HANANIA: Analysis — al-Jazeera continues to stir up passions, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, AUG 13, 2008

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Al-Jazeera continues to stir up passions
By Ray Hanania —
The Arab World Satellite network al-Jazeera has reportedly been given media access to the Republican and Democratic conventions and many mainstream journalists see it as a big story. It’s only a big story because the mainstream American media is the most unprofessional, most biased and most discriminatory against the Arab and Muslim World in the world.

When President George W. Bush and his vice president Dick Cheney (a real war criminal), and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided to lie and mislead the American people to wrongly invade Iraq on March 19, 2003, they knew they needed the blind support of the mainstream American media, which was in a precarious, weakened position because of public anger following the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. So Bush and Cheney devised a scheme to “embed” American journalists — or, I should say, — mentally recruit journalists to accompany American forces and report the Bush agenda and spin on the war.

Any journalist who wrote anything that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld “Axis of Evil” disliked were unceremoniously removed from embedding, or rejected for embedding. “Embedding” was actually as close to becoming a sworn member of the U.S. Military as if the journalists had enlisted and put on a uniform. The embedded journalists — shameful black sheep who abandoned the fundamental principles of their profession — basically wore a mental military uniform of aggression, invasion and occupation, becoming little more than cheerleaders with notepads for the illegal invasion of Iraq.

(And, let me segue here for a moment. The War in Iraq is an illegal invasion and international war crime regardless of how the occupation conducts itself today. In contrast, the invasion of Afghanistan was a justified act of war in a real direct response to al-Qaeda and their government sponsors, the Taliban. So I am not picking on Bush because I don’t “like him” or because I “support terrorism.” The Iraq War is illegal and an ongoing war crime. The war in Afghanistan is legal, and clearly an after thought for Bush and his Axis of Evil and many brainwashed Americans who have forgotten how to thinkf or themselves.)

As a consequence, journalists who refused to be embedded had to risk their lives and cover the war in the true fashion of the profession’s real icons and heroes. Those journalists faced possible death at the hands of revenge-hungry American soldiers and, under the rules of engagement of the Bush Administration war, could be shot.

Al-Jazeera, like many media, covered the war and were constant targets of attack from American occupation forces. Many of their reporters were murdered. The Bush administration has targeted al-Jazeera from the beginning, mainly because al-Jazeera is more of a professional journalism organization than the New York Times or the viciously anti-Muslim Wall Street Journal. And the reason al-Jazeera is so hated by Bush and many Americans is because of the very fact that al-Jazeera is professional and did not compromise its journalistic ethics by pimping for the Bush Axis of Evil or by distorting news coverage to spin the illegal invasion of Iraq or shine the Bush lies.

Bush used the fact that al-Jazeera is inherently better educated on Middle East and Arab and Muslim issues to justify his hostilities against the satellite TV station. Naturally, al-Jazeera reporters not only speak Arabic but they also understand, better than Bush or most Americans, the reality of Arab World life, culture, religion and politics. So when terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden would issue a statement, al-Jazeera was one of the few professional journalism organizations able and willing to “report the news.” Bush may not have liked Bin Laden’s messages, but the public has a right to hear everything and to use our own brains and minds to make our own decisions. That’s a character of not being brainwashed, to make up your own mind. Imagine, just hearing Bin Laden would convince someone to be a terrorist? That was the argument Bush and his AE argued, intimidating American news stations to not broadcast Bin Laden’s often ridiculous and menacing declarations and pompous ramblings.

In that hate-mongering context, Americans have a distorted and uneducated view of the Arab World and of al-Jazeera, which is one of many independent news organizations maturing professionally in the Middle East. When al-Jazeera sought to be included in the paid-for line-up of channel offerings on cable TV, they were blackballed by the cable operators, most famously Comcast Cable, one of the nation’s largest, which refused to include al-Jazeera in its menu of pay-to-view selections.

