Who’s Afraid of Al Jazeera?

By Leslie Griffith & JP Sottile

Supporters of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf condemn US drone attacksAmerica doesn’t make many products these days.

But if you ask people from northern Africa to south Asia—and all points in-between—what it is that America makes, you can count on a one word answer.


For the last decade war has spread and migrated from one front to another, often without barely a blip on the media’s radar—years of bombing in Yemen, drones over the Horn of Africa, military advisors in Kenya and Uganda, among others.

What do Americans know about factions and struggles and U.S.-backed officials in Yemen?

Or about Al Shabaab in Somalia and the U.S. base in Djibouti?

In fact, what do Americans know about the deadly civil war U.S. forces left behind after the American invasion of Iraq?

The answer, sadly, is very little.

A circuit has broken—faulty wiring—our conduits of information cut.

Although taxpayers are footing the bill, we understand next to nothing about what is done in our name. We rarely stop to consider—one man’s “freedom fighter” is another’s “terrorist.”

Severed wires.

Terrorists and liberators are now stored in convenient black boxes in which only the final, deadly hits are recorded.

Relying on America’s media giants for answers is a fool’s errand. Sitting in air-conditioned studios, interviewing one another, American “reporters” pretend to understand conflicts in places they have never been.

Disconnected wires—lost illusions—loose ends.

Most mega-media news networks have been notably absent from bombing sites and so is the video evidence tabulating the cost of remote-control wars.

Empathy and intelligence is switched off.

A wounded Afghan boy in a hospital in Kunar province after a Nato air strike left 10 civilians dead

Into this dark-vacuum, Al Jazeera English appears.

Its reporters have seen first-hand the consequences of Americas leading export.

Now, Al Jazeera English wants to bring those stories to America’s living rooms. They’ve been trying to do so since their launch in November 2006. Yet, they’ve been mostly shut out by America’s cable systems.

Their purchase of Current TV is another poke at the media bubble surrounding the nation like barbed wire containing prisoners of war—prisoners of a bubble that divides our citizens into this side or that.

We’ve become planets moving in different orbits—frequently colliding.

Who is afraid of Al Jazeera’s latest attempt to penetrate the blackout?

The list is long—here is a manageable-bit-sized-tweet.

Big Oil

Big Defense

Big Media

Anyone profiting from the status quo.

Today, CNN tops that list.

Even before the inked dried on Al Jazeera’s deal to buy Al Gore’s Current TV—Time Warner Cable pulled the plug and turned off the switch—dropping Current TV (and Al Jazeera) from its line-up.

Once the gold standard of news twenty years ago—with reporters around the world—CNN is little more than a cross-promotional infotainment provider.

As Rome burns, the weather changes and storms brew all around us—they chase the Kim Kardashian crowd—becoming irrelevant in the process.

Now expect other cable companies to follow Time-Warner’s lead.

Who else is afraid of Al Jazeera?

America’s power brokers are afraid of Al Jazeera English. After all, what will they do if they cannot export the stinkin’ thinkin’ that–from Wall Street to Main Street–makes money from all things military and relies on  Americas “infotainment” networks to spin some pro-war version of it.

And we wonder:

If Al Jazeera reporters risk their lives delivering a point of view that could re-connect us through knowledge—would we pass up “Dancing with the Stars,” come out of our comas, and dare to notice?

Would we thank and encourage them?

Can we still recognize truth as something that is not spun—like a web?

Can we concede that after 13 years of war—it is time to put names and faces and voices to the nondescript catch-all called “collateral damage?”

Is it too late to step out of our self-protective hibernation and…

…dare to awaken?


Rabindranath Tagore—1913

  Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high:

                       Where knowledge is free: 

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by 

                       narrow domestic walls.       

Where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection: 

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of

                                    Cold Dead Habit 

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action 

Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.


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5 Responses to Who’s Afraid of Al Jazeera?

  1. Earl says:

    Right on. I watched (on Free Speech TV) Al Jazeera’s live coverage of the revolt in Egypt that overthrew Mubarak, and it was brilliant, nothing the U.S. networks could even approach. It would be a wonderful thing to have Americans exposed to Al Jazeera’s brilliant journalism, not that Americans would actually watch.

  2. erik jansen says:

    I spent ladt week in Costa Rica on business. Very friendly, relatively safe and prosperous place. They are banking on eco-economics. Another professional friend described to me “what they made in Costa Rica”. Certainly a lot of mangos, coffee and increasingly other manufactured things to export to Central and South American trading partners.. Jokingly, he siad, that “we are not like America – we try not to make more enimies every day!”. We both laughed. Inside I cried.

    Thanks Leslie and JP. Ad individual voices against making enemies, we will be made to suffer. Collectively, our voices can create Joy. Come together.

  3. Tom O'Neill says:

    Thoughtful piece! Perhaps we do not admit it even to ourselves, but people abroad understand our belligerence as a sign of our great insecurity. We are a paranoid people, needing bigger weapons, more deployments. Like Stalin in his old age, we find that the more people we kill, the more enemies we fear, and the more enemies we fear, the more people we kill. It might help us to ask why, in America, white people have felt such a need to mistreat black males. Surely it is out of a guilty sense of how badly we have exploited them; we mistreat them out of fear, and we fear them because we have mistreated them. Regarding dealings abroad we have sunk so low we congratulate ourselves with a straight face that our President is so conscientious as to think carefully before decreeing who will die by extrajudicial execution on any given day.

  4. Jackie Riskin says:

    Painful, honest, brilliant, poetic, philosophical. Thanks again, Leslie.

  5. Jennifer Amoto says:

    On-point as usual, Leslie. The problem is you and people like you got into this business to seek truth. Most got into it to glorify their egos or accumulate power. The former mostly are in front of the camera, the latter behind the scenes. Neither has the interest of the viewer at heart, and both are shockingly ignorant of the country in which they live and make their money. And they like it that way.

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