See No Opinion, Hear No Opinion, Speak No Opinion

Al-Jazeera, the Arab television network (funded by Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani) has been unable to find a single U.S.
or Canadian satellite or cable distributor. After more than a year of
trying, the doors are still shut.

I wonder why it is that our government would have us afraid of
information, points of view, hearing the other guy’s prejudices and
finding out what is in the mind of foreigners—so scarily unlike us? See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil is
a wonderfully efficient way to crawl under a stone and perpetuate our
own misperceptions. It’s the same with opinion. Harden it quickly,
before intelligent controversy and reasoned disagreement softens the
structure of our correctness.
And so, Al-Jazeera, the Arab television network (funded by Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani) has been unable to find a single U.S.
or Canadian satellite or cable distributor. After more than a year of
trying, the doors are still shut. Rush Limbaugh on what, 500 radio
stations? Fox News dominating a big hunk of conservative TV
programming? No one’s got the time of day for an Arab sheikh? How bad
can an Arab be, compared to Rush? The Sheikh has sunk a billion or so
into the network, so money ain’t the issue.

Jenni Moyer, spokeswoman for Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, says: “We were in discussions with them, but a decision has been made not to carry them. Beyond that, we’re not commenting.”

A decision has been made.
Now who do you suppose encouraged that decision and for what purpose.
President Bush has Karen Hughes flitting around the world to espouse
the administration position on why we and the Arabs just can’t seem to
see eye-to-eye. Karen is all dance-parties and consumerism, out there
among a mostly embarrassed Muslim population, beating the boss’s drum.
But blast away as we will with FOX News and CNN, for god’s sake don’t let an Arab opinion fog up the rose-colored glasses of Americans.
Brits take a less paranoid view—Al-Jazeera’s biggest name thus far, Sir
David Frost, will host a weekly public-affairs program. Former CNN and BBC
journalist Riz Kahn will head up a Larry King-style talk show and a
longer interview program from Washington. Jazeera’s military-affairs
analyst is Josh Rushing, a former Marine Corps captain who served as a
military public affairs liaison at U.S. Central Command headquarters in
Doha at the start of the Iraq war.
I suggest you balance that cumulative expertise against Karen Hughes
and her worldwide experience fawning over George Bush. Plenty of
gush-money for Karen, but the word’s been put out to the
cable-satellite guys and they know where their next FCC bread is likely to be buttered.
Donald Rumsfeld has told us Al-Jazeera is fomenting “vicious lies”
and has “a pattern of playing propaganda over and over” in its coverage
of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exactly that pattern finally caught up to the Republicans last week at the polls. Exactly
that pattern finally caught up to Donald Rumsfeld as well. Rummy is
out, fired (finally), but the fix is still in at cable-sat.  Maybe
Nancy Pelosi can get the fix unfixed. Why do I doubt that?
‘Unnamed’ U.S. officials have been upset by footage of
American military deaths and al-Jazeera’s relentless coverage of the
civilian side of the Iraqi war. Those same unnamed officials prefer
our dead to come home with the press closed away from receiving
airports as they have insisted. Americans musn’t be upset during the
Unnamed officials have blocked coverage of the war’s effect on
civilians to the degree that Iraqi civilian deaths are said by the
president to be 30,000 and by independent international organizations
to be three to six times that number. The unnamed certainly have a duty to keep the home folks from knowing that.
It might be high-time to begin naming the unnamed. To say
that U.S. media is co-conspirator to keeping a lid on just how bad
things are (and have been) in Iraq is an understatement. Free press in
America is as free as its next paycheck. Since de-regulation of the
media, we have the best news coverage Wall Street can buy. Plus, as an
added benefit, we have what you and I are allowed to see and read and hear in the smallest number of hands in history.
But not sheikh hands. Australian hands perhaps, but never
Qatari. Small wonder that the Internet, with all its failings, is a
force driving the news business nuts. That is the only bright spot on
the dim horizon of American understanding of the world. It’s not
because Americans are dumbed-down, it’s because they are prevented from news as it actually happens.
Newspapers no longer do investigative reporting. How many stories do
we really want to read about Paris Hilton? In six years of the most
controversial administration in recent memory–has there been a single instance
of Watergate-type investigative newspaper work? In place of that, we
have takeovers, downsizing (a new word for ‘pillage and rape’) and the
constant closing of world news bureaus.
And Sulzberger wonders why his New York Times is in the toilet.
Should it find a way to air its news coverage, Al-Jazeera has a
first-rate broadcaster in Dave Marash. Dave became available when ABC
News Nightline reconfigured itself and let Marash go. From Paul Farhi’s Washington Post article;

is one of the most positive and significant cultural events in the Arab
world in centuries,” he (Marash) declares. Unlike state-controlled
media throughout the Arab world, he says, al-Jazeera regularly
broadcasts dissent and opposing points of view, providing “the broadest
spectrum of argument” that many Arab viewers have seen.

“Do they
broadcast hate speech?” he asks. “Yes, they do. Is it put in context
and is it discussed as hate speech? Yes, it is. Hate speech is part of
the dialogue of the Middle East. To censor or to exclude it would be to
lose all credibility” among al-Jazeera’s viewers, he says.

describes something high-minded and almost stolid. Conflict in the
Middle East will make it on the air, but so will water-rights battles
in India or labor disputes in Mexico.

“Our pace will be slower,” he says. “My motto is, ‘News at the speed of thought.’
It’s “liberating,” he adds, “to be freed of the blonde-of-the-month story.”

It remains to be seen how liberated Americans will be to actually see Marash balance the level of rhetoric.
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