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Get Ready for Al Jazeera America

Posted By Mary Grabar On August 19, 2013 @ 12:30 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 19 Comments

If you thought Walter Cronkite was bad with his broadcasts that propagandized against American efforts during the Vietnam War, get ready for Al Jazeera America.  You may be getting it on your cable provider along with 40 million other American households beginning on August 20, 2013.

Al Jazeera, the state propaganda arm of the dictatorial Qatar government is known for stirring up Al Qaeda with images of Osama bin Laden around the time of 9/11.  More recently, it cheered the overthrow of the Egyptian government and ignored the sexual assault of CBS news correspondent Lara Logan as she covered protests there. The headquarters are to be in our nation’s capitol, at the non-profit Newseum center, even though its operations violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act because they are not labeled as foreign propaganda (a law enacted to protect us from Nazi propaganda).

Ironically, the largest and oldest professional journalism educators’ association, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), enjoyed the participation of Al Jazeera in several panels and events at their annual meeting earlier this month.

Two of these events have been recorded by Cliff Kincaid.  One presentation by William Youmans, Assistant Professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington, concerned “the discourse of terrorism.”

Youmans, as the tape reveals, was formerly Civil Rights and Media Relations Manager at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and a Research Fellow for Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont.  Fellow academics listened respectfully as Youmans performed an academic sleight-of-hand, using the post-modern tricks of the trade to make the case for eliminating the word “terrorism.” He questioned definitions (“Terrorism is notoriously difficult to define” with “ambiguities” and “institutional definitions” that exclude “state terrorism”), used moral equivalence (questioning why the word terrorism was used for the 2013 Boston Marathon attack and not for the Sikh temple shooting at Oak Creek, Wisconsin, by a lone gunman), made claims of discrimination (the “racialization” of Arabs and Muslims), and charged Americans with militarism (“policy outcomes” of “hawkishness”).

In another video, of a panel called “News Coverage of Terrorism,” moderated by Walter Cronkite School of Journalism professor Bill Silcock, Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera replied to Kincaid’s questions about Al Jazeera’s funding also with moral equivalence.  He claimed that no journalist can ever claim independence whether in a “dictatorship, semi-dictatorship, or democracy. “ He maintained that journalists are equally beholden to their paymasters, whether of a dictatorial regime or the “military-industrial complex” of the United States.  He and the other panelists from various universities seemed to be oblivious, however, to the idea of freedom of the press and the First Amendment, which the Qatar regime does not have.

Most of the professors attending this conference assign textbooks that recount the journalistic high points of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.  They tell students that journalists are brave, principled truth-finders and defenders of the public.  The popular textbook The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel includes at the top of the list of journalistic principles: maintaining independence, monitoring power, being loyal to citizens, and upholding  the truth.

The most highly esteemed prize in journalism, the Pulitzer Prize, is named after the founder of the Columbia School of Journalism, Joseph Pulitzer.  His words are engraved prominently at the school: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together.  An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham. . . .”

But the top-selling media studies textbook, Media & Culture, calls Al Jazeera a legitimate “foreign news bureau.” The authors quote Columbia University President Lee Bollinger in support of this contention.

After losing the presidential election in 2000, Al Gore taught at the Columbia Journalism School.  It was his channel that Al Jazeera bought for $500 million.

Today, the Columbia School of Journalism sends students to Qatar on fellowships from Al Jazeera and recently awarded its top journalism prize to Al Jazeera English.

In an earlier time, an outlet like Al Jazeera would have been met with the same kind of outrage as would have met the institution of Pravda in Washington, D.C.  But education has changed very much, including journalism education.

On the date of Al Jazeera America’s launch, Tuesday, August 20, 2013, America’s Survival is hosting a free and public conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.  I will be joining Cliff Kincaid and will be presenting my report, co-authored with Tina Trent, on the Crisis in Journalism and the Conservative Response that focuses on biased education and alternative journalism education programs.  We will be joined by others, including Grove City College Political Science Professor Paul Kengor and journalists Trevor Loudon and Jerry Kenney.

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