Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wildly Successful Foreign TV Network Enters The US Market With An Agenda To Educate Americans

Posted by Peter Quennell

[Above: Dopaminex’s tribute to the Middle East and especially Dubai; music by Tchaikovsky]

Almost always when good people are at loggerheads you can go back in time and find what caused that was a “system problem”.

Middle Easterners were not always at loggerheads with the United States and for that matter the Jews. If you go back into the history of that region you will find that everybody got along really quite well - until around 1920.

Jewish merchants had operated (as Lebanese merchants still do) in all of the big towns of the Arab areas and provided many irreplaceable goods and services. Americans and Europeans as individuals (think Lawrence of Arabia) loved to be in that often kind and hospital, often very beautiful region.

What happened around 1920?

Well, the British and to a lesser extent the French ratted on just about everybody over secret deals they had made throughout the Middle East to build coalitions to help them to win World War I against the Central Powers in that strategic region.

Why? Don’t give them too much of a break, but the “system problem” here was that they were trying to maintain worldwide empires, undoubtedly in part to exploit but also in part as they saw it to build things up and provide stable functioning of economies and judicial and political systems in most-usually tribal societies where the tribes often didnt especially like one another.

If that was their job, then the British and French leaderships argued that it was far from done.

India and what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh in particular thought this was becoming way too stretched out and under Gandhi’s influence took the lead in breaking explosively away from the British - thirty years later, in 1948.

In the Middle East the many clandestine deals the British and French had set up with trusting influential locals were broken with almost all of them, these especially included

  • The Jews, for a homeland (the Balfour Declaration) in absence of which the Holocaust in Europe later proceeded, and then the explosive creation of their own homeland out of Palestine;

  • Egypt, which led to the rise of Nasserism (militarism) and the Moslem Brotherhood which we still see playing out in the streets and on TV and Twitter today;

  • Iraq, which led to the rise of militant Baathism and eventually to the takeover of the political leadership by the general Saddam Hussein

  • The Arabian peninsula, which in the 1920s and 1930s was taken over by the by-then militant Saudis who used the very conservative Wahhabism brand of Islam to prove and spread their legitimacy;

  • Algeria, where the resulting militants who arose into the ascendancy in Algeria eventually took their fight for liberation right to the streets and subways of Paris.

What a mess. And out of this, somehow, the US manages to become the bete noir though it really played no part in creating it.

Oil as a resource helped in some ways, but there was so much of it in some of the countries that it absolutely destabilised local currencies, and the national economic equation, and has led to huge joblessness in the region. 

Meanwhile, as growth slows and the internet spreads, the media networks outside the region have been cutting back on their own foreign reporting and in this case vital windows for Europeans and Americans to see into the region.

But now, as of 4:00 pm yesterday, the very well-funded Middle Eastern news network Al Jazeera is being received by cable in 40 million American homes. Al Jazeera paid half a billion dollars for the fading Al Gore Network “Current” which is chickenfeed money in their terms.

Al Jazeera intends to broadcast a lot of American news and even some sport, and in between, to broadcast what they see as even-handed reports on all things news in the Middle East.

Al Jazeera is a massive operation, much bigger than the BBC, and it has news bureaus throughout the Middle East, Europe, and even the United States (around a dozen).

We confront day-to-day a lot of xenophobia and bigotry (in our case against Italians and Italy).

So it is good to see another maligned region now fighting back to win the hearts and minds of basically good and fair-minded Americans.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 08/21/13 at 03:09 PM in News media & moviesMedia developments


From the BBC website:

Al Jazeera said that its new schedule “fulfils its promise to provide unbiased in-depth coverage of domestic and international news important to its American viewers”.

How many media organisations have provided unbiased in-depth coverage of the Meredith Kercher case?

The BBC, Newsweek and The Daily Beast have all provided excellent coverage of the case. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen of Al Jazeera’s coverage.

The US television channels have embarrassed themselves and brought the profession into disrepute with their one-sided, horribly biased and error-ridden reports. The recent CNN report is a perfect example of this. Anne Bremner - an ex-convict with a track record of lying - made a couple false claims about the case e.g. Guede’s blood and fingerprints were on Meredith’s purse.

She clearly still hasn’t bothered to read any of the official court documents in their entirety. I recommend that she spends less time getting hammered at drink or drown parties and gets acquainted with the facts of the case. For the sake of the victim of this terrible murder - Meredith Kercher - the truth needs to be told.

