The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Can Al Jazeera be a good thing for America?

Posted by Bill Nance on August 21, 2008

Say what you will about Al Jazeera, but it’s a fact that it’s the most popular and credible (to Arabs) source of news in the Arab world. It’s been criticized by plenty of people, including of course, the U.S. government, who, though we may never know for sure, has been plausibly accused of planning to bomb its offices in Doha, Qatar.

It’s also not without its critics in the Arab world, some of who are down right hilarious.

I love this passage from the above:

When the Qatar-based pan-Arab Al-Jazeera Satellite Television announced two years ago plans to launch Al-Jazeera International (AJI), many people around the world hoped the new satellite channel would provide a genuine alternative to the notoriously biased western media, which often operates under Zionist influence.” (emphasis mine)

Al Jazeera has an American channel as well as an English language web site.

They certainly cover things from an Arab perspective, and this means plenty of unflattering things about the U.S. government, and in particular, George Bush and his administration’s policies in the Middle East. But in fairness, so too the rest of the world’s press has savaged the current administration’s incompetence and seeming eagerness to war.

Having actually lived abroad and traveled extensively in at least eight countries I can name off the top of my head, I can testify that you develop a thicker skin for these kinds of things. Living in Germany during Ronald Reagan’s first term was not altogether comfortable for us Yanks let me assure you. Nor was I eager to broadcast my nationality in London in 2004. Lot’s of the hype one hears and reads is just foolishness, and some is downright pernicious. But, to be honest, some of the criticism has been quite correct, not the least of which has been over the issue of torture. One really has to be willing to look at something from the other fellow’s viewpoint before one can honestly say he’s “Anti-American.” He may in fact be just that. Then again, he may just be seeing things we Americans would rather not be reminded of without any personal need to pretend they didn’t happen.

The American version of the News Channel has received some very strong criticism from it’s own former anchor. But not withstanding its flaws, which are many, much of the criticism it receives is at least as true of the Faux News Channel, where “fair and balanced” is an obscene joke to journalists everywhere. It honestly depends on one’s point of view.

I look on Al Jazeera with concern, precisely because it is the only major, non-state sponsored television news source in the Mideast. Because of this it has enormous influence in a region we are likely to be closely involved with for the foreseeable future. This places it in a unique position to do great harm to U.S. interests if, for instance, it mimics “Faux News,” but slants in the opposite direction. -Some of which has already occurred.

I think in fairness Al Jazeera has the potential to be a good thing. Free from the worst censorship of the despotic regimes which dot the Middle East, it has the opportunity to be a good source of honest and credible information in an area in which wild conspiracy theories and outright lies are the norm of the public dialogue. It won’t be “Pro-American;” and to expect that it would or should be is foolish. It will reflect the values and concerns of its audience, which is, and will likely be for sometime, hostile to us. But I’ll settle for reasonable, which is a standard a great many publications and news channels of our so-called friends fail to meet daily.

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