Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Friday, September 24, 2004
Hostages. The day before yesterday, when I first read this BBC "Have Your Say" piece, in which readers are invited to state their opinions on hostage taking in Iraq, I was struck by the number of readers who appeared to give countenance to xenophobia against Westerners. I wondered whether all those who made comments on the lines of "They are only there for the money" or "All foreigners should* get out of Iraq" would be say similar things if, God forbid, some criminal or fanatic gang started taking foreign workers in Britain hostage.

I don't think that's likely. Our society is too tightly organised. But it is likely that if the tactic works, it will spread - but to other parts of the Third World rather than here. Much of the world's migrant labour leaves one poor country to work in another slightly less poor country nearby. Tensions run high where surpluses are small.

If the tactic works. It did for hijacking

(Since I first looked at the forum it has changed. The average of the comments has shifted in a direction more hostile to negotiation with the terrorists. I can no longer see some comments I thought I remembered. I may have been unduly depressed by early statistical outliers. The forum also includes criticism of the BBC and other media outlets for giving the terrorists so much publicity. )

*I phrased this sentence badly. "Should" can either express the idea that a course of action would be prudent or that it would be morally good. Some people saying that all foreigners should get out of Iraq mean that the risks of staying outweigh the benefits and it would be prudent for them to get out. Agree or disagree, that's fair comment. However other comments (seen on the BBC forum mentioned and elsewhere) either approved or excused the struggle of the Iraqi resistance to expel foreigners and infidels. Add scare quotes to taste, but that is a view that would rightly be treated as abhorrent if expressed by the BNP. Possibly the BBC noticed this and that's why they deleted some comments from the forum that appeared earlier. (Amendment added September 27th)