CNN should consider doing some actual research and fact-checking before they broadcast their next report on the case. They should also think about presenting both sides of the story. The last effort wasn’t a news report, it was a free promotional video for the Friends of Amanda.

Posted by The Machine on 08/21/13 at 05:10 PM | #


Sounds like good news. In fact sounds like good even-handed news!

“...the hearts and minds of basically good and fair Americans”.

I agree with that. In an earlier post I castigated dumb Americans who defend Knox but I’m clear it is only a demographic tranche: very many Americans are not so easily misled by a very biased (possibly corrupt) and xenophobic media. The UK media can be just as bad.

We live in a very materialistic age, sometimes it seems that only money - not justice, or integrity - talks. Maybe that’s why this tragic case attracts so many of us, the right verdict will send out the message that some things cannot be bought. It looks like justice for poor Meredith might be headed in the right direction and plenty of materialistically-oriented people are potentially going to have to eat humble pie (inshallah) then ask themselves some very searching questions. Potentially.

Posted by Odysseus on 08/21/13 at 05:18 PM | #

Perhaps they can deliver an unbiased report on this case.

Posted by thundering on 08/21/13 at 06:33 PM | #

Let’s not overlook the fact that al-Jazeera is a state-owned media conglomerate—in the rush to embrace alternate perspectives.  In Canada, we have our own state-owned media and it’s often just as ill-informed as any other.  The CBC’s Anna Maria Tramonti accepted uncritically Knox’s baffling account of Meredith’s murder on the popular “The Current” programme.  It was a shameful display of promotion of a vicious killer and her boring ‘memoir’.

Posted by Stilicho on 08/21/13 at 10:21 PM | #

state owned media conglomerate? which state?

Posted by mojo on 08/22/13 at 12:03 AM | #

No state. Its not state owned media. Its a public company, registered in Doha, with private stock ownership throughout the world. Wikipedia calls it “a true international media conglomerate”. Part of its early advantage was that Arabic is spoken in so many states. Also that CNN and the BBC were slow moving.

Al Jazeerah may not pick up on Meredith’s case; but it gives a good pointer for how Italian media might reverse some of the damage the knox PR has done to the image of Italy. Its only in the US that Italy has this false image, throughout Europe it is one of the top destinations. Throughout north Africa too, for different reasons.

Out of Israel by the way operates Debka which almost surely is state owned (Israeli intelligence) and yet usually shows fair-mindedness and balance in its reporting.

Periodically Debka has made Israeli leaders blue in the face. It is also amazingly fast with breaking news. Right now it is reporting on an underground US warroom under creation in Amman for possible US intervention in Syria. Also that El Sisi plans to outlaw the Brotherhood.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 08/22/13 at 04:58 AM | #

Dear Peter:

Count me among the Americans who are a bit mystified by this love you display for AlJazeera.  They are hardly a neutral media outlet, although most have some bias, I admit.  Americans will recall this channel as giving free rein and no skepticism to Baghdad Bob during the Iraq War.

The channel is owned by the Emir of Qatar.  Call me back when AJ does a story about democracy in Qatar or asks the Emir what his right to rule as an absolute monarch is based on. Or perhaps a hard hitting analysis about women’s rights in Qatar.

I do not predict that this outlet will be very successful in the US.  Compared to the UK the us simply does not have many Muslims or persons of Middle Eastern descent and certainly not enough to support a network.

The first time they do a Holocaust denial documentary the cable outlets will dump them like a hot potato.

Posted by Gonzaga on 08/22/13 at 08:01 AM | #

I’m in the UK ...and there have been times when I use AlJazeera daily.  One such time was during the Libya civil war. Apart but being more comprehensive, and less slanted and selective, they brought more information, and more swiftly.

Obviously, as with any news source and site, there are articles of variable quality, and one soon gets to know where to click, and where to leave alone. I find there are journalists (people!) with hidden agendas everywhere.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 08/22/13 at 09:31 AM | #

Several years ago I was transiting through Doha and saw the Al-jazeera booth (or what is that?) - and I thought ah, this is the one Bush and Blair wanted to bomb down (or up)?

Now we have al-jazeera in english too and they give an alternative viewpoint. I do not always agree but they are very professional. They take their job seriously.

Many years ago I donated some money to amnesty international and I asked the girl a very stupid question: how does it manage to annoy all the countries and still have an office in all over the world? She told me that they never, as a matter of policy, annoy their local host.

Yes, al-jazeeta avoids some of the tricky issues of the middle east but it is important for us to hear the other side.

