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In defense of al Jazeera

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All right then, YOU REPORT so that I CAN decide.
Al Jazeera television, sometimes described as the Arab CNN, has come under new rounds of criticism from the US and British governments, and many American media outlets in the first few days of the Iraqi war. I don’t necessarily want to defend everything they put on their air, but the specific current criticisms are misplaced.

Basically they have gotten grief, and even accusations of violating the Geneva conventions for airing graphic war footage. Most especially, they ran and re-ran a few minutes of Iraqi government footage of American POWs from the first few days of the war, and of dead American soldiers bodies being desecrated. This just infuriates Westerners generally, and Americans most particularly. A day or two before that, they were getting great grief for showing ugly footage of what the Iraqi government claims are civilian casualties of US bombings.

These things fall under the category of “shooting the messenger”. Al Jazeera did not kill or abuse the American soldiers- that would be the Iraqi government.

I fully appreciate that this footage is upsetting, particularly to the families of the American dead and captured. Damn, I don’t know words for what kind of emotions would be coming up if I was looking at footage like this featuring some of my people.

However, this is a good part of exactly why this footage should be shown not just on al Jazeera, but on American news networks. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that Fox News and CNN and MSNBC are absolutely derelict in their journalistic duty for NOT showing this stuff. You know, “We report. You decide.”

How can I properly decide when I don’t have all the facts? I do NOT go to the news channels in order to find out what to think. I go looking for facts and information on which to base my own judgment.

Therefore, I want to see it ALL. I goddam hated watching any of that evil Danny Pearl video, but I’d rather know than not know. Put all of especially the most controversial footage out, and let the chips fall where they may. Oh, and some repeats of the ugliest 9/11 videos while we’re at it.

Now, considering understandable sensitivities it might be reasonable to segregate the most nasty stuff. CNN could schedule a special show at some specific time to show the roughest stuff. This might reasonably help minimize people accidentally seeing particularly unsettling stuff that they don’t wish to see. Families of POWs might then know that perhaps they specifically do NOT want to watch CNN from, say, 10 till 11 pm.

How all this footage would impact popular opinion does not factor into this. For example, some Westerners have expressed opposition to the footage of our POWs being shown on the grounds that they fear it will weaken American public resolve to execute the war. I tend to suspect very strongly exactly the opposite effect. Damn it, we’re still Americans.

However, I’d favor showing this footage even if I thought it would lead to big bring-the-troops-home rallies. Again, I’m not interested in FNC or CNN deciding what will upset me or cause me to come to conclusions they or the US government may not like. You report, I’ll decide.

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  • http://www.waking-vision.com Michelle

    Rumsfeld ranting about the Geneva convention was a bit ironic – American soldiers didn’t take the Geneva convention very seriously in the last Gulf War. So don’t throw with stone and so on… But this is not the question here. In Germany the footage is shown and I don’t know what to think of it. Sure, we all want to see the “real deal” and not some securely embedded journalists. But having the families in mind who see their sons or husbands in this footage before anyone could tell them – that really is cruel. So I’m more for not showing these pictures, also because looking at them doesn’t give me any extra information. If you could believe the journalists in general I could just take their word if they say: Four soldiers captured.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    Look, everybody knows you Al‘s just stick together, it is just a conspiracy.

    Just call you Al, yah, right.

    Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me that the USA wages unilateral war around the world.

  • http://www.waking-vision.com Michelle

    You can call me all the names you like, doesn’t matter to me…

    And no, why should I say a thing that’s absolutely clear? I don’t like stating the obvious.