“PARIS, Goa, Malaya, London—there’s no point in being anywhere else,” wrote Graham Greene, author of The Quiet American, about the CIA in Vietnam. He was obsessed with living dangerously in perilous places—Malaya during the Emergency, Haiti under Papa Doc, Cuba when Castro launched its liberation, and Ho Chi Minh when he did the same in Vietnam. War correspondent Anthony Lloyd entitled his 1999 memoir of the Bosnian conflict, My War Gone By, I Miss It So. And Lara Pawson called hers, This is the Place To Be. She covered the Angolan Civil War.
“It was an incredibly intense experience,” she wrote. “I wanted a repeat, like the absurd sensation you get when you take class-A drugs.”
Millions of Filipinos did not turn up at the 1st anniversary celebration of the world-stunning event they pulled off, when each of them left the house with their family, to stand in EDSA in the dead of night alone against the Marcos dictatorship. They found the company of legions like themselves, making world history together.
A commemoration is watery stuff, pale placed against the real event. Lara got the same feeling watching black kids scramble for holes at the sound of incoming artillery or people jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center towers.
It is what a candidate feels in a short but seemingly endless campaign when he rushes around grabbing every hand for any vote he can get, risking shame of defeat and the penury to get elected in this place.
It is what a public affairs journalist went out of his way to feel when he walked to the edge of an airstrip until the army officer with him nervously said, pointing at the line of trees, “We have been walking within range of sniper fire.”
“I know,” he said.
At a fund raising for African relief, Lara almost vomited hearing bankers feel good forking out money to save lives in conflicts from which they profited.
“The whole point about war,” said Lara, “is that it is intrinsic to life.”
The South African photojournalist Kevin Carter took his own life after shooting the horrors in Sudan. What else was there after that?
Sometimes, letting feelings push aside objectivity shows the truth better.
For objectivity the BBC bowed to public pressure and gave racism an exclusive chance to make its case. It invited only the fascist Marine Le Pen, to the exclusion of moderate candidates in the French election.
But not every journalist is entitled to be subjective. She or he must have earned it – covering dangerous people and life-threatening events. To earn it you must put yourself in real danger and not just the people you are interviewing by outing them.
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