Dear Sirs and Madams,
I basically like Al-Jazeera. I think it performs a valuable service by offering a novel perspective on world and regional events in journalistically responsible ways. I have even volunteered to ‘pitch’ for it when it was carried on KPFT radio in Houston.
That’s why I feel compelled to write and tell you how disappointed when I was I heard excerpts of the 4-DVD set of “Al Nakba”, which apparently was produced by Al-Jazeera.
The parts I heard did not strike me as having any factual errors based on my knowledge as an American Jew (and kudos to you for that), and of course reasonable people can have disagreements on how to interpret events which are historically accurate. My unhappiness with what I heard has to do with that difficult concept, ‘tone’.
It is my nature to be emotionally attuned to musical background scoring, and it was hard to avoid the sense that whenever the documentary touched on anything which might be considered ‘anti-Palestinian’ (Zionism, prominent early Israeli founders, British Rule, the Ottoman Empire, etc.), the music changed to something truly ominous; the kind of music that might be scored when talking about the early American Mafia or the days of Nazi Germany. That struck me as a bit over the top.
Film music is a subtly manipulative thing. It’s an artistic choice, and I think it’s potentially most despicable in political or news content because to most people it’s essentially subliminal; it effects people’s perception on levels and in ways that they do not even recognize., and the producers of this documentary knew exactly what they were doing and what they were implying with their scoring choices.
On radio, my motto is that, “People are entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” Facts can be annoying and inconvenient things. The producers of this documentary are entitled to express the facts any way they wish. That’s the concept of free speech. I am extremely disappointed, however, that Al-Jazeera -– a news source I’ve come to respect and even rely upon in some ways -– would place its imprimatur on such an obviously biased and manipulative production, representing itself as historical journalism.
I like to think that I’m sophisticated enough that I can usually tell the difference between factual news that disappoints (like American use of waterboarding) versus ‘news’ in which facts and propaganda are so inextricably mixed as to be inseparable, thereby making the whole of it informationally worthless (e.g., Fox News). There are news channels like China’s CCTV-America, which seems pretty reliable until you get to Chinese domestic news, when ‘spin’ becomes a bit more obvious; but because it’s obvious, it’s actually mildly amusing as well as somewhat informative.
I have come to expect better of Al-Jazeera America. I will now have to pay renewed attention to what I hear on Al-Jazeera outside America. I don’t much like the idea that a news organization reports events one way in the US, and a totally other way elsewhere.
Which is it to be, Al-Jazeera? Will you reports facts the same everywhere, or will you pander to your local and regional audiences’ biases in a shameless effort to gain overall ‘popularity’?
I’ll wait and see.
“For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie ¾ deliberate, contrived, and dishonest ¾ but the myth ¾ persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” ~ John F. Kennedy, Commencement Address at Yale University, Pub. Papers 470, 471 (June 11, 1962).