August 23, 2014
August 20, 2014
Two men in the desert, front of camera: J.F. in a prisoner’s orange overall, head shaved, kneeling, apparently penitent; J.J., knife in (left) hand, face covered, swathed in black from head to….ankle, where Grim Reaper garb gives way to non-apocalyptic desert boots.
How did they get there?
J.F., a 40-year-old, photogenic video-journalist – facial bones like the young Iggy Pop, previously said he was drawn to conflict zones because, unless someone gets up close, ‘we can’t understand the world, essentially’.
In video footage of a Q&A session at his old journalism school (Medill), he does that a lot – that is, he makes a strong statement, then softens the sound of it with an adverb – ‘essentially’; likewise, the ‘prayers and cigarettes, basically’, that got him through a previous period of incarceration (Libya 2011), also in the hands of unreliable captors (teenage Gaddafi loyalists), who shot and killed a South African photographer immediately before taking J.F. into custody.
Describing him as ‘motivated’, J.F.’s father later said of his late son that doing this important job ‘gave him energy’.
During his talk to staff and students at Medill (ignoring the Milky Bar Kid who at the first mention of violence, smirks at the girl in the adjacent seat), J.F. remarks upon the‘reach for humanity’ readily discernible among the people he was reporting on.
He reports being inspired by them, but did they also serve as his surrogates? It is valid to ask whether other people’s war zones (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria) became a theatre of self-validation for J.F. He admits that writing fiction failed to fulfil the romantic idea of himself as a writer (please note, a particular kind of young American invests theword ‘writer’ with a special sort of significance); so he turned to reality rather than questions of realism.
‘Tempted? You’re only human’.
When 35 Afghan migrants were considering whether to pay their way into Tilbury – theUK port downriver from London, their travel agent aka human trafficker may have mentioned the North Sea crossing from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge; but failed to inform them of the P&O website offering ‘up to £320 free spending money’ on selected cruises.
Having paid the price of a fortnight’s cruising – exclusive yet all-inclusive (there you go, P&O, you can have that tagline for free), the stowaways completed their journey in a sealed container on board the P&O cargo ferry Norstream; with no opportunity for ‘café hopping and boutique shopping’ en route.
Amateur footage shows 34 of them shortly after the container was prized open at 6.30am on Saturday, around 18 hours after they were sealed into it. Circled by Port ofTilbury personnel in high visibility vests (motto: ‘safety first’), mostly sitting on the floorof a dockside holding area (yellow arrows and industrial paint in the manner ofManchester’s Hacienda club); variously howling, mewling, having difficulty breathing – except for the teenage girl in red shalwar kameez, who is standing calmly to one side, holding on tight to a matching canvas school bag.
Their faces have been blurred beyond recognition. But it’s clear who owns the clip: ITN; and the fee for further use is £699.
Missing from the group photo is 40-year-old Meet Singh Kapoor, who was declared dead after his young son failed to wake him on arrival. Mr Kapoor entered Tilbury in one box and left in another.
Shortly afterwards, the surviving stowaways were dispersed to three different hospitals across Greater East London: one group was taken to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London E1; another to the ‘university hospital’ in the post-war new town of Basildon; and a third group to Southend hospital.