Thursday, March 03, 2005

Al Jazeera and The Arab Street

Ali of Free Iraqi has not been a fan of Al Jazeera, but he's arguing persuasively that the station has had an unexpected, profoundly positive impact on the current dynamics of the Middle East. This was not exactly the impact they intended and it doesn't mean they've joined The Good Guys, but there it is:
"However, even before that both channels [Al Jazeera and Al Arabyia] offered a great service to democracy and freedom in the ME even when they wanted exactly the opposite! For example, Al Jazzera focused, as part of its coverage for the 'deteriorated situations in Iraq' on every single demonstration against the interim government or the American presence in Iraq even if it was 10 people that are demonstrating! But this coverage, that was missed in the official Arab media most of the times, showed the Arab street an unusual scene. 'Arab' citizens demonstrating freely against their government and the supposed brutal occupiers under the eyes of police!

These days we hear every now and then about demonstrations almost everywhere in the Arab world. Excuse me, but this is far from usual! I haven't seen *any* demonstration against Saddam all my life and similarly I haven't heard of any in Syria or Saudi Arabia prior to the 9th of April. Most of us think it's what happened in Iraq that encouraged Arabs to demand more rights, but how could Arab citizens know the details of what's happening in Iraq if it wasn't for Al Jazeera and Al Arabyia? They don't watch western media, and the official TVs and newspapers give you only one point of view, that of the government, while Al Jazeera with all its bias host Iraqi officials and receive phone calls from Iraqi citizens on their talk shows. They twist facts, favor conspiracy theorists but in the end the audience gets more than one point of view and that's a crucial difference."
Read the rest.

It's a very insightful post, and he's made us re-evaluate our own opinions of Al Jazeera. The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Those in the TV business in the West have long known that the pictures often tell a different story from the words in a newscast. Sometimes that's bad, but sometimes it's A Good Thing.

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