By John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening, 8/27/14
Break the Vengeance Cycle
Back in June 2011, James Foley gave an hour-long interview to an auditorium of students from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he had graduated three years earlier with a Master’s degree in journalism. It was 15 days after he had been released from 45 rough days of captivity in Libya. He was a handsome young hero returning to his alma-mater.
In a recent item in The New Yorker, Mark Singer quotes Foley that his Libyan captivity was “a cautionary tale.” He makes it clear to the journalism students at Medill that the business of covering wars was pretty new to him when he was snatched in Libya in early 2011.
“I started as a leftist war protester,” he tells interviewer Timothy McNulty, a Medill professor and former editor at the Chicago Tribune. Foley’s brother was a soldier in Iraq, which led him to sympathize with his brother. He began to feel pulled to get into the middle of conflict himself. He aspired to become an active voice in the affairs of the world. So at Medill he took academic coursework on covering international conflicts. Singer points out he participated in something called the National Security Journalism Initiative, in which ex-British commandos grabbed him in a mock kidnapping and shot blanks by his head they’d covered with a bag.
In the interview, he says one thing the US military learned in Vietnam was the need to control journalists. So they came up with the “embed” idea. With a shiny Masters degree in hand, he got a job embedded with a US National Guard unit in Iraq….
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