Saturday, June 28, 2008

CNN is like the worst "news" source. Ever.

I sometimes envy blogs that have very specific purposes, like chronicling the attempts of a large news corporation to inform the citizenry. I came across the blog CNN is like the worst "news" source. Ever. in a quick search for why CNN was focusing so much of its time this morning discussing a YouTube video where a woman is shown spinning around an escalator railing. A friend of mine told me she was watching CNN talk this morning for fifteen consecutive minutes about the new trend of "escalator spinning".

The network appears to be taking its cues from popular vlogging styles like Zadia from Epic Fu. Though Epic Fu itself is becoming more corporate with time, its in-the-street atmosphere and tech/arts-centrism keeps it focused. It is laughable when corporate and mainstream informants attempt to mimic this style.

Coverage on the Iraq War has drastically been cut back this year as well, as a New York Times piece reports. Almost halfway into 2008, CBS, ABC and NBC have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage. Compare this with the 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. CNN and Fox News have only two full-time correspondents in Iraq, and no American television network has a full-time correspondent in Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera, on the hand, covers Iraq and other nations in the region very well. The network has won several prestigious journalism awards, for example, the IFEX's anti-censorship award, for coverage on issues that American networks do not have the resources or the interest to pay attention to. The American networks also have the justifiable disadvantage of being distrusted by many people and heads of state in the region.

CNN and Fox News have done their best to discredit Al Jazeera too. After the alleged broadcasting of the American soldiers' beheading, Al Jazeera was labeled a propaganda machine for Al Qaeda. Also in 2005, during the height of the Falluja attack, the Nation Magazine posted an exchange between Donald Rumsfeld and an American reporter about Al Jazeera's coverage.

REPORTER: Can you definitively say that hundreds of women and children and innocent civilians have not been killed?
RUMSFELD: I can definitively say that what Al Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.
REPORTER: Do you have a civilian casualty count?
RUMSFELD: Of course not, we're not in the city. But you know what our forces do; they don't go around killing hundreds of civilians. That's just outrageous nonsense. It's disgraceful what that station is doing.

Al Jazeera consistently reports on events that Washington does not want the world or its own population to see. This is why it has so many enemies within the state and media apparatus. It is not surprising, then, that many Americans look to Al Jazeera with smarmy and disgusted eyes. Many had never heard of Al Jazeera before 2003. Last July I had a long, drawn-out argument with an American student in Germany over the reliability of the Al Jazeera network. What he and several others knew about the network, it turned out, was only what the American networks were saying. I had them go to the Al Jazeera homepage and analyze it before feeling justified in their remarks.

Niel Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves to Death was right about American media. Entertainment and information are increasingly fused, and the public is hardly aware of the importance of global issues; they are only aware of them as entertainment. As the Fox News anchor says in a recent interview with Mark Dice, an anti-war activist, "This is not a joke: it is actually happening".

1 comment:

purpleXed said...

Do the top US channels provide to the American people the fullest and clearest picture of the way American wealth and treasured lives are committed abroad from ?

Is the US audience confident of getting a clear and accurate picture in crucial areas of US diplomatic and security engagements?

One can get two possible responses: One from people who are away from the trouble spots and have no direct contacts with those in the field of action. But when you listen to those who are on the ground risking limbs and lives to collect and distribute facts to help ascertain what are the sources of insecurity and hostility to US interest in, say, Iraq. It is essential to determine the relation between media and security. Especially from the aspect concerning whether the present available sources are sufficient enough or would there be any advantage if other sources could be added to bring an independent and fresh perspective.

Let's imagine that there is no Aljazeera any more. Would it solve the challenges US has faced prior and after the appearance of this tiny 'matchbox size' outlet.

Is it by mere chance that a campaign is pursued to deny the American viewers get the other side of the picture that doesn't usually make it on US media some of whom either co-opted by corporations and/or corruption?

It seems that the right of US viewers’ majority to have alternate news channels is being objected to by a handful but noisy few. Interestingly, many of such vocal elements possess no expertise either about the society in the Middle East its media, or the Arabic discourse on issues existing there.

One would expect media activists to ask the major US channels draw adequate attention to matters that are of vital concern for American lives. But many are found silent on most occasions. Some are observed busy to attract attention on irrelevant and insignificant issues.

Media activist should encourage even wider access to channels like Al Jazeera that provides objective coverage of critical foreign policy and security issues, while many US media organs tiptoe around issues in fear of not to over step their boundaries. If all is well (as some wish to portray) then how come US is going to face such high cost and its even higher consequences as the following example suggests:

A recent example best illustrates of what the American viewers miss out if their right to have alternate sources of information are continued to be denied. One wonders how many viewers in USA watched "Daylight Robbery" aired on BBC One on 10 June 2008?

This episode in the Panorama serial investigates claims that as much as $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or not properly accounted for in Iraq.

The programme had many revealing references on the fact when the US goes to war, corporate America goes too. "There are contracts for caterers, tanker drivers, security guards and even interrogators, many of them through companies with links to the White House."

"Now more than 70 whistleblower cases threaten to reveal the scandals behind billions of dollars worth of waste, theft and corruption during the Iraq war."

"A total of $23bn (£11.75bn) is under scrutiny. The US justice department has imposed gagging orders which prevent the real scale of the problem emerging."

Had American tax payers an easy access to alternate information sources such as AL Jazeera it wouldn’t have taken them several long years to question the wisdom of the “cakewalk” bunch i.e. the likes of Ken Adelmen who misled the American media by claiming “measured by any cost-benefit analysis, such an operation would constitute the greatest victory in America’s war on terrorism.”

Thus encouraging and embracing alternate sources of media has become increasingly important at a time when many US media organs tiptoe around issues in fear of overstepping their boundaries.

By denying the option for diversity, those who call for restricting plurality of opinion deprive the US audience to judge the facts for themselves. It is the absence of and NOT presence of an accountable media that is injurious to American interest.