Getting All Respectable

Alessendra Stanley on the rise of Al'Jazeera:


Al Jazeera began its English-language channel in 2006, but since then almost no American cable or satellite operators have carried it; their systems are crowded, and this channel promises plenty of headaches. At the height of the Iraq war, Bush administration officials painted the Arabic-language network Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, as a purveyor of Osama bin Laden videos and complained that its grisly images inflamed anti-American sentiments in the Arab world. It is still viewed by some critics as anti-Israeli and anti-Western. 

The English-language version is more cosmopolitan, offering a non-Western view of world events that is instructive, if not always persuasive. Al Jazeera English is available in more than 100 countries, including Canada, but it is almost totally invisible in the United States -- except on cable providers in Burlington, Vt.; Toledo, Ohio; and Washington. 

Until recently demand was pretty low. But the tumult, first in Tunisia and now in Egypt, has piqued interest in the channel that is providing total-immersion coverage of news events the whole world is talking about. Al Jazeera's images have been so key to spreading the flame of protest that the Egyptian government closed the network's Cairo bureau, detained six reporters (later released) and tried to block its signal. (Al Jazeera English, also known as A.J.E., has had fewer troubles.)

Somewhat related, in comments a few days ago, I mentioned turning on Meet The Press and seeing Harold Ford and Mike Murphy discuss the tumult in Egypt. Both were articulate, inoffensive and cogent. It seemed as though they'd read all the requisite Brookings reports. But I kept thinking that while I'd really value Harold Ford's estimation of, say, Tennessee politics, or Mike Murphy's take on the ins and outs of a presidential campaign, why are they speaking about Egypt? Isn't there some Harvard egghead who's been studying this for decades, and is--right now--chomping at the bit to get over there?

Anyway, several commenters pointed to Al'Jazeera as the antidote. I've been told CNN is doing well.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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