Just a word on that Al Jazeera/Current deal before it recedes completely: Not only does the sale of Current TV to the Arab network confirm that Al Gore is a spectacular hypocrite — as has been ably pointed out – but it tells us a lot about the left’s view of free speech.
A bunch of editorials have appeared defending Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera will be available in 40 million households in the United States, though Time Warner Cable — 12 million homes – dropped Current for low ratings. Still, people like Lee C. Bollinger, in a BusinessWeek column arguing that the Federal Communications Commission should force Time Warner costumers to pay Al Jazeera, compares the network to National Public Radio (which is a strong argument to defund the latter immediately).
The Washington Post ran an editorial claiming that “The U.S. audience may gain access to the perspectives of a respected international network…” because “its selection of stories and editorial slants, it is to the left of mainstream American media.” And according to the New York Times “Al Jazeera could bring an important international perspective to American audiences and should be given a chance to prove itself commercially before cable companies remove Current TV from their lineups.”
In principle, I agree. More speech is better than less speech. (Though, as Ira Stoll points out, Americans can get consume this much-needed “international perspective” online). The problem with Al Jazeera isn’t just that it might be left of the mainstream or anti-American in perspective, it’s that it is anti-American in the purest sense – a network that is state-owned and operated. And not just any state, but Qatar an absolute theocratic monarchy and terror booster (I wonder how many New Yorkers would liked contribute to a network, whose owner just handed Hamas a $400 million check?)
Many of the same folks who lament “corporate” ownership of media, endlessly grouse about Fox News, demand limitation of free speech by undoing Citizens United, defended the Obama Administration’s when it pressured Google and YouTube to shut down that amateurish anti-Islam video, are the ones now claiming that a foreign nation’s television outlet deserves to prove itself commercially – as if having unlimited access to an oil monopolies booty is “competing” in the marketplace.
Qatar, according to the State Department, is a “destination country for men and women” subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution as the government of Qatar “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”
Free speech? Put it this way, a poet named Mohammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami was recently sentenced to life imprisonment for writing a poem titled “Tunisian Jasmine.” Depending on your pain threshold, jail might be the preferable option. At least 21 people were sentenced to floggings of between 30 and 100 lashes during 2011 for offences related to “illicit sexual relations” or alcohol consumption.
Bad, but apparently not as bad as Fox News or The Blaze.