Current TV, an offbeat, alternative American television channel that appeals mostly to young Americans, offers a liberal view of the world and is a popular news source.
I was surprised to learn that Al-Jazeera, the major Middle East satellite TV network, decided to purchase Current TV for a cool half billion dollars.The cost does not surprise me. The Arab world has more than enough money to buy the New York Times, ABC TV and Comcast Cable TV all at once.
What does surprise me is that it took so long for Arab money to finally stake out a major claim in the American news media industry.
The American news media does not just report the news. It not only defines what is news but decides what news is important and what news is not. The American news media also uses its reporting to manipulate American understanding of important events.
When it comes to the Middle East and the Arab world, the American news media has led the way in distortion, stereotyping and misinformation. This historically skewered and factually-challenged coverage of events has directly impacted the people of the Arab world in a very negative way. More than just helping to create the apartheid-like nation of Israel, the biased American news media has prevented the establishment of an independent Palestinian State.
It has fueled conflict that has resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of Arabs. How many civilians died in Iraq during the reign of the former American ally Saddam Hussein during the American-led embargo and the subsequent wars? How many Arabs have died in Lebanon because of the American protection of Israel? How many Arabs died in Egypt at the hands of the Mubarak dictatorship?
And how many civilians are dying in Syria today because the American news media has successfully argued that the United States should not take an active role in defending Syrian civilians?
Many Arabs mistakenly believe the lie that the American news media merely reports the news. That may be true in the cases of some news stories. But when it comes to the Middle East and the Arab world, the American news media actually defines American policy, and not in a positive way.
Why do you think that when Al-Jazeera was first launched, American cable TV stations banded together to block its broadcast to the American people on their channels? In fact, that embargo against Al-Jazeera didn’t happen because it is Al-Jazeera. Americans don’t look at Al-Jazeera the way people in the Arab world see it, as a voice of partisan political coverage. No. Americans see Al-Jazeera as “Arab-Jazeera.” They don’t like it because it is Arab.
In fact, the same cable TV stations that reject Al-Jazeera embrace Israeli propaganda with a 24/7 broadcast (every day and every hour) of Shalom TV, the pro-Israeli program that twists and dodges facts when it comes to Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people. Anyone who doesn’t consider it a war crime to steal privately owned land from Palestinians to build settlements that are exclusively for Jewish people of Israel has no morals or ethics.
Even today, after more than a decade of being banned, Al-Jazeera is only broadcast in short bursts of 30-minute or one-hour broadcasts during obscure times on obscure channels. Americans can barely see the station.
The only way to watch Al-Jazeera or any of the other dozens of Arab satellite channels is to subscribe to satellite TV, and pay a higher premium for the “Arab TV Channel” package. In the end, mostly American Arabs subscribe to the Arab TV channels, not mainstream Americans.
Mainstream Americans prefer to watch programs on their mainstream channels where Al-Jazeera and other Arab stations are systematically banned or severely limited and even censored. That’s why I was glad to see Al-Jazeera purchase Current TV. Maybe Al-Jazeera will hire more professional American Arab journalists to give the station a stronger voice for civil rights and justice around the world, and to overcome the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim biases that plague America but are considered acceptable by most Americans.
I was not surprised to learn that Time-Warner, the major cable TV network, dropped Current TV from its lineup as a result of the Al-Jazeera purchase.
Right now, Current TV is available on mainstream cable TV. But I doubt that will last for long.
Former US vice president Al Gore issued a statement about the sale, noting that Al-Jazeera “shared” Current TV’s mission “to give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling.” Truthfully, Current TV gave voice to some of those who are not typically heard, but not to all. It didn’t give much voice to honest criticism of Israel. And the prejudice-driven response of Time-Warner, the pro-Israel anti-Arab and anti-Muslim American media network, demonstrates once again how difficult it is to bring the truth to Americans.
The purchase of Current TV shouldn’t be our last. Wealthy Arabs should pursue an aggressive strategy to purchase more of the American media and correct the injustices that the media has caused.
— Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com