Posted by chami on 08/22/13 at 11:37 AM | #

seekingunderstanding, could not agree more. Since AJ have a cadre of arabic speaking correspondents who don’t rely on translators you tend to get better access and the “on the ground” viewpoint as opposed to some obscure “expert”. Tricky issues in the Middle East, more specifically the GCC but yes the coverage is not as in-depth and certainly not critical of it’s neighbors. Anything they do report on that score is dry fact.

Gonzaga, BBC’s coverage in the US is not the same as the rest of the world. The same is true for CNN - CNN International is focused on the world. Do you think the rest of the world is/was interested in the non-stop OJ coverage or Katrina or the US elections? Yikes—the amount of ANY international coverage on American news is pitiful.

Doubtful to me that Meredith’s case will get much, if any,  coverage on Al Jazeera because while it has gotten some coverage in the UK, the US and Italy, the rest of the world has much bigger issues to be concerned with. Al Jazeera is more concerned with human rights issues and abuses by government, big business as well as real political discussion as opposed to the pap that passes for analysis on many networks…i.e they are not afraid to air and discuss opposing views.

Posted by mojo on 08/22/13 at 01:00 PM | #

Hi Gonzaga

As I said I do “love” Israel’s Debka too! In my experience the reporting of both, as Mojo said, is mostly pretty dry. Just the facts. Not these huge waves of emotion that befuddle so much US news. AJ was somewhat against invading Iraq but a majority of Americans poll the same way. AJ have reported a lot on the Arab Spring including what might be its ultimate success starting in Morocco and Tunisia.

The Middle East is a complicated place and, as I tried to argue in the post, no party simply woke up one day and said “lets be extreme”. It’s Arabs themselves that will tamper down the extremes and find a way. The Saudis are speaking out against the Brotherhood and most leaderships would probably like to see it go away.  The Gulf States and Saudi have their royal families, but then so does the UK, and all those states have quite powerful elected assemblies with women having a vote.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 08/22/13 at 03:03 PM | #

Typical American news is spiced up and is partly cooked to make it tasty and edible. Dry and indigestible news rarely appear in the press. We get to know when Obama’s dog get her own transport or her scheduled delivery date! For example, Snowden and Manning has not been discussed as much as OJ Simpson!

Of course you have your own priorities but you need to hear the other side too. Arabs are warm and affectionate and kind people (I have met a few in Turkey but I have not much personal experience otherwise). It is not accurate to classify people just with “with us or against us”.

Did you know one AJ reporter was rounded up in Guantanamo? Here was hardly any commotion. Do you think that a BBC, NYT or Reuters’ reporter would have shared a similar fate? Clout matters.

I am not competent to comment on many of the statements PQ has presented but I have no doubt a firm belief that every coin has two sides. Or, it takes two to tango.

But one thing is certain: Americans have now gotten used to juicy and spicy news. They are likely, and I say very likely, to find Al-Jazeera news boring and dry. But the regular new machines need to wake up that there is now a new kid on the block.

Posted by chami on 08/22/13 at 05:44 PM | #

Thanks for info on Debka. I am pro-Christian, pro-Israel all the way but did not know of this source (Debka). I watched Al-Jazeera a few months in England in 2012.

BBC News was always attractive to me. It seemed quietly factual versus emotionally loaded. The US despite its strengths has atrociously narrow news coverage, they don’t even tell us weather around the world. Our mainstream news is more infotainment than fact. I long for the days of the Huntley & Brinkley Report (though it may not have been unbiased either, I was too young to tell). Sad to say I watched the Vietnam War unfolding on their watch.

Now in the US the Paul Newman Foundation sponsors nightly BBC News on PBS which I secretly thank him and his salad dressings for. The best news is a report which is objective and unemotional. However journalists are all human so they slant things their way or their paymasters’ way.

I long for the 1920s as Peter described them, when civility and trade were the glue that kept people of opposing religions peaceful enough to help each other. 

Trade is the answer. Trade is a form of compassion and wisdom, as poverty is violence. A rising tide lifts all boats. Systems breakdown may explain things, it sees the larger picture of cause and effect.

Posted by Hopeful on 08/22/13 at 05:59 PM | #

Personally I find this very uplifting. The point being that as time moves forward, at least from a news point of view, the world is getting smaller. That irretrievable fact is not in Knox’s favor….


Sweet dreams Knox supporters.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 08/23/13 at 01:28 AM | #

While I totally agree with the utility of a mass-media relaying the voice of the Middle-East worldwide, this article is utterly wrong in its description of Middle-East before the 1920s.

