The “outrage machine” strikes again

I was listening to Radio 4’s Feedback programme this afternoon, and there was a feature on the response to a piece on the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent programme. The piece, Yasser Arafat’s unrelenting journey, was written by the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Barbara Plett, and was about what turned out to be Yasir Arafat’s last journey out of Palestine, to Paris.

Was this another story we Western journalists were getting wrong, bombarding the world with news of what we think is an historic event, while the locals get on with their lives? Yet when the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry… without warning.

Apparently the BBC had 500 letters of complaint alleging that the article was “biased”, and the corporation defended the piece, although this week Feedback interviewed some BBC official who said that bits of the piece were inappropriate, particularly the bit about crying. This week they read out some letters in support of the Plett article, one of them making the point that if they really did receive 500 letters of protest, it was the work of a co-ordinated pressure group.

I wonder which group that could be.

People are welcome to find fault with Arafat (I have done here on more than one occasion), but there are some people who will go into “outrage mode” at any time when sympathy for a controversial Palestinian is expressed, or when a “moral equivalence” is made between a Palestinian killing and an Israeli one. Perhaps we should be writing our own letters to the BBC to encourage them not to give in to this kind of bullying.

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