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[casi-analysis] From Riverbend

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Angry Arabs and American Media...

We were all watching Al-Itijah Al-Mu'akis or "The
Opposite Direction" on Al-Jazeera. It was pretty good
today. We had just cleared the dinner table and were
settling down to watch some film when E. turned the
channel to Al-Jazeera expecting a news brief. I
instantly recognized the man in the lemon yellow shirt
with his longish curly hair pulled back in a ponytail-
Asa'ad Abu Khalil. I remembered him from an interview
he did on Al-Arabiya or Al-Jazeera- I can't remember
which- immediately after the war, slamming Radio Sawa.
Tonight, "The Opposite Direction" was hosting Asa'ad
Abu Khalil, better known as The Angry Arab
(, and Ibraheim
Al-Ariss, a writer for Al-Hayat newspaper which is
based in Lebanon but is funded by some rich Saudi.

The subject was American propaganda in Arab media.
Asa'ad Abu Khalil was brilliant. He discussed the
effects of American propaganda on current Arab media
and the way the current American government was
pressuring certain Arab publications and networks into
a pro-America stance. Unfortunately, his argument was
way above Al-Ariss's head. Al-Ariss apparently thinks
that pro-American propaganda is nothing less than a
front-page headline saying, "WE LOVE AMERICA!!!"

Asa'ad Abu Khalil was discussing the more subtle
changes taking place in some newspapers- the change in
terminology, the fact that some newspapers have
stopped covering the news and taken to translating
articles directly from New York Times or some other
American news outlet. He almost gave Ibraheim
Al-Iriss, a reddish, portly man, an apoplectic fit.
Poor Ibraheim fell short of pounding the table with
his fists and throwing crumpled papers at Abu Khalil,
who kept admirably cool. In other words, Asa'ad Abu
Khalil ibarid il gallub.
(Iraqi phrase alert: ibarid il gallub, translated to
'cools the heart' is basically used to refer to
something or someone who eases the mind- and heart- by
saying or doing something satisfactory)

I get really tired of the emails deriding Al-Jazeera
and Al-Arabiya for their news coverage, telling me
they're too biased towards Arabs, etc. Why is it ok
for CNN to be completely biased towards Americans and
BBC to be biased towards the British but Al-Jazeera
and Al-Arabiya have to objective and unprejudiced and,
preferably, pander to American public opinion? They
are Arab news networks- they SHOULD be biased towards
Arabs. I agree that there is quite a bit of
anti-America propaganda in some Arabic media, but
there is an equal, if not more potent, amount of
anti-Arab, anti-Muslim propaganda in American media.
The annoying thing is that your average Arab knows
much more about American culture and history than the
average American knows about Arabs and Islam.

I wish everyone could see Al-Hurra- the new 'unbiased'
news network started by the Pentagon and currently
being broadcast all over the Arab world. It is the
visual equivalent of Sawa- the American radio station
which was previously the Voice of America. The news
and reports are so completely biased, they only lack
George Bush and Condi Rice as anchors. We watch the
reports and news briefs and snickerů it is far from
subtle. Interestingly enough, Asa'ad Abu Khalil said
that Sawa and Al-Hurra are banned inside of America
due to some sort of law that doesn't allow the
broadcast of blatant political propaganda or something
to that effect. I'd love to know more about that.

A channel like Al-Hurra may be able to convince
Egyptians, for example, that everything is going great
inside of Iraq, but how are you supposed to convince
Iraqis of that? Just because they broadcast it hourly,
it doesn't make it true. I sometimes wonder how
Americans would feel if the Saudi government, for
example, suddenly decided to start broadcasting an
English channel with Islamic propaganda to Americans.

Important note to those of you who are going to email
me: The last few days, I have received at least 3
emails saying, "I read your blog and don't agree with
what you say but we have a famous saying in America- I
don't agree with what you say but I'll die for your
right to say it." Just a note- it's not your famous
American saying, it is French and it is Voltaire's
famous saying: "I do not agree with a word you say,
but I will fight to the death for your right to say

- posted by river @ 1:23 AM

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