Al Jazeera has come to TV screens all across America next Tuesday.
Get ready for the backlash, which I don’t think will be warranted.
Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, is thought by many to be some kind of mouthpiece of Middle East terror groups. Al Jazeera America, which will be shown by many cable providers, has enlisted several prominent American broadcast journalists to take part. Are they part of some terrorist cabal? I think not.
I’ve seen a little bit of Al Jazeera at work. While traveling through Israel in May and June 2009, I stayed for a few nights in the Haifa home of a wonderful couple. Haifa is a gorgeous city on the Mediterranean coast and the couple that hosted me couldn’t have been more gracious.
I awoke each morning to Al Jazeera news and talk on the television. I had heard all the criticism of the network from those who dislike its Arabic origins, apparently believing — as some in the United States do — that all Middle East residents are closet terrorists and murderers.
Having been imbued with that negative feeling, I was stunned to see that Al Jazeera presents the news calmly, without bias that I could detect and it is — to borrow a phrase — fair and balanced in its reporting.
What will Al Jazeera America bring to U.S. airwaves ought to mirror what I witnessed not far from where the network originates.
I’m hopeful it will lend another important perspective in the United States on the news of the day.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has issued a stern warning to NBC and CNN: Don’t air films about Hillary Rodham Clinton to avoid being shut out of Republican presidential debates during the 2016 election season.
I can’t pretend to know what’s in anyone’s heart, but Priebus says showing such a film would create an unfair advantage for the former first lady/senator/secretary of state were she to run against a Democratic Party primary field. Oh, he also mentions the advantage she’d have against the Republican nominee in the fall campaign, were she to be nominated by the Democrats.
“This suggests a deliberate attempt at influencing American political opinion in favor of a preferred candidate,” Priebus wrote. “I find this disturbing and disappointing.”
You know what? I think he might have a point. I wonder, though, about the wisdom of cutting the networks out of the debate process by showing the film. CNN is planning a feature-length film about HRC’s public service career; NBC is planning to air a four-part miniseries.
A couple of questions need fleshing out, however. Will these films look at the bad along with the good? No one in the know is saying how HRC will be portrayed. The best option would be characterize her in a neutral light — which wouldn’t be nearly good enough for those on the right who despise her so deeply. It might not be good enough, either, for those on the left who support her so ardently.
Make no mistake that Hillary Clinton is a compelling public figure. Still, it’s not yet been determined whether she’s actually going to run for president in 2016. Everyone with an opinion on the matter seems to think she is a shoo-in to seek the White House one final time.
Stranger things than a surprise announcement to the contrary, though, can and have happened.
The link attached to the blog attacks Fox News Channel for virtually ignoring some positive economic news.
I get that FNC – particularly the hosts of the “Fox and Friends” morning talk show – often ignore good economic news when it speaks to the success of President Obama’s economic policy.
However, such reaction is not really unique to this president and his foes. Other media outlets have done so over many decades of reporting. Left-leaning MSNBC wasn’t too keen on reporting successes during the George W. Bush administration – although looking back on it now it’s difficult to recall any specifics.
And Fox’s ignoring of this data mirrors Obama’s political foes on the right who’ve done the same thing. Any tick in the wrong direction and those critics are all over the president with loud and forceful critiques. Any movement in the right direction you get … well, silence. Yes, it cuts both ways.
What makes the Media Matters tattling on Fox so troublesome, though, is that the network calls itself “fair and balanced.” I keep scratching my head over that self-description. It’s neither fair or balanced. Is MSNBC fair and balanced? Well, no, but that network doesn’t trumpet itself so loudly as possessing either characteristic. To be sure, Media Matters is clearly a left-leaning watchdog organization.
CNN is another whipping child for political conservatives. CNN’s “sin,” according to the mainstream conservative media, is that the network doesn’t shill for the right wing the way Fox does. Instead, it reports the news with, shall we say, fairness and balance. It also offers a wide range of ideological punditry – with the likes of Newt Gingrich and Rich Lowry on the right and Paul Begala and Donna Brazile on the left.
My only advice to Fox and its supporters is this: The network should stop using the false “fair and balanced” public relations ploy. Using such language to describe itself only exposes FNC to critics who can see through the network’s thinly veiled ideology.
This is a big part of what I find distasteful about cable TV news: The talking heads have a habit of becoming part of the narrative they’re supposed to be covering.
The latest example is a feud that’s apparently brewing between lefty Al Sharpton and righty Bill O’Reilly. Sharpton is one of the hosts of MSBNC’s talk-show lineup; O’Reilly hosts his show on Fox.
Allow me this brief commentary on both men.
Sharpton came to be known to many Americans when he ran interference for a young African-American woman, Tawana Brawley, who contended some white New York City police officers raped and beat her. Sharpton became Brawley’s voice in a heated exchange with the New York Police Department. He demanded justice for this poor girl and raised the volume to a fever pitch. One big problem emerged: Brawley’s story was fake. The cops ended up suing Brawley and Sharpton for slander and they won. Now, all these years later, Sharpton has lost a lot of weight, cleaned up his TV image and is known as a “leading civil rights activist.”
In my mind, he’s a charlatan.
O’Reilly has been a fixture at Fox for many years. He’s had other broadcast network gigs. He’s a simpleton, who makes simplistic arguments to cover complex issues. He fancies himself as an “independent,” but he’s nothing of the kind. He’s a card-carrying conservative who, when interviewing subjects on his show, delights in out-shouting them. He interrupts at will. O’Reilly even treated President Obama rudely while interviewing him during the 2012 presidential campaign; he’d ask a question and refuse to wait for an answer before butting in while the commander in chief of the most powerful military establishment in the history of the world was trying to answer.
O’Reilly is a gasbag.
Now these two clowns are fighting in public. They both see themselves as bigger than any story they cover for their respective networks. They disserve the craft they purport to practice when they engage in these televised tit-for-tats with each other.
I don’t care one damn bit what these guys think of each other. I care only what they say about the issues. Stick to your talking points, gents. If you want to insult each other, pick up the phone and do so in private.