said to have slept in a bedroom surrounded by diamonds and gold and to have eaten the bodies of his political enemies who were cooked in the kitchens here this last claim is heavily disputed but has passed into lore The decrepit complex now comprises eight acres of land a four metre high statue of Bokassa a vast complex of military barracks and Bokassa s old residence and pool When we visited it was also home to hundreds of young military recruits who had lived there since April last year Despite being predominantly Christian these teenagers came to Bokassa s Palace to join the national army when Seleka seized power in the hope of earning a wage But they were never given any food weaponry uniforms or instructions other than the occasional order from a Seleka general not to demobilise And so they stayed the remnant of a non existent army which served a country since transformed beyond their imagining The palace has been gutted for years When we visited the swimming pool was covered by a layer of green sludge on which empty bottles sat as if on thick ice and a rusting

    Original URL path: http://www.edcaesar.co.uk/article.php?article_id=79 (2016-02-16)
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  • south of the Netherlands to meet an art dealer named Ron de Vries De Vries claims to have stolen hundreds of paintings over five decades Now 74 he has fine white hair large bright blue eyes and an athletic physique When we met in January he wore designer clothes and a diver s watch and looked more like a superannuated pop star than an old crook He was arrested in 2008 for fencing several paintings that were stolen from the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem in 2002 Last year he lost an appeal of his conviction for handling stolen goods the only time he has been found guilty of any offense but he is appealing the judgment and a 40 month prison sentence in the Netherlands supreme court He has admitted though to trying to return the work to an insurance company for a fee De Vries told me he started stealing at 20 when he robbed his rich girlfriend s father s house in The Hague He said he learned to rob safes soon afterward with the help of a man he described as the best safecracker who ever lived Then he became interested in art It s so easy he said You are running and you see a painting you like in someone s house and you throw a stone through the window and you take the painting Until recently when computerized databases of stolen art managed by among others the Carabinieri in Italy Interpol and the Art Loss Register a private service became widely used it was simple to move art around de Vries said If he stole a painting he could launder its reputation by sending it to America and then flying it back to Europe he said where he would reintroduce it to the art market through friendly dealers He stole only from private homes and never from a museum he claimed and he never took a piece worth more than around 100 000 euros Anything more valuable he believed created unwelcome publicity Indeed when we met before the Romanian thieves were arrested de Vries said he was confused by the Kunsthal heist because it contravened so many of his own rules Nobody breaks into a museum and steals paintings and wants to sell them he said It s impossible De Vries s claims were grandiose and most were unverifiable His lawyer would not confirm any of his client s confessions Those are his words not mine he said Several months and additional conversations later de Vries himself denied his criminal past His thinking about art crime however is shared by many involved in trying to recover stolen art Apparently it is possible to steal and then sell paintings but only if you are well connected patient and not too greedy Under these criteria Dogaru s enterprise was doomed from its inception To take advantage of a major heist he would have needed to be a much smarter criminal Dick Ellis has operated in this art theft underworld for decades A retired Scotland Yard detective with a stocky frame and a wry grin Ellis spent much of his career on the Metropolitan Police s fabled Art and Antiques Squad which was responsible for among other coups the return of Edvard Munch s Scream three months after it was stolen from the National Gallery in Norway in 1994 He now works as a private detective and has been retained by the firm that insured the Kunsthal s Avant Gardes exhibition to investigate the possibility of retrieving its stolen paintings Ellis told me that works with a high open market value are often used by serious criminals as collateral A painting doesn t need to be sold at auction to hold value he explained Even if it stays forever on the black market it can be used as a kind of promissory note in a weapons or drug deal Career criminals also believe they can extort a ransom from insurers or use the stolen work as a bargaining chip A prison sentence for instance might be reduced in some jurisdictions in exchange for a criminal s help in retrieving a missing Monet In effect an unframed canvas easier to move across borders than its equivalent in cash or drugs acts as a high value and extremely pretty bank note Ellis gave an example from his own experience After Martin Cahill the Irish gangster known as the General stole 18 paintings from the Beit Collection at Russborough House in County Wicklow in 1986 the artworks led an extraordinary life One painting was sent to Istanbul where it was used as part of a payment for a heroin deal Four other paintings including a Gainsborough a Goya and a Vermeer were taken to Antwerp where a diamond dealer accepted them as collateral and advanced Cahill a large sum of money with which he tried to start an offshore bank in the Bahamas The Antwerp paintings were eventually recovered after an undercover sting in which Charles Hill Ellis s colleague in the Art Squad posed as an American buyer Still the concept of art as collateral is tricky The best chance for a painting to express a monetary value would seem to be from a ransom But how often do insurers make payouts to criminals Robert Korzinek the fine arts underwriter who insured the Kunsthal claim says that his organization is not in the business of paying for the return of stolen art It sometimes pays for information leading to the return of a painting but the sums involved are small and distributed only with the approval of local law enforcement The underwriter says there is a belief among criminals however that large payments are made regularly and because of this they often use paintings as part of their complex trades All markets work on confidence Korzinek says If you have a perception that there will be value attached to that object then you can use it as a commodity

