Strong opinions, weakly held

Absurd criticism of al Jazeera

This morning I was reading David Ignatius’ column in the Washington Post on al Jazeera, the Arabic news station based in Qatar. This made my jaw drop:

Al-Jazeera has been attacked by American officials as a propaganda tool for Osama bin Laden and other Muslim radicals. And as a journalist, I have often found its coverage unbalanced. It tries too hard to present the Arab news, rather than just the news.

I have no idea how balanced or unbalanced al Jazeera is, because I don’t speak Arabic. (I suspect that David Ignatius doesn’t, either.) But I wonder how he gets the nerve to make this complaint about al Jazeera when he’s a member of the media. Take a look at news outlets, and just because it’s too cheap a comparison, leave out Fox News. Wouldn’t any neutral observer say that his criticism holds true for just about every media outlet? The Washington Post prints the Washington DC news, not the “balanced” news. The Raleigh newspaper prints news of interest to people of Raleigh and generally favors issues that are good for Raleigh and has a critical tone when it comes to things that are bad for Raleigh.

The cable news stations are even worse. Of course they show the American news, and even more than that, they are unabashedly pro-American. Some people would say that CNN is the most “neutral” news network, and they show Lou Dobbs on a daily basis, blasting immigration, attacking China, and generally acting as though the welfare of Americans is the only thing in the world that really matters. (Not that I think he even understands what’s best for Americans.) Flip over to CNN Headline News and you can get a daily helping of Glenn Beck, who’s not only shockingly stupid but dangerously psychotic. He goes on TV every day to tell us that Western civilization is in danger of collapse and that we’re in the middle of World War III.

To somehow pretend that al Jazeera’s news coverage is out of the ordinary or inferior to what we get here in America is pathetic and hypocritical. I suspect that the only reason that paragraph even made it into the column was to deflect anticipated criticism from the howling mob that was certain to emerge if it seemed like he was going too easy on the Arabs. Sad, really.


  1. Especially in light of the Jon Benet Ramsey feeding frenzy that’s been happening of late: preach it!

    Perhaps Ignatius is complaining because wall to wall coverage of a 10 year old murder is lacking overseas?

  2. I watch Al Jazeera regularly, my arabic isn’t good enough for some stuff like the in-depth late night political shows (which require not just excellent language skills but also deep knowledge of at least the past 50 years of Arab politics, and preferably the bast 1200 years), but for the regular news I’m able to understand and comprehend enough to watch.

    My take is that it’s almost exactly like the golden years of CNN , except more in touch with history and context then CNN ever was. They try to strike a sober, composed tone of knowledge and experience, and are heavy on visuals and breaking news. It can be sensationalistic, but they always have interviews with interesting people who are on the scene and know what they’re talking about. You’re definitely more likely to see a journalist or member of a political party being interviewed then a think-tanker, which I think is a good thing.

    It’s biased in the same ways CNN is, but from all the Arab news (magazine, radio, tv) I’ve digested in the past 10 years, it’s the most unbiased in the region or maybe in the language except for the BBC Arabic service (where, incidentally, I believe many Al Jazeeera journalists started out).

  3. It tries too hard to present the Arab news, rather than just the American’s side of the news.

    …fixed it for yah.

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