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Forgetting And Remembering Alan Johnston

by | 5th, July 2007

johnston-tea.jpgDO we forget because we spend so long remembering?

Good news indeed that Alan Johnson has been freed. “After 114 terrifying days in captivity, Alan Johnston’s ordeal – in his own words,” says the Mail’s front page.

The words, as you’d expect from a trained BBC journalist, are based on fact with little fanfare. The personable Johnson shows and does not tell. He does not speculate on the deal that won his freedom and how the terrorist organisation Hamas will seek legitimacy from it.

What does he want to do know he is free? “Just the simplest things,” says Johnson. “Walking through any door, going down the street, seeing friends and family, people you love, you want to do it all at one go. You want to read books again, you want to sit in the sun and eat and speak.”

You want to do the things we take as normal. You want to do the things the nihilists who seek to bomb us want to kill. “TEA AT LAST,” says the Sun and Mirror’s front pages, words that sum up the story of Johnson’s Britishness.

We are remembering Johnson. Chances are the BBC will remember him in hour-long special. Had he perished in jail and his prison, the remembering could have gone on into a silence that lasted minutes.

But he is alive. And free. And in the Mail the BBC’s John Humphreys remembers him: “In an age obsessed with celebrity, my friend Alan is a true hero of our time.”

Humphreys’ words are equipped with a picture of the BBC radio and TV host. Humphreys is friends with Johnson; Johnston the hero. Humphreys know him. And here is Humphreys to tell us all about the real Johnson he knows.

As Hamas leader Ismail Haniya covers Johnson in badges and medals and drapes him in a sash in the colours of the Palestinian flag, Humphreys gives him an official BBC tie. He stands alongside Johnson and says: “He is so modest. Don’t look at me. Look at him. See how modest he is. Let me tell you how modest he is.” Humphreys’ T-shirt says “I’m with modest”.

But have we forgotten?

“FORGOTTEN,” says the Mail’s front page. “30,000 homeless. Devastation, looting and threat of disease.” No, not Gaza. Parts of Yorkshire, the Midlands and Lincolnshire. Flooded.

Or have we forgotten the other hostages, the ones whose faces do not adorn the BBC’s walls. The ones who are not journalists and so less able to trigger support and coverage form the media?

The “forgotten hostages,” says the Times’ front page. Five Britons have been kidnapped in Baghdad. Four security guards and a computer consultant.”

But there are no pictures of them.

Does Johnston have any words for them? “I so much hope they have a day like mine,” says he. And: “Sometimes things don’t work out, but in my case they did.”

Will the BBC help? Will the public broadcaster that helped one of its own by rising his profile produce images of these missing five? And will their captors get away with it, just as the Army of Islam, the group that kidnapped Johnson have done, walking free and armed in Gaza?

In the rush to remember will we forget?



Posted: 5th, July 2007 | In: Tabloids Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink