The Washington Post’s Outlook section today contains yet another doozy of a headline in the op-ed article, “Al-Jazeera, as American as Apple Pie.” With all due respect to former ABC producer and author Joanne Levine: “as American as apple pie?”
My American ass.
Just because a foreign company decides to open up an office in the United States, that does not make them an American firm. It does not magically make their values, their interests, their goals suddenly American. Ms. Levine wants us to cheerfully forget the actions of Al-Jazeera in making sure to spread the message of Al Qaeda even as she explicitly – and extremely briefly – acknowledges that her new network is always the first to get Al Qaeda’s tapes. She wants the reader to skip lightly past that and focus on how courageous they’ve been in standing up to authoritarian mid-eastern governments like Saudi Arabia and Jordan. (Jordan? She’s lumping Jordan and Saudi Arabia together in the same breath?)
But what does it say that when Al Qaeda cuts a new DVD that they always get that sucker delivered to Al-Jazeera first? Not the BBC. Not CNN International (who would absolutely run that tape, especially if it makes the Bush Administration look bad.) They get it to Al-Jazeera because they know that network will run the tape, repeatedly. And those “authoritarian regimes” she mentions make damn sure Al-Jazeera’s in place and broadcast to their subjects. Why? Because in spite of her comments about Al-Jazeera getting “routinely kicked out” of such places, they always seem to get right back in. That speaks to the network’s ability to stay on – or return quickly to – a message that those governments find acceptable.
Ms. Levine would rather we Americans just forget all that and swallow whole the concept that Al-Jazeera is “fair and balanced.” (Apologies to Fox News.) I’ll tell you what I find interesting: she’s able to toss off several examples of Al-Jazeera’s broadcasting that paints America in a poor light. She says the network, “undeniably offer[s] another side of the story.” But she can only come up with 1 example of a story that Al-Jazeera carried that suggested Islam might be the one with the problem. Her reference to Wafa Sultan, the psychologist who appeared on Al Jazeera to denounce the direction the Muslim world is following, might be a surprise to Americans who have relied on the MSM for their information, but not to the blogosphere. We have been well aware of Dr. Sultan’s comments for months. I’m quite pleased that Al-Jazeera aired the doctor but I’m curious to know whether they were aware of what her comments were going to be prior to her appearance. (I honestly don’t know and would be happy to hear from someone who does. I’ll pass it along to everyone if I do.)
For all that, Ms. Levine just wants to pull out the standard race card and declare that anyone who doesn’t want to give her and her team a chance are just bigots. Well, it’s just one of those sad truths in the world that you’re known by the company you keep. If Ms. Levine and her crew would like to get better treatment, then the home office is going to have to start doing as well with presenting the American perspective on their network as they claim they need to do with presenting the Muslim perspective here in the US. When’s the last time Al Jazeera ran a story on the incredible work done by US military units in rebuilding the infrastructure of a nation allowed to rot for decades by Saddam Hussein? Have they made a point to highlight to their Middle Eastern audience that any examples of abusive behavior by American troops are extremely few and very far between and are always prosecuted to the highest extent of our laws? Have they done any stories about the Kurdish region of the nation so as to demonstrate the effects of dropping violence as an accepted method of political argument? And have they shown with equal vigor the callousness of Al Qaeda and their ilk as they did with showing the corpses of those 4 contractors in Fallujah in 2004?
For a company to be American, it takes more than hiring away Americans from other firms. I am unsurprised that, as a journalist, Ms. Levine doesn’t get that. If she wants to be accepted in places like Crosby, North Dakota then she’d better learn.