Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

by on April 5th, 2006

People send me things, news items, links to obscure journalistic ventures on the Internet. Sometimes I think they send these things to see if they can get a rise out of me. Okay, I know they send me things to see if they can get a rise out of me.

Al Jazeera, the bad-boy of the Arabic-speaking news world, has spun off an English-language news network. Inasmuch as most of our 280 million people speak English, Americans are part of its target audience, and the new network is recruiting American journalists. Here is where the rubber meets the road. Some of the first American journalists to sign on to Al Jazeera International (AJI) have been vilified in the press. Called traitors by their compatriots, for the simple act of taking a job with an Arab journalistic venture.

Some of the hatred stems from Al Jazeera’s publishing photos of American casualties in Iraq, the kind of thing that caused the uproar over Vietnam, and the very thing the Bush administration has gone to great lengths to prevent. But it is unwise to discount the growing anti-Arab sentiment in this country. Not long ago, I received an e-mail professing to enlighten me on the reasons Muslims cannot be patriotic Americans. The person who sent the item in question claims to be a Christian. The e-mail is the same kind of propaganda that the Nazis used in the 1930s, but its target has been changed.

That the Righteous Wrong in this country think they have a right to run the country is regrettable. It is more than regrettable that some of these people have read Tim LaHaye’s books and decided that these books have the force of scripture, while steadfastly refusing to hear from or discuss issues with anyone who disagrees with them. Some of these very same people think that it is about time for the second coming of Christ and think that they can precipitate this event, if they just work things right. I asked an unusually good-natured friend who believes all this what would happen if the Righteous Wrong had miscalculated, and Christ did not come to bail the world out. “I never thought about that,” was her answer.

Obviously, AJI will have its work cut out for it trying to build an audience here. American foreign policy has had a distinct Zionist bent for a long time, and the press has long since come to heel with policy. AJI will undoubtedly report news from a different perspective, which, given the current resemblance of American journalism to propaganda, could be a very good thing. Unfortunately, AJI may have difficulty finding an outlet in this country because of the current intellectual and ideological climate.

Herbert Spencer wrote, “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

The United States Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. It is unclear whether anything can free a closed mind.

Ann Weaver Hart