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So you're taken hostage ...

… and you find out your government/friends in high places/friends in the right places have secured your release – on payment of a ransom (I almost said “handsome ransom”), and the release of several high-ranking insurgent leaders. So, in effect your life is being exhanged for funding and leadership to terrorists and will result in many deaths of others. It will also embolden terrorists to try more kidnappings, continuing the cycle. What do you do? Do you accept your freedom and try not to think about the other who will die as a result? Or do you chin up and say, “I will rather die so others may live.”?

by BignoseTW at 2007-08-30 02:43:33 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Taipei , Taiwan | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Your post reminds me of several Christian Peace Makers taken hostage in Iraq. One died and the others were freed. As far as I know, ransoms were not paid.

by Tomoko Yamamoto | 30 Aug 2007 04:08 | Baltimore, MD, United States | | Report spam→
Please note my post is suggesting a purely hypothetical situation and is not intended to refer to or cast aspersions on any person or groups that have been in this situation for real. I’m merely wanting to stimulate some debate on what YOU would do, what would be YOUR priorities and how you would deal with the eventual outcome, whatever it may be, if you were in this situation.

by BignoseTW | 30 Aug 2007 05:08 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→
I really don’t think there’s any refusing your freedom. You’re a commodity and you’ve been exchanged. If you’re worth a zillion dollars and the liberation of their comrades, your captors are going to deliver you as arranged. You have no say in the matter. That’s what it means to be a hostage.

by [former member] | 30 Aug 2007 05:08 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
I think what Tobie was alluding to is do you tell your negotiators at home not to negotiate and that you are willing to accept the consequences of your actions for the greater good.

by Nayan Sthankiya | 30 Aug 2007 07:08 | Seoul, Korea (South) | | Report spam→
Right. I think as a hostage, you obviously have limited options, depending on the conditions in which you are held. But you could communicate with your negotiators IF possible, (or sign a statement BEFORE going on assignment) refuse to plead publicly for your release, … up to and including either suicide or doing something that would force the hostage takers to shoot you…. whatever it takes.

by BignoseTW | 30 Aug 2007 07:08 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→
“accept the consequences of your actions for the greater good’…………… who are the supposed good???

by Imants | 30 Aug 2007 08:08 | Dusitrealimatta, Australia | | Report spam→
do i get a story and a cover on Time out of it?
if not, i opt for the third option: join the freedom-fighters in the quest to rid the world of its infidels and fight the evil westerners. then, when we conquer NYC, get myself a sweet loft in Soho, and open a little coffee shop in the east village. (at least, that’s what i was thinking about the last time i was kidnapped…)

by [former member] | 30 Aug 2007 08:08 | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→
Of course, even your death at the hands of your captors, as well as the video of your death that will wind up on YouTube, will help your captors, so it is even more complicated.

Kidnapping is sort of a win-win for the kidnappers, as long as they can keep you hidden.

by [former member] | 30 Aug 2007 08:08 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Its not complicated at all, survival instincts… do whatever you need to do to survive.

by [former member] | 30 Aug 2007 11:08 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
It’s a business transaction. Accept life. Don’t be a puppet for either side.

by Brambor | 30 Aug 2007 12:08 | Windham, United States | | Report spam→
First, I suppose I should be big about it and say dont deal with these scum…but I’m not. I want my ass saved and I will deal with the ethical dilemmas later. You have to be alive to worry about ethics. Second, the argument that you’re enabling the terrorists doesnt hold much water, I think. The terrorists are already enabled; the fact that they are holding you hostage shows that they are able, willing, and ready to kidnap and probably murder anyone who gets in their way. If it wasnt you, then it would be somebody else. In a situation like this, you are just one small skirmish in their big war. You do your best to come out of the nightmare alive.

by Akaky | 30 Aug 2007 13:08 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
it’s difficult writing and thinking about this abstract, because it is real and one of our own here, Ajmal, ( http://youarenotforgotten.net/) did not survive this ordeal….the argument about “not negotiating” did not prevail in breaching the suffering of his death…nor did the non-negotiation cultivate the stopping of said acts: they continue, globe-around….anyway…..

to respond, just 2 words: marina – dima.

my wife and son: that IS my responsibility, period. one begins and can only begin to understand how to help others once they understand that: we’re fracturing because we’re a fractured lot to begin with.

survive, if possible, because my life begins and ends with that: them. I can only (if ever) work on the change and help to those i am immediately and tangibly able to help survive. part biology, part spirituality.

i may not, surely, be able to survive, nor do i consider my own life more significant/important than any others, including my captors, but with one exception: the importance of my life to my wife and son, just as their lives to their families.

