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Reality Check: Censoring Al-Jazeera

| February 4, 2011

Not ready for prime time.

Last week in Egypt the thuggish government of Hosni Mubarak shut down Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based Arab satellite news channel, and detained six of its employees. It’s what you expect in a police state, even one enforced by your tax dollars (as Egypt’s has been since 1979). But al-Jazeera has been banned in the United States since its English-language network went on the air in 2006.  The government doesn’t have to ban it. Companies here do what police states do elsewhere. Al-Jazeera is by far the most-watched news channel in the Middle East and its English channel is among the most-watched worldwide. The Middle East dominates American foreign policy. American soldiers and workers die there almost every day, we’ve spent well over a trillion dollars fighting wars there, and counting. Understanding the Middle East, especially from Middle Easterners’ perspective, should be a priority.


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CNN and the other networks do a competent job, but taking star anchors who all look and sound alike and parachuting them into what amounts to their latest stand-up routine from a hurricane zone is more about flash than substance. We need authentic local reporting, not the synthetic sensibilities of Anderson Cooper.

Yet you can’t find al-Jazeera English on any mainstream cable or satellite provider. Companies like DirecTV, Dish Network and Comcast claim they don’t have space on their spectrums to accommodate al-Jazeera. That’s bunk. If there’s space enough for endless and redundant shopping channels, cooking channels, Christian sermonizing channels, soap channels, Oprah, lesbian, gay, golf and NASCAR channels, not to mention room for MTV’s Jersey porn and even that wonderful self-parody known as Fox News, surely there’s a blip left for al-Jazeera English. The claim that it wouldn’t get more viewers than, say, Current, Al Gore’s channel for short-attention span hipsters, is belied by the numbers. Almost half the 4 million views Al-Jazeera’s live web stream drew last week came from the United States.

So here we are cheering the freedom movement in Egypt without realizing—or wanting to realize—how narrow our freedom of choice, and consequently our perspectives on the world, can be. No wonder American policy in the Middle East misfires so often. At least the White House has switched from bombing al-Jazeera, as it did in Iraq in 2003, to forcing the Egyptian government to free the station’s employees, as it did last week. Thankfully, our government doesn’t have the power to force a station on or off the air here. That power lies with our corporate Mubaraks.

–Pierre Tristam

Previous Reality Checks and Other Links:

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9 Responses for “Reality Check: Censoring Al-Jazeera”

  1. DLF says:

    Some good and new views, now we have our own Fareed Zakaria right in Flagler Beach, we are lucky. I guess what I don’t understand is if this news source would be watched by millions why has someone not latched on to it? We do have many channels to watch,many not very good, many not truthful and maybe that is the reason. I for one would tune in, if it gave the true story and not the view of the owners such as we see on CNN, Fox, CBS and even Flagler Live to some degree.

  2. Kyle Russell says:

    Perhaps the owners of the major broadcasters are afraid that if Americans actually see the reality of the Middle East from a Middle Eastern point of view, the United States will decide to dump the Constitution and switch to Sharia law? The sad part is that I didn’t even have to stretch my imagination to picture that…

  3. William says:

    “…and even that wonderful self-parody known as Fox News”

    Brilliant.

    There are a number of factors why Al-Jazeera is kept off the air in the good ole’ home of the free, at the very top of the list are bigotry and shame.

    Nobody will touch anything with an Al-something in its name because they wrongly and narrowly, yet automatically, associate it with Osama Bin Forgotten and Islamophobia. And at the core of this grand council of ignorance sits the religious right with their pious “family values” schtick fanning the flames of religious intolerance to the extent that even the greedy capitalist machine, dreaming of the revenue stream, dares not go there. Kind of like the Spanish Inquisition with Botox.

    Which brings me to the “shame’ part of my argument. They would literally shame our “competent” (sorry Pierre) M$M into actually doing their JOBS! This will not be allowed by the owners, as it would demonstrate to anyone with minimal brain activity just how badly they have corrupted our information stream.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYIC0eZYEtI

  4. NortonSmitty says:

    You can find it online if you want, and if you have DirectTV satellite, it is being broadcast a lot on LinkTV on channel 375 since the current crisis started.

    If you have never seen it I recommend you give it a shot. After all I heard about it, I wanted to see it for myself and was very surprised. I was expecting a full-blown propaganda fest as we have been led to believe by the infamous MSM, but it is more restrained and broadly informative than I ever imagined. It could even be called, dare I say it, Fair and Balanced with no more snarkyness than I would use describing Ruperts pride and joy.

    Of course, you won’t find the Israel worshiping point of view we have become accustomed to here, but overall it’s nowhere near as bad as you have been told. It is the English language version, so I’m sure they tone it down for us, but watch and decide for yourself. That is how we used to do it, before we were told what we all think 24/7 on all channels saving us the need to do all that pesky thinking.

  5. William says:

    Hey Norton<

    Don't even have to be brown to feel the wrath:
    http://crooksandliars.com/john-amato/tds-jewish-speaker-house-texas-battles-

  6. NortonSmitty says:

    Yea, they have to be saved so they can beg for Jesus mercy or something, but nothing on the Trinity Broadcast Network sez we have to tolerate them leading our State House! As usual, The Daily Show ripped them a new one. http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-february-3-2011/jewish-speaker-of-texas-state-house They have the balls of an Egyptian! Wish there were more of them around.

  7. Liana G says:

    “Thankfully, our government doesn’t have the power to force a station on or off the air here. That power lies with our corporate Mubaraks.”

    Same difference – spoken in doublespeak and fancy lingo that us proles can’t decipher.

  8. Craig R. says:

    If al-Jazeera English has been censored, then what have I been listening to here in Laurel, Maryland, on Comcast channel 275??

    It claims to be al-Jazeera English; it covers the same news as the website; the people seem to be the same; etc.

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