Fox News Popular in Saudi Arabia, Liberal Journalists Baffled

A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks has revealed that American television programming is making strides in the war of ideas against Islamic radicalism that far outpace any American government-backed programming in the Arab world.

A favorite among Saudis, according to the UK Guardian, is a TV channel called Rotana, which is partially owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. And yes, Rotana does broadcast the Fox News Channel.

That last fact really stumped the Guardian and CBS News. The former called it "particularly surprising," given that FNC "takes a hard line against Islamic radicalism and has strongly supported US military intervention in the Middle East."

CBS had this to say about the apparent popularity of Fox News in Saudi Arabia:

…it's something of a surprise that [Saudis] enjoy watching Fox News programming. American critics of Fox News have accused it of pushing a right-wing, anti-Islam agenda.

It's only a surprise if you accept that Fox does in fact push an "anti-Islam agenda." CBS is surprised, so clearly they share that view.

But then, American media have been quicker to see an "anti-Islam agenda" than even Arabs have! During the contentious debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque, survey data showed that Arabs were, on the whole, more opposed to the construction of the mosque than the three American news networks.

A majority of network soundbites (55 percent) came down on the pro-mosque side of that debate, according to a Media Research Center study. In contrast, a poll taken by an Arab news service found that 58 percent of respondents think the mosque should be moved elsewhere.

Furthermore, as I wrote at the time:

The MRC study also found that on the question of whether opposition to the mosque demonstrated a widely held "Islamophobia" among Americans, 93 percent of network news soundbites answered in the affirmative. In contrast, when asked whether the United States is a "tolerant" or "bigoted" society, 63 percent of Elaph respondents chose the former.

CBS's surprise is, well, unsurprising. When you're more disposed to see a conspiracy of bigots than the supposed targets of their bigotry, it's time to check your premises.