Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Oregonian: Get ready for Al Jazeera

The O's Editorial board is bracing itself:

The new English-language channel will be a cleaned-up version of the controversial broadcasts in Arabic that dominate the Middle East. Set to launch globally in May to an audience of 40 million mostly European homes, Al-Jazeera International promotes itself as a purveyor of "accurate, impartial and objective reporting," mostly from an Arab perspective but with journalistic standards similar to those of America's ABC, NBC and CBS.

We'll see. The Qatar-based network has such an atrocious image in the United States that it's going to take more than British interviewer David Frost and other English-speaking correspondents and news anchors to win over skeptical American viewers.

It's even possible the May launch will happen without U.S. participation. Al-Jazeera still has no signed contract with any U.S. cable operator, satellite provider or broadband service. Even when a deal is struck, where will the channel find American advertisers?

That's going to be a stretch. Since its inception in 1996, Al-Jazeera has aired a deplorable gusher of anti-Semitic rhetoric, mostly directed at Israel. Although the network also denies that it has ever broadcast a beheading, it certainly devotes a lot of air time to those who commit beheadings.

Networks like FOX and CNN commit loads of airtime to guys like Scott Peterson, OJ Simpson, Robert Blake, Natalee Holloway, etc. Those networks will show hate filled rants by the likes of Ann Coulter, Robert Novak, Tucker Carlson, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity..directed entirely at liberals for the purpose of persuading the nation to despise the American left.

You'll forgive me if I'm having a little trouble understanding what all the fuss is about.

But among the O's apparent discomfort at the possibility of Al Jazeera, they direct our attention to a quandry for those who support Bush and the Republicans:

Predictably, voices on the American right are demanding that the Bush administration block plans for Al-Jazeera broadcasts in this country on security grounds. That's not likely to happen, and not just because it would thrust the White House into the role of suppressing free speech.

Al-Jazeera is owned by the emir of Qatar, an Arab ally of the United States. So is the emir of Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates and home to Dubai Ports World, the company that the Bush administration deemed perfectly suited to managing several of America's largest ports.

After the noisy commotion about that unpopular idea, imagine the awkwardness of the president trying to argue that America's airwaves are more vulnerable to enemies than America's harbors.

Come on now you righties. What kind of message are we sending to our good faith partners in the War on Terrah if we don't allow their television station to broadcast in the United States?