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Hillary Clinton on Al-Jazeera: "Real News."

By March 6, 2011

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She Finally Gets It: Hillary Clinton likes al-Jazeera.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

I've not been very good toward Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But she's not been very good with America's foreign policy. Earlier this week, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she said something some of us, particularly me here at Middle East issues, have been saying since 2007:

"Al Jazeera has been the leader in that are literally changing people's minds and attitudes. And like it or hate it, it is really effective. In fact viewership of al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it's real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners."

Ironically, that was not news to some of us, but news to many in two regards: first, to those who think Al-Jazeera, because it's an Arab satellite channel that back in 2001 and since has had the temerity to air some of Osama bin Laden's video messages, should be banished off the face of the earth; and second, because an American secretary of state has been not only defending it (it was Clinton's Department of State that pressured the Egyptian government last month to stop its goon act against al-Jazeera reporters) but rating it above American news channels. For good reason: the quality of al-Jazeera's coverage of the Middle East revolutions has been far better, more consistent and more immediate than virtually any of America's parachuting anchors have managed to pull off.

Three weeks ago Clinton was actually in Qatar, visiting with al-Jazeera's brass (though she did not made the more significant step of visiting al-Jazeera's offices: there's always that element of over-cautious reserve about Clinton when it comes to her rapport with and in Arab nations, a reserve she abandons when she is on Israeli territory, toward her Israeli co-equals: Arabs take note of details of the sort, and so their trust only goes so far.)

"We have not really kept up with the times," Clinton went on in her Senate testimony. "We are in information war and we cannot assume that this youth bulge that exists not just in the Middle East but in so many parts of the world really knows much about us. I mean we think they know us and reject us, I would argue they really don't know very much about who we are." And of equal importance: we don't want to know much about who they are. We don;t want to see the Middle East through Middle Eastern eyes such as al-Jazeera's, which is continuously sidelined on American cable and satellite networks.

Naturally, Glenn beck went Medieval on Clinton's Jazeera: ""You have the Secretary of State of the United States of America saying you cannot get real news here in America," he said. "You can only get it from Al Jazeera and everybody knows it. This is insanity."

Imagine that: Glenn Beck, American authority on insanity. Now, that, too, is real news.

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March 7, 2011 at 11:02 am
(1) wither says:

Al Jazeera has been the sole source of real-time news for Western audiences from North Africa, Middle east, and South Asian regions for a decade now. Western organizations have largely withdrawn any substantive reporting staff that is not embedded in a military company.

Just a suggestion: when you invade a region, only allowing a controlled, embedded perspective to make it into the news is a dangerously unstable proposition for a democratic empire, particularly when you drag out increasingly pointless expeditions for a decade or more.

March 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm
(2) Reinhold Schlieper says:

Al-Jazeera is not only to be lauded for its Middle-Eastern coverage; this station is all around excellent. The service has worked with disadvantaged people in all the world. General Jan Karpinsky spoke out on women’s issues in the US military on an Al-Jazeera special broadcast. The program “Fault Lines” is every bit as perceptive and astute and perhaps even more balanced than a Michael Moore exposť. And if Al-Jazeera is not doing something exciting, there is always follow-up on RT (Russia Today) or PressTV (Iranian TV). One can disagree, but these channels permit an audience to hear alternatives to news couched in sales pitches.

April 26, 2011 at 12:31 am
(3) Gryphonisle says:

It’s not news that most Americans still have no idea how good Al Jazeera is, it’s only available in three or four TV markets (including DC) and none of the major cable companies. To see how ignorant the average American is, all you have to do is listen to callers to NPR programs like Forum, about as biased a program as NPR has, and hear them wax and croon over the “objectivity” and “in depth” coverage of NPR, which in some circles is known otherwise as the voice of AIPAC.

I’m glad Hillary had the courage to speak the truth about Al Jazeera, now I wish she’d be more open with the Arabs–the way she is when she’s with the Israelis. She can’t expect them to trust her when she acts one way to Israel and another to them.

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