At that time the Ottoman colonial Empire had been crumbling for 200 years. The Western colonial powers began to remplace it during all the 19th century. And all the problems we know today were already happening in the 19th century. Just check : hardly a year without a revolt, a war, or massacres or even genocides.

The Jews were settling in Palestine from Europe before 1880, and that created tensions. True, in the Ottoman empire, the Jews (and the Christians) had in theory their lives and properties respected, but in exchange they were subjected to the dhimma taxation and severely limiting inferior status. And there were massacres of Jews too in the Islamic world : 1828 in Bagdad, 1834-38 in Palestine, 1840 in Damascus, 1867 in Iran…

As for Algeria and its problems, they surely did not begin in the 1920s ! From 1830 on, Algeria was conquered by France from the Ottoman Empire, and there were many uprisings and many bloodbaths, which continued sporadically until its independence in 1962, and which resumed in the 1990s.

The 1920s were definitely not the Golden Age of the Middle-East. In 1920 alone - 3 wars in Turkey (enemies : French, Greeks, Armenians), a massacre in Armenia, rioting and murders of Jews in Palestine, a revolt and a war in Irak, and fighting in Lebanon.

Posted by Sylviane on 08/23/13 at 02:17 AM | #

Hi Sylviane

Thanks for the comment. The strife you quote was mostly far from near the end of the Ottoman Empire and small compared to that in Europe. Iran is not considered in the Arab world so the last massacre of Jews in Arab areas was in 1840, 3/4 of a century before WW1. The number of Jews who had come back to what was Palestine before WWI was small and the entire population of Palestine/Israel in 1920 was less than 3/4 million including 77,000 Christians and still only 76,000 Jews. The Ottoman Empire did try repeated reforms, but ended up as a toothless tiger as you say.

The main point of the post was not that there was a golden age - your term, not mine - but that at the end of WWI many peoples throughout the region had been strongly led to believe self-rule they had already paid for with their blood was within their grasp - only to find it snatched away. Their main common enemy was the Turks, not one another. Benefits from further colonialism 1920-1960 were small if any. The Jews didnt get their homeland until 1948. And Jews did indeed run much of the commerce throughout the region and many had strong Arab friendships and were sad to have to say farewell. Few had migrated out of the Arab countries before 1948.

I would add something else which Chami and I and others have touched upon here over several years. (This was actually of major interest to Meredith.) Only small parts of any economy anywhere are showing real growth (more than covering the cost of their capital) if the figures are properly crunched, and all countries are really flying blind on which parts these are and what to do about the rest. I still get repeated requests to come to countries like Kuwait which has no need of more wealth - but it sure could use more of the kind of growth that entails good jobs. This is another of the system problems the post talked about. Its endemic all over the current world though Middle East growth rates are the lowest anywhere. Even Israel’s growth rate sucks.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 08/23/13 at 03:47 AM | #

My Italian is non-existent but is this confirmation that the unfragrant one will not be going to Florence?

Posted by Odysseus on 08/24/13 at 12:58 PM | #

Hmmm Let’s see. Al Jazeera or Fox news. I do believe that Al Jazeera has more credibility.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 08/24/13 at 01:22 PM | #

Hi Odysseus. Correct. They are all between a rock and a hard place. We’ll soon be posting.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 08/24/13 at 03:19 PM | #

If Sollecito rolls and there is a very good chance that he will. Then most of the US news/tabloids etc: will be forced to change their tune. It is my serous belief that most of them will come down hard on Knox because nobody likes to be fooled.
On there is an article about Knox not returning to Italy. Fine, except the comments on the bottom are so woefully out of touch with reality it makes you wonder. All they spout is such nonsense as ‘Double Jeopardy’ with out any understanding at all concerning international law in general or Italian jurist prudence in particular.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 08/25/13 at 03:44 PM | #

So it is good to see another maligned region now fighting back to win the hearts and minds of basically good and fair-minded Americans.

It is nice of you to say this, but as an American, I am compelled to point out that a very large portion of the American population is not at all fair-minded.

There are many people here who are proud of their ignorance and indifference to human suffering outside of the U.S.

Posted by jamesepowell on 08/27/13 at 10:09 PM | #

Post A Comment


Where next:

Click here to return to The Top Of The Front Page

Or to next entry Desperate Ghirga Urges Amanda Knox To Show At Florence Appeal, But She’s Created More Problems

Or to previous entry A New DNA Analysis Strongly Implicating Sollecito Seems to Have The Defense Forces Rattled