Let’s Stop the Al Jazeera Hysteria

Let's halt the fear of Al-Jazeera

Al Jazeera: When many Americans hear that name a nefarious image comes to mind. Adjectives like anti-American, antisemitic, jihadist, and terrorism spring about the fearful American psyche. And boy were we reminded of this within the past few months.

For example, during Defense Secretary Nominee Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing, the brainless and spineless wonder Sen. Ted Cruz chastised the former moderate Republican senator and Purple-Heart-recipient for speaking ill of the United States during a 2009 interview on Al Jazeera, a network the moronic Cruz described as “a foreign network, broadcasting propaganda to nations that are hostile to us.”

To clarify, the grave sin Hagel committed in Cruz’s simple mind was his nuanced agreement with a caller on the Al Jazeera program that the United States is often perceived as a bully and that this perception should be altered in order to improve U.S.-Middle East relations. Hagel never said he thought the United States was a bully. He agreed that many in the Middle East perceived it as such. Can Cruz really dispute this observation? The blabbering “Tea Party” senator went on to contradict himself with his claims that Al Jazeera broadcasts to “nations that are hostile” to the United States. So which is it Teddy? Does the Middle East not view the U.S. as a bully? Does it view us positively? Or are these nations and its peoples mainly hostile to us?

And furthermore on this ridiculous Cruz statement, who are these nations that are hostile to America whom Al Jazeera broadcasts to? Qatar? Egypt? Tunisia? Iraq? Well we know it’s not Iran as the Shiite theocracy has been critical of the network’s close relationship with the United States and open support for the Arab Spring. Which brings us to another point which flies in the face of this ridiculous scrutiny of both the network and Hagel—as various “wikileaked” documents revealed, Qatar and Al Jazeera have worked closely with the United States in the past to further their many coinciding national interests in the region.

But the Hagel confirmation wasn’t the only forum where fear mongering over Al Jazeera reigned. Once Al Gore sold his Current TV company to the Qatari-based business, talking heads on both the right and left reacted with a nativist, jingoistic furor.

On Fox News’ America Live with Megyn Kelly, guest “analyst” Lisa Daftari suggested that Al Jazeera’s expansion into the America market was an evil ploy to activate sleeper cells across the country.

Somehow the Qatari government and the moderate (by Middle East standards) media outlet it funds are synonymous to the minority Sunni jihadi element in the Middle East according to this nutcase. Also, has Daftari ever heard of this amazing new invention called THE INTERNET and how it allows people to send instantaneous messages across great distances through a variety of means? Lisa, it’s not 1950 anymore. The communists aren’t sending Morse code blinking messages to their American sleeper cells via the Soviet official being interviewed on the evening news program.

Right wingers weren’t the only ones getting all frenetic over Gore’s business dealings with Al Jazeera. Talk show host David Letterman questioned Gore on this apparently pernicious relationship with the Qatar-based company, which gets most of its money from the oil-dominated Qatari government. The generally common-sensed Daily Show host Jon Stewart pushed him on this issue even more.

Yet is it Qatar’s fault that its economy specializes in oil production? I guess decades of Western imperialism’s influence in shaping these oil-dependent economies and autocracies in the region have no relevance here, huh? Nor does a media outlet like the BBC, which is backed by the UK government, a large consumer of the world’s oil share comparable blame for the effects of global warming? Or how about PBS and its funding by the United States government, the world’s largest oil consumer.

The point is that the current international oil-dependent economy is not simply the fault of greedy Arabs selling their crude medicine to the innocent consumers of the West. Blame for global warming and fossil fuel usage lies in numerous areas. It’s an institutional and cultural problem that must be addressed through an array of strategies — one of them not being to never sell to or deal with the Qatari government or its media outlet. How would that have any effect on solving these problems? Why not work towards supporting projects for weaning consumers off of oil dependence by investing more in alternative fuels? And why not also focus on helping oil producers better diversify their economy as a means to appropriately survive and, hopefully, thrive in a new oil-empty economy?

Al Jazeera has its problems. Many of its programs, hosts, and guests do spout out antisemitic propaganda and anti-American nonsense. Yet the outlet also includes many moderate and progressive figures who support liberalism, secularism, and/or a “softer” side of Islam. During the Arab Spring it has been and continues to be a productive force. All in all, its positives outweigh its negatives. And as Gore realized, this media outlet is a ship that should be steered as best it can towards the shores of progress, not frantically sunk, leaving no real alternative means for transportation to a brighter Muslim world in its place.