Imagine, in the so-called “Land of the Free,” the “free (you, me and other Americans) are not free at all and do not have the right to watch a news station that might offer facts and videos and visuals that would contradict and expose the lies and hatemongering of the Bush administration and his own Axis of Evil? It’s pathetic how many Americans, because of their anger and emotion and lack of education and willingness to remain uneducated about the Middle East, have bought into this uninformed existence.

I watch al-Jazeera all the time, and not just when I am traveling in the Middle East. Imagine, that in Israel, Israelis are free to watch al-Jazeera, and yet Americans are not. Sad for our American country. And, I watch al-Jazeera on the Internet both the Arabic language channel and also the English language channel. You can pay a modest monthly fee to watch high quality broadcasts on your computer, or watch low resolution (high audio quality) broadcasts for free on web sites like 3ArabTV.com.

 

(A personal note: There are some Arab focused broadcasts based here in the US like something called “LINK TV.” But they are mainly politically partisan broadcast programs driven by internal Arab American politics – their content is defined by a somewhat biased, and limited look at the Arab World that fits their own biases, sadly. LINK TV would be a great option if they would expand their narrow political vision of news and start covering the news more objectively and with less discrimination. The best Arab program available on American cable is ART. And there are other new ventures like DanDana TV that are also working hard to earn the respect of Arab American and also American audiences that are far less partisan in their approach to content.)While the mainstream American news media still, seven years since 9/11 and five years since the Bush invasion and occupation of Iraq, continues to act like inducted military public relations lackeys and shills for the war, al-Jazeera is offering diversity of opinion that is broader, more complete and very professional. Imagine that al-Jazeera interviews BOTH SIDES of major issues, something you don’t see often at all in the mainstream American media. Imagine that al-Jazeera questioned the lies and exaggerations of the Bush administration far sooner than the mainstream news media, some of whom were actually architects of the lies, like the New York Times’ Judith Miller and more. That’s why when I watch al-Jazeera I not only see and hear Arab spokesmen and women discussing vital issues important to me, as an American and as an Arab, but I ALSO hear nearly every American official on the same programs.

Wow. Bush doesn’t want you, the American people, to listen to or watch al-Jazeera, but they do selfishly realize they mujst allow their spokespeople to appear on al-Jazeera to reach the huge and influential Arab and Muslim World audience. What a hypocrite! That’s a story the mainstream American news media is afraid to watch.

Now, let me spell it out one more time for Americans reading this who, brainwashed, can’t think for themselves: Journalism is about audiences. The media does focus on the news that the audience wants. That’s why, for example, the American media is focussing on the American Athletes at the Beijing Olympics. ABout 80 percent of the American media coverage is about abou the American athletes. That’s not “bias.” That’s called professional journalism. The other media are also doing the same. Now, replace the Beijing Olympics as a news story with the more controversial War in Iraq. It’s one thing for the American media to focus on issues of importance to the American public, their audience. But, it is another thing, and very unprofessional, to filter that news the way they are doing it as “embedded” in war and out of war “journalists.” That is like the Chinese media covering the Olympics. When the father-in-law of an American coach was killed and his wife injured in a vicious attack, the story made front page headlines in America. But it was buried in short, few paragraph stories in the Chinese media.

That’s why the fact that al-Jazeera is covering the presidential conventions is such a “big news story” in the United States. I think mainstream American editors are shamed by the fact that al-Jazeera has been more forthcoming and educational and FAIR than most American media.

Personally, I expect to get fairer, more accurate news coverage of the presidential conventions from al-Jazeera than I will from the mainstream news media, which continues to cower under the intimidating pressure of the Bush administration but also in an economic environment that is so weak, it forces them to pander to partisan politics as a means of “sucking up” to potential government contracts and advertising — and that the Bush administration paid many journalists to go on TV and promote the War is another story and another dark chapter in the decaying career of the mainstream American news media.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning journalist and author. Named Best Ethnic American Columnist in America by the New American Media, he is the winner of three Society of Professional Journalism Lisagor Awards for Column Writing. he can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com and rayhanania@comcast.net.)

This post has already been read 57 times!

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com