Everything you think you know about Al Jazeera is wrong.
You can think of “Control Room” as being like the opposite of “Outfoxed,” the documentary about the Fox Network.
Where Outfoxed deftly demonstrated how biased, slanted, one-sided Fox really is, Control Room clearly shows how Al Jazeera is more balanced, accurate and of a higher quality than anyone listening to Donald Rumsfeld and other talking heads would have you believe.
The documentary, from the director of the equally excellent Startup.com, provides an up-close look at the most popular network in the Arab world from the start of the war against Iraq through the U.S. takeover of Baghdad.
The network was attacked for showing images of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians injured in the war.
But war is not clean and precise and does the network not have a responsibility – despite what politicians and other critics say – to show viewers the consequences of war?
I led a discussion of this movie Sunday night and the consensus was that the story and issues involved were much more complicated than one might initially expect, a view I tried to express here.
Attendees had the same reaction I did in finding fascination with the evolution of thought by military flack Joshua Rushing.
And therein lies an interesting, telling postscript, in that the most honest, articulate spokesman for the military in the movie is the one penalized for those views.
In one of the conversations that ultimately got him into trouble, Rushing compared Al Jazeera to the Fox Network, saying:
“It benefits Al Jazeera to play to Arab nationalism because that’s their audience, just like [the Fox News Channel] plays to American patriotism, for the exact same reason — American nationalism — because that’s their demographic audience and that’s what they want to see.”
But it was this comment which I found most powerful, as summarized here:
On camera midway through the film, Rushing spoke of being disturbed that footage on Al Jazeera, an Arabic-language satellite television channel, of civilian Iraqi casualties had not affected him as much as images shown the following night of dead American soldiers.
“It upset me on a profound level that I wasn’t bothered as much the night before,” Rushing said. “It makes me hate war. But it doesn’t make me believe we can live in a world without war yet.”
This is a movie that will make you think and I think that’s always a good thing.
I give the movie a 9.
PUB, ED: TAS