Tuesday, November 29, 2005

They'll Even Feature Israelis


Last Wednesday Juan Cole at Informed Comment discussed the allegation that President Bush had considered military action against Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite news network that the administration sees as aiding and comforting the Iraq insurgency. Here's part of Cole's take:

Al-Jazeera is a widely misunderstood Arabic television channel that is mainly characterized by a quaint 1950s-style pan-Arab nationalism. It is not a fundamentalist religious channel, though it does host one old-time Muslim Brother, Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Its main peculiarity in local terms is that it will air all sides of a political issue and allow frank criticism of Middle Eastern politicians as well as of Western ones. It is the only place in the Arab media where one routinely hears Israeli spokesmen (speaking very good Arabic, typically) addressing their concerns and point of view to Arab audiences.

Most of Al-Jazeera's programming is presented by natty men in business suits or good-looking, chic Arab women in fashionable Western clothes. ... A lot of the programming is Discovery Channel-style documentaries.

Nothing surprising here so far; Al-Jazeera is populated largely by ex-BBC types who can be expected to report and dress professionally. But then:

Ironically, after one of the early-morning Al-Jazeera news broadcasts EST on Wednesday that discussed the Bush plot against the channel, the next show was about recently released American movies, including Jarhead (about a Marine during the Gulf War), which showcased the films enthusiastically and may as well have been an infomercial. It was jarring, the effusiveness about American soft power after the admission of the dark side of U.S. military power.

Rather than Al-Jazeera just sort of happening to follow criticism of the U.S. with a favorable piece on a Hollywood war movie, I wonder whether the network wasn't making a precise calculation of how to balance coverage of a story that it couldn't help but take personally.

It's also significant, in soft-power terms, that Al-Jazeera (and presumably Arabs) flacked a movie about the first Gulf War, which marked the last time there was broad agreement between Arabs and the West on their relations.

No comments:

Site Meter