    Original URL path: http://www.edcaesar.co.uk/article.php?article_id=78 (2016-02-16)
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  • which one mistake can be fatal a jumper needs to be alert to myriad dangers For a start you carry only one parachute rather than the two used in traditional sky diving Not only must your chute be packed exactly right it must also be pulled at the correct time with enough distance between you the object and the ground Even when the canopy is released properly a menu of potential problems awaits If for instance you open off heading or less than straight you can find yourself speeding back toward the cliff or building from which you just jumped This outcome is known in the macabre argot of the sport as an object strike For these reasons the sport has traditionally appealed as much to control freaks as to adrenaline junkies Many European base jumpers of Le Gallou s generation are middle aged men and women but mostly men with solid professions dentistry engineering I T and so on Few seem to lead particularly risky lives They view the sport as a private obsession and publicity especially for those in high profile jobs is to be avoided One of Le Gallou s oldest jumping buddies Joel Gerardin said that for Le Gallou the thrill of infiltrating a building jumping it and escaping without notice was indescribable He added I actually don t know anyone else in Europe who gained such an experience in city jumps illegally with no sponsorship all around the world Not for the image of himself just for himself On that June morning four other jumpers were with Le Gallou at Obiou Two were Americans who moved to France partly to spend more time flying wingsuits in the Alps Ellen Brennan a 25 year old nurse and her partner Laurent Frat a 35 year old news producer The others were Raoul a 38 year old engineer and a friend of Le Gallou s who asked to be identified by only his nickname because it is not publicly known that he base jumps and Ludovic Woerth a 32 year old professional wingsuit pilot and a former employee at Adrenalin Base a French base equipment supplier Le Gallou was wearing a wingsuit provided by Adrenalin Base and manufactured by a Croatian company Phoenix Fly Raoul jumped first and then Woerth Having completed their flights they waited in the valley for the others Le Gallou jumped third His flight started well according to Brennan and Frat He banked high over the rocky outcrop and then dropped out of sight The two Americans jumped fourth and fifth When they landed in the valley after flights of more than a minute they asked about Le Gallou Neither Raoul nor Woerth had seen him Le Gallou s four fellow jumpers hoped their friend had pulled his parachute safely above the plateau The whole flight path is not visible from either the valley or the exit point and it was possible they believed that he could have landed unseen After hiking for a while to get better phone reception they tried to call Le Gallou Nothing Brennan remembers the group opening beers to celebrate their successful jumps while they waited for news Just after like the first sip of beer maybe we heard a helicopter coming over Brennan recalled And the helicopters never fly over there unless they re doing a rescue or something The worst sound I ve ever heard in my life was the sound of that helicopter coming A passing hiker saw the fallen Le Gallou and called mountain rescue Le Gallou had hit the plateau and died on impact his canopy stretched out behind him In the days that followed three of the jumpers posted accounts on base Web sites detailing what they thought went wrong with Le Gallou s last flight Frat wrote that for reasons we can only speculate he was unable to outfly the plateau For Joumana Seif Le Gallou s former girlfriend however the accident could not be dismissed so easily Seif an elegant 36 year old orthodontist of French and Lebanese origin lives in Geneva She met Le Gallou through base jumping and beginning in 2001 they had what she describes as an intense relationship They split up in 2005 but remained close friends When Le Gallou died Seif organized several events in his memory including a cremation in Grenoble a Catholic Mass in Paris and a base jumping memorial at his favorite spot at Cirque d Archiane in the Alps I spent two days with Seif in Paris last fall As we talked about Le Gallou Seif often pausing as she wept she told me that two things bothered her about the accident The first centered on the question of character Le Gallou she said was a conservative base jumper This may appear a contradiction in terms but as many of his friends confirmed recently Le Gallou rarely pressed beyond his limits Mavericks do not survive 18 years in a sport like base It seemed implausible to Seif that Le Gallou would have tried a risky line on his flight from Obiou If he d lost good finesse she thinks he would have pulled above the plateau and lived to jump another day To her there was only one root cause for the accident equipment trouble The fact that his parachute was deployed when he crashed indicated some kind of delay in finding the handle for his pilot chute the small canopy that precedes the larger parachute Failing to find the chute s handle is known as a No Pull Find Once Le Gallou realized he was in trouble Seif believes he lost precious fractions of seconds trying to deploy his pilot chute By the time he did it was too late Her second concern was Le Gallou s helmet camera It was his habit to record jumps On the day he died he wore a ContourHD camera attached to a rugby helmet Grieving and searching for answers Seif hunted feverishly for the