I cannot impose my own moral imperative (to live for them) upon any “negotiators” (my nation, agency, friends, etc), that’s a decision i cannot make: but, if possible, i would try all i can to survive, do what i must to survive, for them, my wife and son…….

later, I buy one of Guilad’s coffeeshop franchises and move to tonga……


by [former member] | 30 Aug 2007 15:08 (ed. Aug 30 2007) | Toronto (for now), Canada | | Report spam→
Life is the only thing left and you’re holding on as hard and as desperatly for your loved ones.

As for negotiating or not, as Bob said, they will keep going at it (and probably even more in some countries: Talibans freed North-Koreans when their army said it would leave Afghanistan…). Nonetheless, I do believe that it can help and that a hostage’s survival may be strongly related to negotiators in some areas.

All in all, there is NO going around it when you’re caught deep in such a situation : survive at all costs.
Whatever it takes – really whatever you have to.


by Tanguy Gilson | 30 Aug 2007 16:08 | Aiguestortes, Spain | | Report spam→
tricky…. kind of hard to know whos really in control.. at least this was my situation…. anyhow.. i have been pondering this question for just over a year now… and still reach no conclusion. what i have opened up, though, is perhaps the awareness that putting yourself into a situation where such an outcome is possible is never forced, is always a choice, and as such one never really loses their agency. the paradox is.. i doubt one can ever really account for the full range of risk inherent to their actions. ie.. one cannot really know how they will be a pawn and in what game and with what players. the result? to some extent you proceed forward doing your damn best to walk lightly (on a personal note i may add that it may help to keep yourself rather pure as well.. ie.. intentions human rather than business etc.. some would call this magical thinking.. some would call it karma.) and be willing to morph as need be.. whether joining the freedom fighters or forming your own rebellion or just plain taking control of your interpretation…. (perhaps this is another question). truly, though, i think it is immensely important to recognize that one is always an agent, regardless of what they face. in my situation i did a lot of harm to a very fragile situation by being freed. the option? perhaps there was none. as things went, though, my freedom ensured that those to go in after were basically fucked, ensured that the ‘wrong’ leader increased his stranglehold over a horribly fragmented rebellion (3 is now 12+ factions), made diplomatic relations even more strained, and put bargaining chips in the hands of fascist madmen. if you go in account for your actions, be accountable. as sick as it may sound and as sympathetic as i may be to others in the event of shit hitting the fan…. i myself made a very selfish choice going in and my freedom had very, very dismal effects for those i set out to help. is there really a retrospective opinion about this? obviously im grateful to be sitting here drinking my coffee a year later finishing my book in portland, oregon without an agent, publisher, and about to be down to a 3 digit bank account. at least the apples and plums are for the pickin’….. anyway.. this is a personal choice.. a personal choice that you can never really understand in the moment and as such it is a choice that you can never really be accountable for. yet you will always be accountable for it……. if to no one else but yourself. i dont think its wise to assume you have no ‘choice’ in the case of something like this arising. although, to be fair, you hardly have control. kind of reminds me of some redneck old timer saying that cancer is a matter decided by god, medicine is a myth etc. unethical to push off the limited choice one has to the hands of deterministic thinking…

by e.t.r. | 30 Aug 2007 19:08 | portland, oregon, United States | | Report spam→
Thanks for sharing, everyone.

by BignoseTW | 31 Aug 2007 02:08 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→
The idea of a “greater good” would seem possible if every and all the hostages in the world decided to take the same action and refuse to negotiate. Otherwise, by “accepting your fate” you’re just making a statement that nobody will listen to, your life will end, and everything will continue as always on both sides.
I agree with previous posts, and would add that if your interest is making a good action, you’re better off alive than dead, and the world doesn’t gain nothing with your sacrifice.

by Patricio Murphy | 31 Aug 2007 11:08 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
Do what I haven’t done in years: pray. I know if someone gets a hold of me, I’m a dead man.

by Bill Putnam | 31 Aug 2007 19:08 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
We’re all hostages of one sort or another.

by Paul Rigas | 31 Aug 2007 19:08 | Grass Pants, Oregon, United States | | Report spam→
Well. this is shit. I am American- I am kidnapped- I will die…the sooner the better…No one should trade- no deals. No one should make deals w/kidnappers…..who cares about ‘the greater good’ hello-give me a break. Can some one tell me exactly what that greater good would be? Tell me all about THE greater good… ??

by [former member] | 31 Aug 2007 23:08 (ed. Sep 5 2007) | Boston, United States | | Report spam→
The greater good would be?

by [former member] | 01 Sep 2007 00:09 (ed. Sep 5 2007) | Boston, United States | | Report spam→
We have to choice ‘life’ to tell our story- But as an American….

by [former member] | 01 Sep 2007 00:09 (ed. Sep 5 2007) | Boston, United States | | Report spam→
I think what Sarah means is… that as Americans we’re walking targets. It won’t matter if people negotiate on our behalf. Someone who believes in their cause will saw our necks off with a dull butter knife. It sucks but its the truth.

by Bill Putnam | 01 Sep 2007 05:09 | Savannah, Ga., United States | | Report spam→
Ah ok, Gayle. Got it.

