MEDIA BIAS

MEDIA BIAS: Chris Suellentrop makes the amusing if absurd argument that Al Jazeera is no more biased than American networks:

So, it’s not as if Al Jazeera has morphed into the news as told by Lee Greenwood. Or even that Al Jazeera has morphed into CNN. Rather, it’s fairer to say that since the war began, CNN—and American TV news in general—has become more like Al Jazeera. To those who have tarred him as pro-war and pro-administration, CNN’s Aaron Brown replied: “I think there is some truth in it.” Fox’s Neil Cavuto was blunter: “You say I wear my biases on my sleeve? Better that than pretend you have none, but show them clearly in your work.” Cavuto’s comments echo a statement made by Al Jazeera’s Ramallah correspondent to 60 Minutes in May 2001 about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “To be objective in this area is not easy because we live here. We are part of the people here. And this situation belongs to us also, and we have our opinions.”

American TV news has always presented an American perspective, just as Al Jazeera presents an Arab perspective. But in wartime, the American slant has become more obvious, and as a result Al Jazeera’s Arab slant has become less objectionable.

Well. . . no. While it is certainly true that American television reporters are biased, the difference in degree is sufficient to make it a difference in kind. Yes, Fox cheerleads for the war effort. That’s less true of CNN but, yes, most of their reporters would obviously prefer that Americans win the war and that American soldiers not get killed. But they also make quite an effort to find out the truth. They challenge the Administration position. They ask tough questions. They report information that’s damaging to the US propaganda spin. Suellentrop half-heartedly alludes to this, saying

This is not to say that Al Jazeera and American TV news are equivalents. For one thing, Al Jazeera still receives funding from the monarchical government of Qatar, and even fans like El-Nawawy rap Al Jazeera for refraining from tough coverage—or any coverage—of Qatari politics. But Al Jazeera, with its Fox-like slogan “The opinion and the other opinion,” is the closest thing the Arab world has to an independent press.

Perhaps. But that’s not saying much.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.