Friday, December 15, 2006

Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera has launched an international English language channel that can be seen in the U.S. Except it can’t.

I guess if you have access to an overseas satellite that carries the channel you could see it. But in this country almost all of us get our TV through cable systems or satellite providers like DISH and DirecTV. And it is my understanding that none of these American communication outlets will offer Al Jazeera, even for subscribers willing to pay a hefty monthly fee for the privilege.

The reasons are obvious. Al Jazeera is said to broadcast the news through an Arab and/or Muslim prism. It is said to be anti-American. It is said to be sympathetic to the terrorists. Etc. Etc.

I say, “So what?” Are we so fragile or fearful that we can’t bear to hear a point of view that doesn’t agree with ours? I guess so. Are our business leaders so afraid of commercial or government reprisal that they can’t risk putting Al Jazeera on the air? I guess so. Is it better to hide our heads in the sand (and Arab desert sand at that) rather than endorse free speech for those considered to be the enemy? I guess so.

I doubt I’d sign up for Al Jazeera even if it were available. I’m just not interested enough. But I’d like the choice. I’d like to be able to say ‘no’ rather than have the thought police tell me ‘no.’

Isn’t there something in the first amendment to the Constitution about freedom of expression? Or am I remembering wrong? Well, it could be argued, Al Jazeera is free to express itself. Just not here.


Blogger Jim said...

I didn't know that we couldn't get Al Jezeera. It would be nice to think it was just a market driven decision fed by some impartial market research firm that said not enough folks like yourself were interested. Unfortunately you're probably right that the darker forces are just thinking that it is nuts to sponsor, permit, encourage, allow propaganda from the 'other side' to flood any portion of our bandwidth. The real question is whether Al Jazeera is realatively objective journalism albeit from the Arab perspective or if it is a propaganda 'weapon' in the media wars for the minds of mankind? How would you or anyone know the answer? Where would we need to stand to be realtively objective ourselves? Is objectivity even possible when two worlviews collide? Like you, I would like the choice and trust my ability to sort it out, but then I wonder if I were in charge of public policy do I really trust John Q Public not to be swayed by too much information and too many choices and too much complexity in an increasingly media determined reality? Do I trust that America's Muslim population might not be mobilized in an adverse way if they saw too much of our xenophopia up close and personal? On the other hand might they be mobilized to take some responsibility for their foreign brethren and become leaders in the countering the extremists in their faith? So many questions.

At the end of the day, I think it comes down to trusting the constitution. If someone wishes to put Al Jazeera on the air, then the doctrines free expression both oral and written must prevail.

Thanks Dan for this thought provoking posting.

7:02 PM  

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