Saturday, March 05, 2011

It's the History, Stupid

(free candy from the US Air Force)

Tuesday morning, March 1, NPR's Deborah Amos had a story on the rising popularity of Al-Jazeera in the US. Early in the report, Amos says,
"The range of breaking stories has gained Al-Jazeera an unprecedented number of new fans in the U.S., and more powerful enemies in the Middle East."
A little later in the story, Amos - providing no details or explanation - notes that,
"Al-Jazeera Arabic has been controversial since broadcasts began 15 years ago."
The focus of Amos' piece is on the current hostile reaction of authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes to the informative news that Al-Jazeera produces, but there is an odd and glaring lack of context to the report. Except for this one brief mention regarding Al-Jazeera English - " It was shut out of the American market by reluctant cable operators after the Bush administration labeled the network anti-American" - listeners would never know that Middle East dictators attacking Al-Jazeera are simply following the same playbook used by US during the past "controversial" decade. The tactics of the US playbook against Al-Jazeera range from mild to very extreme:
The complete omission of this background history leads to some excruciating irony - for instance, this bit from Amos:
"Al-Jazeera's office was closed and burned, journalists beaten and detained, tapes confiscated or destroyed."
She is talking about recent events in Egypt - not Iraq or Afghanistan.

Hearing this latest example of the NPR history scrub made me wonder if I was being too harsh on NPR. Perhaps they have covered some of the United States government's most egregious abuses against Al-Jazeera and so decided that repeating them was unnecessary. So let's see what on-air coverage NPR has given to the most significant cases of US assaults on Al-Jazeera:
  • US strike on the Kabul offices of Al-Jazeera - nothing
  • US strike on the Baghdad offices of Al-Jazeera - nothing
  • US detention and torture of Salah Hassan - nothing
  • US detention and torture of Suhaib Badr al Baz - nothing
  • the 6 year imprisonment, torture and eventual release of Sami al-Haj - nothing
What can you say? NPR has not given a single bit of coverage to even one of these US-orchestrated assaults on journalism in general - and Al-Jazeera in particular. I have to confess that - even as critical as I am of NPR - I was stunned at its absolute censorship of these stories. Given NPR's hypocrisy when it comes to covering attacks on journalists, I guess I should not have been the least bit surprised.



As Mr. Burns or Harry Shearer would say:


I'd forgotten/was unaware of about half of the incidents that you cited.

NPR: Defender of Freedom of the Press, unless the US Gov disapproves.

This is an perfect example of what Glenn Greenwald cites of American press hypocrisy:

It's dastardly evil behavior, unless the US does it.

Scott Simon is almost always breaks down weeping over the suppression of press freedoms in Iran, but has not once express concern or even reported on the more than a dozen reporters held in similar, if not worse conditions.

Anonymous said...

Nice rant, dude.

Anonymous said...

thank you for this history, npr check! NPR, the organization that always disappoints on the most obvious points. commitment to the profession of journalism? nah, not if it means undercutting the imperial "voice of reason."

Anonymous said...

Al Jazeera reports about NATO apology for killing 9 Afghani boys every few minutes today, March 6th.

From NPR (actually AP on the NPR site) one measly mention from March 2nd.

NATO Apologizes For Deaths Of 9 Boys In Afghanistan

Anonymous said...

Agent Ferrari was gleeful in his attack on Chavez this morning: playing his Spanish orations without translation as a gratuitous snub.


Since the subject is history, and the BBC is reporting that it's reporters are being mugged by government thugs, let's look back at NPR history with the PRC.

Well this is embarrassing for NPR:

China National Radio: Categories: How journalism works 05:22 pm July 9, 2009
by OMBUDSMAN Alicia Shepard

"I just met with six officials from China National Radio who mostly wanted to learn about NPR's Emergency Alert System."

NPR provided training to the Chinese Government's propaganda apparatus. I wonder how much it is helping that authoritarian government suppress press freedoms right now.

What's more American than helping the world's largest authoritarian government provide more efficient propaganda? I think it's call torture- oops, . . . "harsh interrogation" of the Bill of Rights.

So that's "How journalism works"?

Patrick Lynch said...

Yes, I heard the Juan Ferraro piece on Chavez this morning. They made sure we clearly heard Qaddafi's name in the untranslated clip. For all we know Chavez might have been saying that Qaddafi wets his bed and doesn't eat his vegetables. National Propaganda Radio is always careful to provide a "translator" any time they want to shove a particular viewpoint our way but not when what's being said may not suit their purposes.

Lyle said...

So just where does one go to get un-biased news if not NPR?

Anonymous said...

unbiased doesn't exist. You might be asking where to find information that is biased in favor of something besides the rich and powerful, the military and corporation!

Porter Melmoth said...

Consider this, at DN! (Lyle, check out Democracy Now! for another side of the news):

"As Public Broadcasting and Community Media Face Potentially Massive Cuts at Home, Hillary Clinton Calls for Increased Funding for U.S. Propaganda Overseas"

Porter Melmoth said...

Michael Moore on the steps in Madison:

And, Chris Hedges:

"Thomas Friedman and the array of other propagandists for globalization make as much sense as Charlie Sheen."

Porter Melmoth said...

Here's a better link to Mike's speech, with transcript (and without the ironic Clorox commercial beforehand!):