What happened with Ajmal was tragic and a case of double standards. The Italian’s life was apparently worth more than Ajmal’s and the other Afghan (forgot his name). Tragic.

by Bill Putnam | 01 Sep 2007 05:09 | Savannah, Ga., United States | | Report spam→
The American position is to refuse to negotiate, while Italian, French, German and now Koreans have accepted to pay ransom and/or committed to withdrawing troops.
Except for the US gov’, it seems that everyone is being critical of others paying ransom, but keeps forking the bill. Kidnappings are lucrative, have a great political impact, and can only become more common.
It seems clear to me, but I could be wrong, that the Taliban is using the concept of “double standard” as a political tool. Basically that they did/will execute Afghan nationals every chance they get to show that the West and Karzai do not value AFG lives (whether a ransom is paid or not).

So US citizen will probably end up at the dull end of the butter knife as Bill said, while Euros will be traded for cash. Either way, whoever is taken becomes a pawn.

Gayle, sadly enough, I do not think that what happens to US POWs in Iraq is yet in the open, or can be compared to VN or even Somalia. I’d personally rather go for the orange jumpsuit/knife than for the Iraqi “drilled and hammered” treatment.

If anyone of us is kidnapped, he/she will not have his/her say into a possible release, and all will be decided by our respective governements, but we have two choices to make at this point.

Besides going or not going, we can NOW, lobby our respective governments and ask them to stop paying ransoms (if we believe it is a smart policy to enforce).
I personally have conflicting feelings when hostages are freed, as I feel relief for them and their loved ones, but also know that the payments made do encourage more trade.

I do not think that this thread is so hypothetical…

by Olivier Boulot | 01 Sep 2007 06:09 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
No worries Gayle, I understand the point you were making, but the way things are evolving is daunting. I knew I was making some form of generalization myself being that AFG is an upcoming destination. Trying to come up with a magic formula or a size fits all is ludicrous when within the same country, negotiators can’t sometimes figure out which faction to talk to…

by Olivier Boulot | 01 Sep 2007 07:09 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
Simple. Get the fuck out. By any means possible.

by James Colburn | 01 Sep 2007 18:09 | Omaha, Nebraska, United States | | Report spam→
Gayle, I can toootally assure you I’m not “Rob.” Thanks for the hero status. I’m far from though.

I gave up on being “negotiated” for a long time ago. I’d fight like a mo fo before they threw me in the car trunk. Of course, I am tall and fat so it would take a lot of dudes to throw me in a trunk… but anyway. In other words, I’d force them to kill me on my feet than on my knees.

by Bill Putnam | 01 Sep 2007 20:09 | Savannah, Ga., United States | | Report spam→
Thanks again everyone. The comments and responses here have been most interesting and thought-provoking, and exactly the kind of exchange I had hoped for.

Oh and no, I was definitely not named Bignose by my mother ;). Tobie Openshaw, at your service. Foreigner in Taiwan = “da bi tze” = “bignose”)

by BignoseTW | 02 Sep 2007 12:09 (ed. Sep 2 2007) | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→
I’ve spent the entire day, since 11:00, walking…and talking with my best friend in toronto, simon glass, another photographer whose life’s work as been about language (specifically HEBREW) and death (specifically The Holocaust)….it seems weird to re-read this, because it appears that much as been excised…or dedacted…i wonder what the discussion that created all those comments about “greater good” and “this is all shit” ….another tempest, intriguing….

oh well…

off the computer now…

by [former member] | 02 Sep 2007 23:09 | Toronto (for now), Canada | | Report spam→
Thanks Gayle. Im sorry i missed the entire thread. It has been an interesting read given the range of all the members experiences.

