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Al Jazeera Finds a Home

Al Jazeera, the Qatar goverment-funded news channel, has purchased [1] Al Gore’s Current TV cable channel, which means it will soon be available to 40 million more American viewers than at present. This is excellent news –not that Al Jazeera is so good–though it sometimes is–but because much of American TV coverage of the Mideast is so bad. I’ve been on this case before [2]: two years ago, when much of the world was riveted by Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Egyptian revolution, I was stunned to discover that the overwhelming majority of American cable viewers, with hundreds of channels to choose from, couldn’t access the one station providing hour after hour of live coverage from Egypt. Comcast, my provider, has room for about two dozen channels devoted to various kinds of porn–but a spokesman said the station had “limited bandwidth to devote to new channels…especially if it’s perceived as a ‘niche’ service.”

The rap against Al Jazeera is that it is “anti-American”–indeed it was explicitly called that by some in the Bush administration: this was apparently sufficient to persuade America’s cable operators to shield the easily offended or easily duped psyches of American patriots from the channel.

A few small points. First there is no reason why any sort of national loyalty oath should be required of television stations. The idea is simply Soviet.

Secondly, yes, important neoconservatives did try to smear opponents [3] of the Iraq war as anti-American, but it now seems pretty clear that the war’s proponents had a far less solid sense of this country’s interests than the anti-war opposition. Indeed, one could argue that there is nothing more “anti-American” than ongoing neoconservative efforts to push the United States into expending more of its blood and treasure in launching  aggressive wars against various Mideast countries–and yet war-mongering neocons are all over the TV news. We ought to have learned enough from the last go-round not to conflate “pro-American” with war-mongering jingoism.

Finally, Al Jazeera can be quite good. I don’t watch it often. But, for instance this show  [4]— a talky analysis of media coverage of Israel’s recent war on Gaza–was considerably better than anything I could find on the same subject on True Red White and Blue American TV.  (I was writing about the issue, so had to do a fairly thorough search.) We have learned, or ought to have, from bitter experience that what passes as an “American” perspective, particularly in the Middle East, can be so narrow as to be simply false.

Al Gore and his partners were motivated first of all by profit–they will walk off with a tidy sum from the sale. But they have, probably inadvertently, stumbled into an act of genuine public service by giving millions of Americans access to more viewpoints and information about the world than they now receive. When one third of Americans are reported to still believe that Saddam Hussein was “personally” involved in the World Trade Center attacks, that can’t be anything but a good thing.

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#1 Comment By FLPatriot On January 3, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

I get nervous of any “news” channel that is owned by a government. Wether or not it is Pravda, Al-Jazeera or some “news” channel owned by the US governmnet.

It’s hard enough to have huge corporations owning “news” channels, but to let governments do it is even worst.

#2 Comment By Myron Hudson On January 3, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

Good article, but the ‘real story’ won’t be your point. The ‘real story’ will be prominent conservative media personalities clutching their chests and gasping over this obvious alignment of pernicious environmental anti-Americanism and jihadist muslim anti-Americanism; all of this is clearly intended to destroy our country and take away our freedom. Yay us.

#3 Comment By James Canning On January 3, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

Bravo. This indeed is good news.

#4 Comment By collin On January 3, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

Not so good news, Time Warner has already taken Current TV off of their cable network. (I have Dish so I can still ignore the channel.) I like to view the Al Jeeza website to see how international events are viewed outside the US and not to get the endless streaming of pundits. I also like it becasue it is a better reminder that “American Leadership” can only go so far. However, their editorials tend to definitely be one sided and being government run deserves an extra grain of salt.

So much free exchange of ideas!

#5 Comment By dSquib On January 3, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

Al-Jazeera is not perfect, it’s coverage of Syria is quite poor.

What I like most about Al-Jazeera, above and beyond all things, in contrast to every US cable news network, is that it is at least at adult level. Really, that’s it. Government spokespeople are sometimes questioned! The hosts seem to have an actual grasp of what is going on, so that they are not so easily mislead by those whose job it is to do so. I wish it had credible intellectual competition from a non-state network, but it does not.

#6 Comment By Nick K. On January 3, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

“The rap against Al Jazeera is that it is ‘anti-American’…”

Well, it is. But then again, from where I stand, the mainstream media “news” channels do far more harm to America than al-Jazeera ever could, so perhaps Comcast should stop carrying CNN and MSNBC, as well.

#7 Comment By Aaron Gross On January 4, 2013 @ 12:39 am

Al-Jazeera has been available on Israeli cable TV for as long as I can remember. This is another example of the (true) commonplace that the accepted range of expression is much wider in Israel than it is in America.

Also, I gotta correct that falsehood you repeated here when linking to a certain decade-old article. The article said explicitly that there was nothing anti-American about opposing the Iraq War. I mean, it said so in pretty much those exact words. So you’re just perpetuating a completely false paleo talking point here.

I’m not asking you to correct your error, just suggesting that maybe you should get it right in the future. And I’m sure there will be a future. That article has been a mainstay in paleo polemics for the past ten years, and probably will continue as such for the next ten.

#8 Comment By dichtung und wahrheit On January 4, 2013 @ 2:39 am

Al Jazeera advocates for international intervention in places like, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Syria. Their agenda is identical to Christiane “Why haven’t you done more to stop the killing?” Amanpour of CNN. However, on the Israeili-Palestinian issue they are able to provide valuable insight but only because American media coverage is so shamefully biased. I would also agree that their journalists seem better informed.

#9 Comment By Jamie On January 4, 2013 @ 10:03 am

‘I get nervous of any “news” channel that is owned by a government.’

Its for this very reason I get my news exclusively from channels owned by General Electric, Viacom and an transnational phone-tapper.

#10 Comment By Robert Scott Campbell On January 4, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

Al Jazeera was and is available for viewing on LINK TV.

#11 Comment By Sailsman On January 5, 2013 @ 9:52 am

Aside from swapping one alienated Jew with a big idea for all humanity (name-swapper Shaul/Paul/St. Paul) for another pseudo-universalist, Marx, I see no difference between Catholics and communists: both hate America and both are animated chiefly by how they feel about Jews. Oh, I suppose the ‘saved’ might somehow be different from the ‘workers’, right? LOL!

So now you’re happy that Islam has found another crack in the armor to through which to penetrate the last bastion of Western civilization, America, and reach an impressionable, leftist audience? And the sh!tty little sultanate that owns Al-Jazeera has spwaned an objective news outlet? How much do they pay you Catholic dhimmis to spout this crap?

#12 Comment By James Canning On January 5, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

Sailsman – – You clearly are entirely ignorant of the years of effort the emir of Qatar has put into the effort to resolve the Israel/Palestine problem, and to foster better relations with Iran. Sadly, Iran’s trebling of production of 20 percent uranium greatly damaged the emir’s efforts.

#13 Comment By James Canning On January 5, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

dichtung – – Yes, Al Jazeera can offer some balance, in reporting on Israel/Palestine. Israel lobby ensures US news media do not report that matter fairly.