Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Al Jazeera Factor

The Gilboa Powers article for this coming week quoted a man as saying that he watches Al Jazeera because it represents the truth and reality of events. Taken with my grandfather’s opinion of Al Jazeera as a terrorist organization, aka “Jihad TV”, the difference in interpretations of this media outlet are striking and to me demonstrate the viewers importance in perpetuating and creating media bias. Even Powers tempers the “truth” aspect of Al Jazeera crediting its positive reputation to the even worse reputations of other corrupt Arab news organizations. Kind of like comparing CNN news to Fox in my opinion, although again if this were my grandpa it would be the other way around… One is only the truth because the other is not.
Powers tries to present Al Jazeera as an important transnational actor, and I too would argue that it is, now more than ever. But in light of the criticism it widely receives in the US, is its transnational might dependent on region? It is arguably a glue factor for Arab countries and Arab diasporas, but how far does that “trans” go? The article really just confused me more than anything. Al-Jazeera is supposed to be a political actor, and has strong influence in the Arab region. It caused 6 nations to withdraw their ambassadors from Doha. Does this mean Al Jazeera was doing its job in exposing unjust practices in those countries? Maybe. But does that do anything to instigate actual political change in those areas? I think this is where the separation of media outlets and other transnational actors would come into play. The need for viewers is always going to trump other priorities. But then again what transnational actors need for followers isn’t going to win out. Is Al Jazeera really triumphing for an alternative representation of the news, putting stories out there that would otherwise be oppressed? Or is it the Bill O’Riley of the Arab world, stirring up controversy to draw viewers in and over to their side of the truth?

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