Tuesday, December 07, 2004


America and Al-Jazeera

One of the things that prompted me to write about Al-Jazeera in the first place is the apparent total misconception of American decision makers about Al-Jazeera. The American government grossly underestimated Al-Jazeera's influence in the Arab world until a quite advanced stage of the war in Iraq. When it finally dawned on the American government that it was facing a powerfull media of communication with a fundamentally hostile attitude, it tried to deal with it in ways which were totally inappropriate to say the least.

Here are just two simple striking examples. When the American's discovered that Al-Jazeera reports from Iraq were quite hostile and demaging to the war effort they decided to try and discredit Al-Jazeera's reports. How? they came up with an ingenious solution. Since Al-Jazeera delivered live all the briefings of US military and diplomatic personal they told everybody who was talking in a press conference to say that Al-Jazeera's reports from Iraq were biased and false. The rational was that if Al-Jazeera's viewers would hear Paul Bremer (one of Bush's most bizzare nominations - now that's what I call an authorative and charismatic personality) saying that Al-Jazeera was biased they would say: "Ah, we didn't know that, they are laying!!! let's zap to CNN instead". The secret communication advisors were probably quite surprised when things turned out to be the other way around. In fact, these allegations only served to enhance the network's credibility among its viewers who did not believe much of what America said in the first place. Most of them thought that if America was saying something was a lie, there was probably some truth to it. Al-Jazeera made the best out of these repeated allegation by editing them into a short videoclip and showing them over and over again.

When this approach turned out to be a miserable failure, the American government tried something that was even worse. They sent some diplomats (Colin Pauel if I remember correctly) to talk to the government of Quatar (the country which hosts Al-Jazeera's main studios) so that it would move in and close down the channel. This is almost unbelievable. First because if Al-Jazeera was located in Washington DC and not in Quatar, nobody would have even dreamed of closing it, even if its content was much more severe (in fact had the Quatari gov't closed them, they could have moved the offices to Washington DC). Second, because this was at a time when America's main justification for the war in Iraq (except for those fugitive weapons of mass distruction) was the replacement of a dictatorship by democracy.

Now, having demonstrated how American administration, with its almost infinite resources could make such basic mistakes, I guess that the subject of my thesis and of this blog need no further justification.


Few words about this blog

This blog is dedicated to the famous Arab satellite channel of Al-jazeera. For those unfamiliar with this channel, this is the one that gets Osama Bin Laden's exclusive home-videos (or better put cave-videos), with the famous Kalachnikov machine gun at the back. Over the last years this channel has gained a tremendous influence in the Arab world and had also got to be pretty well known among viewers of CNN, BBC and other international news channels. Since for some obscure reason I've always been interested in Arab media, I've decided to dedicate my M.A. thesis in sociology to this subject.
As I got to watch this channel ever more intensively (in fact it is on my TV right now) and also read about it, I've come across some quite surprising facts, and many interesting programs. So, I've decided to share these, along with my own interpertation, commentary and ideas. Hopefully, this blog will gradually turn into an online research diary, that will be of interest to anyone who would like to understand other cultures better, and not just relay on news-channels shallow coverage.

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