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MODERN LIFE

Security check for image hostages. Read this or else.

THOSE WHO TAKE HOSTAGES make a hostage of television too. It’s their medium of choice.

Having barricaded himself in a room and aimed a weapon at captives, a man submits to the authorities a list of more or less demented requests. Hardly anyone remembers the deals that are inevitably made. Another hostage crisis is over in a couple of hours, when “trained specialists” talk the man out from behind his barricade. Some hostage crises go on longer—17 days, 444 days. Each inflicts its own torments. We who haven’t felt those torments can’t know much about them. All we know is how the crisis plays on television, because that is where we follow it. We might read about it in the papers or the news magazines, but hostage crises go flat in printed reports. They have their impact as made-for-TV movies, horror shows designed to disrupt the medium’s flow of reassurances.

Captives are tortured, sometimes

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