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"Control Room"

controlroom6363dThis evening we went to see "Control Room", a documentary about Al-Jazeera.

This film is a marvelous piece of work that simply shows Al-Jazeera doing their job in Iraq from two days before the US started bombing last year until the tanks took over Baghdad's central square. The filmmaker's sympathy with Al-Jazeera is clear but, unlike "Fahrenheit 911" for example, the bias such as it is is completely subsumed within the documentary form. There is no Michael Moore-style narrator, just interviews and straightforward documentary coverage of what is happening in the Al-Jazeera and CentCom newsrooms. The Americans -- in the form of Donald Rumsfeld, Brigadier-General Brooks, media advisor Lt Rushing, and endless civilian casualties -- are allowed to make the filmakers' points for them.

The conservatives will find everything they need here, too. After all, several of Al-Jazeera's staff were happy to announce that they were not disinterested observers, that they had a specific point of view. But that too must backfire on the Americans. The Al-Jazeera staff are honest about their positions. As one of them says, how many of the US reporters can genuinely say they are unbiased, and yet they pretend to be fair and balanced.

"Fahrenheit 911" is a far more entertaining couple of hours, but I think "Control Room" tells a more interesting story.

August 28, 2004 in America Inc, Iraq, Movies | Permalink


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Al-Jazeera claims to be a legitimate journalistic enterprise, but just with a different point of view than other news networks (not accepting Israel's legitimacy, for instance). In reality, it's a propaganda outlet. When a news network sits on a post-9/11 interview with Osama bin Laden ( http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2002/02/02/al_jazeera/index.html ), broadcasts tapes of hostages being murdered by terrorists except when the hostage dies quite bravely ( towards the end of http://www.nationalreview.com/europress/boyles200404230956.asp ), and hosts a debate on whether Zionism is worse than Nazism ( http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP22501 ), it's obvious that the network is distorting the news far more than any Western news network. Al Jazeerah is a distasteful propaganda mill that panders to some of the worst prejudices of its audience.

Posted by: Peter Caress | Aug 29, 2004 9:19:30 PM

It compares favourably with the mainstream media in the US which was happy to peddle the Bush lies that brought the country to a ruinous war. The major networks and CNN are nothing more than propaganda organs for the American view of the world. Everyone else in the world recognizes that and makes the necessary adjustments when they watch. It is only Americans who think that their precious media is somehow fair and balanced. Boy, such blinkers!

Posted by: Jak King | Aug 29, 2004 9:23:04 PM

I don't pretend that the America media don't have points of view and agendas. I would prefer American media to be forthright about them (like foreign newspapers) instead of pretending to aspire to pristine objectivity. But is anything in America comparable to Al Jazeeera? Has Fox News ever held a debate on whether Islam is worse than Nazism? Has Al Jazeera ever reported that Arab Israelis, while shamefully treated as second class citizens, are nonetheless treated better than any Arab government treats Arabs?

For someone who subscribes to the "Media Monopoly" view of news coverage, you put a lot of faith in a news outlet owned by Qatari emir.

I have no objection to a news network presenting news with a pro-Arab, pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli and anti-American slant. But if I were an Arab who held these viewpoints, I'd still want my news network to be more a lot more honest than Al Jazeera.

Posted by: Peter Caress | Aug 30, 2004 5:10:38 AM