    Original URL path: http://www.edcaesar.co.uk/article.php?article_id=77 (2016-02-16)
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  • bravery is simultaneously discouraged and rewarded An example As a group of Libyan rebels entered Tripoli in August 2011 the 28 year old Sunday Times correspondent Miles Amoore was with them As these fighters approached Gaddafi s base Amoore was shot in the head by a government sniper He was wearing a Kevlar helmet and survived In typically nonchalant fashion he dusted himself down and continued his work A few hours later he became the first reporter to enter Gaddafi s compound With his entry into the Libyan despot s stronghold Amoore had a world exclusive But that scoop only made the inside pages of the Sunday newspaper On the front page the Sunday Times ran a first person account of Amoore s near death experience This editorial decision may seem harmless enough but it points to a wider truth about newspapers particularly British ones The reporter is often the story and the braver his or her exploits the better the copy Indeed many papers would have made the same calculation as the Sunday Times did in this instance In a market saturated with images and videos of war much of it shot by amateurs there is a need to differentiate yourself from the competition and highlighting the courage of a star reporter is one way to do this Again this is nothing new There is an anecdote possibly apocryphal I ve seen it told in various forms from when the Daily Express and the Daily Mail were arch rivals ferociously competing over readers in the mid market After the Daily Mail correspondent suffers an injury while reporting on a battle the hapless Express hack is upbraided by a cable from his editor in London Mailman shot Why you unshot The Express editor s question was both funny and serious Derring do sells In 1900 when Winston Churchill made a name for himself as a journalist during the Boer War the Morning Post ran his account of a daring prison break under the headline How I Escaped From Pretoria And My Subsequent Adventures On The Road To Delagoa Bay by Winston Spencer Churchill Our War Correspondent While the temptation to publish first person heroics has proved a constant it is now laced with a modern imperative awards Winning a journalism prize is important not only for a reporter and an organisation s reputation but to protect budgets While no sensible reporter is going to consciously put his or her life in danger for the prospect of winning a future award correspondents at the sharp end may feel a kind of subliminal pressure I take a very strong line on this says Alex Thomson This industry and this business has got a lot of hard questions to answer I think there s an awful lot of hypocrisy between news editors across this business who on the one hand say no story is worth getting killed for and on the other hand that bangbang wins awards I don t care what anyone says there is a f ing great conflict in those two views Amid all the soul searching about the numbers of journalists killed or kidnapped in conflict one theme is returned to repeatedly Because of lightweight digital recording equipment because the internet has provided an inexhaustible outlet for text and images and because of the relative accessibility of the countries involved in the Arab uprisings the front line has been swamped with journalists of every type In short it has never been easier to be a war reporter Staying alive is another matter Vice magazine recently published a long piece by a young British man named Sunil Patel It ran with the headline I Went To Syria To Learn How To Be A Journalist And Failed Miserably At It While Nearly Dying A Bunch Of Times The article was Patel s first published work He had previously been employed as a community support officer for the Metropolitan Police and lived with his parents Understandably his suck it and see attitude to reporting in a conflict that had already claimed the lives of several journalists received a mixed reception Patel s story is only the most egregious example of a trend that is worrying seasoned operators Nearly every established foreign correspondent I spoke to for this article had some shocking story about meeting a kid in Misrata or Tripoli who had travelled on their own dime and was in the opinion of the veteran hopelessly exposed One of these kids was Marie Lys Lubrano a 32 year old French journalist who travelled to Libya from Cairo where she had covered the uprising of 2011 She worked for several media outlets and was often paid as little as 100 85 a story by newspapers such as the French daily Le Parisien She had no experience of conflict no training no insurance and if something went wrong no backup When her laptop broke she was forced to work without it I had a lot of luck she says now I was really fortunate to come back safe and not hurt I wouldn t recommend to anyone to go like I did to count on luck In Libya Lubrano travelled mostly with rebel groups and hardly spent a penny But her lack of cash meant that she found herself in tricky situations I had a lot of free help from the revolutionaries she says I surely must have made a lot of mistakes but the biggest were because I had no fixer no translators no drivers It was dangerous but sometimes that is part of the job I think it was more dangerous because I was not independent I was in danger because I did not have enough money I was always embedded I couldn t say I want to stop I want to go back Because it s not fair to do that if you have chosen to be embedded You just have to follow and shut your mouth This situation sounds like

