As readers have no doubt noticed, there has been something of an Arafat overdose going on at the BBC recently.
But on the November 28th homepage of the BBC News website’s Middle East section, no fewer than five articles on the subject of the Arafat exhumation were displayed. Readers could have read the main article, perused a pseudo-scientific piece on polonium-210, opted for a Q&A item, found a link to a fawning, white-washing obituary, listened to Jon Donnison describing an exhumation at which journalists were not permitted to be present or watched ‘the Palestinian in the street‘ express his or her opinion.
“Sure, I agree with the exhumation of Yasser Arafat’s body because first of all, he did not simply die. His death was not normal.”
“I agree with the exhumation so we can let the world know the truth.”
“I disagree with the exhumation because if the reason of death is known, what else do we need? What we know is that he was poisoned, so what is remaining is to investigate who laid the poison.”
“To exhume the body of former President Yasser Arafat now might cause harm to the dead body itself and to his family as well.”
At the risk of stating the completely obvious, the BBC has gone overboard on this subject. But the problem is not just the sheer volume of coverage of what is, after all, a non-event. The question many license-fee payers must be asking themselves is how does the flagship media organization of their country justify the investment of such quantities of resources, air time and column space on the propagation of fact-free myth-cum-folklore – and why is the BBC lending an air of plausibility to this particular conspiracy theory?