In the end, there is no way to logically wrap one’s skull around the act itself nor locate a way to account for, measure, systematize the manner and response by which it can be resolved. Cavalier responses (most often by governments or people sitting in front of their tv’s with so much macho bravado) neither stems the horror and tide nor properly measures the depth of suffering that hostages victims and their families travail. I too have known someone personally who survived being a hostage (a POW during Vietnam), and I wish I could ask him to wade in as well. Though those conditions are also different than the current debate for sure. That hostage taking, for whatever gain, is now a very real consideration that all War Reporters, Medics, Aid Workers, Volunteers, soldiers and civilians alike now face. Another indication to me how we still have failed. ….anyway….ever the hostage takers are human and have loved ones and have been, for a host a reasons, driven to that horrific understanding…to this day, i personally have not been able to understand, for example, the deaths of Ajmal and Sayed…nor Daniel Pearl ….nor Nick Berg…nor any of the deaths…I personally see a separation: to all that is possible to make the the safe arrival of hostages one mission and the ending of these acts another. To me the conflation of both seems to have promulgated this cycle further. “no negotiation” seems like a witch hunt, a response from the armchair, an idea born of a certain presumption which is “we are better than them” (we over the captors, the civilized over the terror, etc). The failure to rescue Ajmal and Sayed, the failure to even contemplate negotiation, is something i cannot fathom. We are each others keepers and negotiators, not each other’s dictates…..

hopefully, instead of tempest, we all understand that in actuality, each of us is in this together, nation upon nation, captor and captive, east and west, the dead and the surviving…though, we never seem to learn our lessons….

anyway, thanks for all who’ve shared, even in disagreement, it is an important discussion, not only for Photojournalists but for all of us, regardless of our nationality and place of living…

and, maybe something more essential: apropos of madness, terror and disheartened grief, If it’s any interest to others, I just bought this morning Denis Johnson’s (one of contemporary lit’s great writers and one of my favorites) new novel about Vietnam. Staggering…..

by [former member] | 03 Sep 2007 15:09 (ed. Sep 3 2007) | Toronto (for now), Canada | | Report spam→
If we do not support the protection and rescue of our journalists, then who will? Without them and their heroic efforts, our democracy is nothing.

“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.”
Mahatma Ghandi

by Gayle Hegland | 04 Sep 2007 15:09 (ed. Sep 4 2007) | Montana, United States | | Report spam→
“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.” Mahatma Ghandi

Wasn’t he killed by someone that disagreed with him?

by James Colburn | 04 Sep 2007 23:09 | Omaha, Nebraska, United States | | Report spam→
*"’Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.’ Mahatma Ghandi

Wasn’t he killed by someone that disagreed with him?

by James Colburn"*

Yes, he was assasinated James. I guess the guy didn’t honestly disagree with him.

by Gayle Hegland | 04 Sep 2007 23:09 (ed. Sep 4 2007) | Montana, United States | | Report spam→
In fact, I guess one could say, the guy criminally disagreed with him.

by Gayle Hegland | 04 Sep 2007 23:09 | Montana, United States | | Report spam→
I suppose if things have gotten to the hostage taking stage it’s a little too late to call your parents and have them get you out of trouble again, although it might be worth it, even if it means listening to your mother tell you that if you’d listened to her and sold life insurance for a living then you wouldnt be in all this trouble to begin with.

by Akaky | 04 Sep 2007 23:09 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
The Philosophy of Liberty

by Gayle Hegland | 06 Sep 2007 07:09 | Montana, United States | | Report spam→
“So you’re taken hostage …”

…anyone see Delta Force? Chuck Norris is your hero.

by [former member] | 06 Sep 2007 20:09 | Philadelphia, United States | | Report spam→
AAarggh – Delta Force was one of the ONLY movies I ever walked out of. No matter how bad a movie is, I always stay and say, “Wait, let me see how bad it gets.” But THAT one I just couldn’t stomach at all.

by BignoseTW | 07 Sep 2007 09:09 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→

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BignoseTW, Videographer/Photographer BignoseTW
(Tobie Openshaw)
Taipei , Taiwan
Tomoko Yamamoto, Multimedia Artist Tomoko Yamamoto
Multimedia Artist
Vienna , Austria
Nayan Sthankiya, Visual Journalist Nayan Sthankiya
Visual Journalist
Saskatoon , Canada
Imants, gecko hunter Imants
gecko hunter
" The Boneyard" , Australia
Brambor, Money for Nothing and Sho Brambor
Money for Nothing and Sho
(talk to me)
Windham , United States ( PWM )
Akaky, Contemptible lout Akaky
Contemptible lout
New York , United States ( AAA )
Tanguy Gilson, Photographer Tanguy Gilson
Trekking Solo In The Wilderness , Iceland
e.t.r., artist e.t.r.
San Francisco, California , United States
Patricio Murphy, Musician, photographer Patricio Murphy
Musician, photographer
Buenos Aires , Argentina
Bill Putnam, Producer. Bill Putnam
Washington, D.C. , United States
Paul Rigas, Photographer Paul Rigas
Cebu City , Philippines
Olivier Boulot, Photog Olivier Boulot
Paris , France ( CDG )
James Colburn, Photographer/Photo Editor James Colburn
Photographer/Photo Editor
Omaha, Nebraska , United States ( OMA )
Gayle Hegland, Editorial Artist Gayle Hegland
Editorial Artist
Montana , United States


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