    Original URL path: http://www.edcaesar.co.uk/article.php?article_id=75 (2016-02-16)
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  • men were separately instructed by their city editors to pound the streets of Manhattan and garner reaction to the assassination It s not difficult to imagine what the editors had in mind This was the day America lost its innocence At the epicentre of the nation s greatest city women with smudged mascara would be rending their clothes Groups of strangers would be gathered around radios eager for news There would be tears There would be grief New York would be a city in mourning The two young feature writers left their respective offices in midtown and bumped into each other heading into the subway Recently Talese wrote to me and told me what happened next I knew Wolfe slightly at this point I think I recall working on a story with him in which he took notes in shorthand and I was impressed I d never known a reporter before who knew shorthand and still don t Anyway at the subway entrance we shook hands and decided to share a taxi going first to Wall Street and eventually together strolled around different parts of Manhattan to get some sense of the public s response We spent a few hours together going from downtown Manhattan Wall Street Chinatown Little Italy then came uptown walking around the theatre district in the West Forties uptown toward Columbus Circle And I personally did not see much reaction at all from New Yorkers I didn t see anybody crying in the streets didn t overhear anybody lamenting aloud about the fatal shooting in Dallas etc Yes people had heard the news over the radio or people were talking about the event among themselves as they stood waiting for a traffic light on a street corner but there was no sign of the mournful masses that would later be the signature image on television After I reported what I d seen in New York the editor didn t want me to write anything What I d seen or had not seen did not conform to the expected or ideal response the situation seemed to call for at least in the editor s eyes So there was no story in the Times by me that day Nor as I recall was there anything by Tom Wolfe in the Trib that day Here on the same assignment were two young men who would be identified as New Journalists covering the same story and on this great headline making day getting nothing about it in print We could not write what we saw because we didn t see what the editors and TV directors saw When I ask Wolfe about that day and Talese s story he says My God and chuckles He remembers the occasion only slightly differently He certainly recalls a muted reaction to Kennedy s death But he also remembers that downtown different immigrant groups were finding ways to blame each other for the tragedy I went to Little Italy and everybody thought that their natural enemies had done it You know the Italians didn t like the Jews so they blamed it on the Jews The Jews blamed it on the Chinese The Chinese blamed it on the Italians And I thought these stories were hilarious But when I got back to the newspaper I m sitting there looking for my piece and it s not there All they wanted was little old ladies collapsing in front of St Patrick s Cathedral That was it They didn t want any turmoil in the population over who did it and that kind of thing Newspapers are the last redoubt of people who want to observe the niceties It s strange Something big happens and whatever the proper reaction should be that s what you get Two points about this anecdote The first is that New Journalism was not primarily a new or unified way of writing it was an attempt at a new way of seeing Wolfe and Talese and Terry Southern and Jimmy Breslin and all the rest of the gang viewed stories in a new way They were incapable of fitting reality to expectations The details and characters that had seemed inconsequential to traditional journalists became important The second and more significant point about the story is this Wolfe sees has always seen individuals as representatives of their group The Italians blamed the Jews who blamed the Chinese People are first and foremost a member of a race or a class or a certain stratum of society In this regard he s a sociologist Wolfe explained as much to me when we talked about his novels You need psychology But you don t have a choice that vertical line of psychology is going to intersect with this broad plane which is the society And nobody can be a true individual because whatever you want to be is going to be pushed around and changed We are all tremendously affected by the society that we re in This may sound a little wonky but if you want to understand Wolfe you have to know that this preoccupation with society and status informs all his work His novelist heroes in particular Honoré de Balzac after whom he names a restaurant in Back To Blood left their garrets and observed what social life in the cities was like But says Wolfe American novelists don t do that any more He believes the American novel took a wrong turn after John Steinbeck s The Grapes Of Wrath in 1939 when authors rejected the reporter s notebook and the big realistic novels of contemporary society in favour of narrowly mining their character s psychology Since then everyone s been doing it wrong with one notable exception Tom Wolfe You don t have to be a genius to see a few flaws in this argument For a start plenty of modern novelists go out and report Of course they do I could tell you a dozen stories about novelists

    Original URL path: http://www.edcaesar.co.uk/article.php?article_id=73 (2016-02-16)
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    Original URL path: http://www.edcaesar.co.uk/article-archive.php?page=1 (2016-02-16)
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