Al Jazeera in the US? Al Gore’s “Current TV”

Notice it or not, Al Gore’s ersatz TV network named Current TV is part of the American media.

On Monday, “Current” ran a news-type program, Current Controversy, with one of its post-pubescent male hosts, about “Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre.” The host called this a documentary, and said it had run on an Italian network in November. The analysis began by citing and showing on screen three news sources that had accused the US of using chemical weapons in the battle for Fallujah. Those sources were: Aljazeera.net, the Tehran Times International Edition, and The Independent in the UK Online Edition. As Dave Barry often wrote, I’m not making this up.

Apparently, the editors and reporters at Current are either unaware of, or do not care about, the editorial slants of these three sources. The only one they could miss out of ignorance would be The Independent. But that British rag wears its bash-America policy on its sleeve. Anyone who’s read more than one edition of it would know this.

Immediately, this “news”segment makes the moral equivalency argument. “Now, the United States is accused of doing what we said Saddam Hussein was doing several years ago.” Note that this is accusation against accusation. No mention is made in the piece of the photographs of the 5,000 dead Kurdish men, women and children in the streets of their village. 350,000 residents were ordered to leave the city. “But not everyone did. So, thousands of civilians were then caught in the crossfire between Iraqi insurgents and the American military.”

The shot that this “documentary” began with, is then shown, American planes dropping napalm canisters in Vietnam. The reporter says, “It’s more or less implying that the US has done this before. Is it that hard to picture them doing it again in Iraq?” Then the “documentary” goes into a discussion of white phosphorus. It says that this chemical, called “willy pete” is used to create smoke to hide the movement of troops. It shows a State Department statement that this was used only to create illumination for fighting at night. Then the reporter says that he “contacted the Pentagon” and that “a spokesman there said that they did in fact use white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon to fire at enemy combatants, and that any previous denials were actually a mistake.” He talked to “the Pentagon spokesman a few days later,” and he said that “he’d made a mistake, and white phosphorus was not actually an incendiary weapon, but a smoke weapon.”

The documentary then showed “Jeff Englehart” who was identified as “a former US soldier,” who claimed that he was there, and that “white phosphorus and possibly napalm... were used.” No transcript is available, but this program was carefully TiVo’ed for accurate quotes.

This is enough to get the flavor of this “news” report. The “Pentagon spokesman” is not identified. The unit and place of service of this claimed US soldier are not given. Nor is his position, if any, in the anti-war movement.

Finally, the reporter says that “the images speak for themselves.” But the image shown at that time is slow-descending star shells for night illumination, exactly as phosphorus has been used since WW II. It is hard to believe that any “Pentagon spokesman” would talk with a “reporter” like this. The smell of ignorance and Clearasil should have been strong enough to detect over the phone.

In short, in case anyone else has not noticed, Al Gore’s “Current TV” is in part doing the work of Al Jazeera in the US. The good news is that Gore’s project will shortly burn through its financing and close up shop. In three hours of watching it over two days, I saw only two paid commercials, and an equal number of PSAs. It has almost no earned income. Most of the programming seems keyed to bands no one ever heard of, and their ill-dressed and pre-literate fans. In general, Gore’s “network” seems to be directed at and run by people who believe that the movie “Spinal Tap” was a real documentary about a real band, and they are still waiting for that band’s next album to come out. This is not a source for reliable information on any known subject.

John_Armor@aya.yale.edu