Green Room

Hillary Clinton: Al Jazerra shaming US media

posted at 10:42 am on March 3, 2011 by

In a defense of the State Department budget, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says “we are in an information war and we’re losing that war”.

Further, Clinton claimed that the private media isn’t up to the task of winning it saying, “Our private media cannot fill that gap”.

The message – we need more money for government propaganda and media.

Of course the point to be made here is the “information war” Clinton is talking about has nothing whatsoever to do with private news channels and how well they’re covering the news.

However, she then goes on to cite a private media network as “winning”:

“Al Jazeera is winning. The Chinese have opened up a global English language and multi-language television network, the Russians have opened up an English language network. I’ve seen it in a couple of countries and it’s quite instructive.”

There is a place (and need) for government propaganda and it isn’t on a private media network (although in some cases you’d be hard pressed to believe that given that some of our private news networks seem to be entities dedicated to the unquestioning republishing of government press releases).  So propaganda operations should be conducted via government means – many of which are in place today.

Clinton seems to be calling for a government news network to compete with other government news networks (Russian and Chinese).  Yet she uses Al Jazeera as the example of who is winning the “information war”.

True, Al Jazeera is kicking butt in the coverage of the Middle East and N. Africa.   If you haven’t checked out their live blogs, you’re missing the inside scoop.  For instance did you know that Hugo Chavez has offered to mediate the crisis in Libya and Gadhafi has accepted (I’m not sure what that means, since there is no mention of the other side in this mediation, but still).

But Clinton is doing a little bait and switch – Al Jazeera (private) is kicking the US (private) media’s rear when it comes to ME coverage, the US media (private) is not up to the job, therefore we need more money to set up a government outlet (what?).

Yeah, nothing could go wrong with that, could it?

And again, more government (and more spending) is the answer to a perceived private sector failure (Al Jazeera is located in the ME – that’s their beat) that really has nothing to do with a government “information war”.

Of course all of this sort of depends on how you define the function of a news organization, doesn’t it?   Sounds to me that Ms. Clinton thinks they should be “aiding and abetting” government in the functions it deems important – like propaganda.  And they should be covering the stories she deems important.  She’s not at all pleased with how the media here has covered the news in the Middle East apparently.  But again, that has nothing to do with an “information war” as she’s framing it.

“Our private media, particularly cultural programming often works at counter purposes to what we truly are as Americans. I remember having an Afghan general tell me that the only thing he thought about Americans is that all the men wrestled and the women walked around in bikinis because the only TV he ever saw was Baywatch and World Wide Wrestling.”

Finally – the crux of the problem as she sees it.  Because some Afghan general prefers to see grown men wrestle and beautiful women prance around in bikinis, our private media is deficient and presents a picture that is at “counter purposes to what we truly are as Americans”. Sounds like someone really, really, really wants a government propaganda channel set up so we can present what we “truly are as Americans”. My bet, though, is that Afghan general will still be watching wrestling and bikinis when all is said and done … and spent.

She’s right about one thing though – Al Jezerra is still kicking our media’s butt when it comes to coverage of the current turmoil in the Middle East.

Bruce McQuain blogs at Questions and Observations (QandO), Blackfive, the Washington Examiner and the Green Room.  Twitter: @McQandO

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I thought Al Jazeera was the state network for the Arab kingdom it’s based in.

Count to 10 on March 3, 2011 at 10:51 AM

In other news:

Hillary Shaming America

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 10:52 AM

I thought Al Jazeera was the state network for the Arab kingdom it’s based in.

Count to 10 on March 3, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Nope. It’s a channel based in Qatar, of interest to anyone who speaks Arabic. Personally, I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the vast majority of the worlds Arabic speakers are Muslim.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 10:53 AM

Hillary, amazingly, is right on part of this. We should have been and should still be producing pro-Western, pro-American, pro-modernity programming in Arabic (and Farsi for the Persians) for the last three decades, at least, and broadcasting it 24/7 to all of the Middle East and surrounding areas.

Most of what these guys get on a daily basis is anti-American, anti-Western, stridently anti-Israeli, and basically anti-civilizational dogma from the clerics and the bad actors with their state-run media. Al-Jazeera, to its credit, is more fair-minded and non-partisan than just about any other source in the region, excluding satellite feeds. This is not to say that they aren’t propagandists; they are, but not as blatantly as the rest.

hillbillyjim on March 3, 2011 at 11:03 PM

Al Jazeera is owned by the Emir of Qatar, i.e. by the local dictator. It’s not a private company by any reasonable definition.

NORUK on March 4, 2011 at 2:29 AM

Is it even possible to shame the US media?

PersonFromPorlock on March 4, 2011 at 9:48 AM