Domestic Propaganda: NY Times Puffs Al Jazeera America's U.S. News Focus

The New York Times’ Brian Stelter is super-excited about the debut of Al Jazeera America sometime later this summer. He’s especially enthused that AJA “wants to be American through and through,” and is “aiming to have virtually all of its programming originate from the United States.”

And that makes sense. Even Stelter, a fan-boy of all things Al Jazeera, must realize that pre-martyrdom farewell videos and discussions of exactly how satanic the United States really is won’t play in Peoria.

Al Jazeera, bank-rolled by the emir of Qatar and based in Doha, used $500 million petro-dollars to buy Current TV from Al Gore back in January. At the time, according to Stelter, it planned to produce just 60 percent of AJA’s programming in the United States. The rest would come from its existing propaganda channels Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English. 

The network has since rethought that plan. Stelter quoted Al Jazeera executive Ehab Al Shihabi as saying it “will be an American news channel that broadcasts news of interest and importance to its American audience.” 

That’s probably for the best. “The Arabic-language Al Jazeera was condemned by the American government a decade ago for broadcasting videotapes from Osama bin Laden and other materials deemed to be terrorist propaganda,” Stelter wrote. But that doesn’t begin to scrape Al Jazeera’s toxic surface. Here’s a brief sampling of the organization’s greatest hits:

  • In 2006, CNN’s Frank Sesno interviewed Al Jazeera talk show host (and former CNN International journalist) Riz Kahn. Sensno asked Kahn if Hamas is a terrorist organization. “I’m not one to judge,” Kahn demurred. Hezbollah? Sesno asked. “Same thing, you know, I'm not going to judge.”
  • In the midst of the “Arab Spring” celebrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Feb. 11, 2011, some 200 men sexually assaulted CBS correspondent Lara Logan. AJE, which was credited by Western liberals for its ubiquitous and even activist coverage of the uprising, completely ignored the crime. Called out by liberal Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, AJE responded that it “believes, as a general rule,” that journalists “are not the story.” Capehart pointed to an AJE article proving the opposite.
  • Also in 2011, in the Israeli settlement of Itamar, someone stabbed to death five members of a Jewish family as they slept. Among the dead were three children, including an infant. The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack, but there was celebration in the Gaza Strip. A search of AJE's website for the Itama murders turned up no report on the murders themselves, and just two stories about Israeli reaction to the crime.
  • In 1979, Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar was imprisoned for shooting an Israeli civilian in front of the man's four-year-old daughter and then bashing in her head with his rifle. In 2008, Al Jazeera threw a televised birthday party for Kuntar, then newly released from prison in a prisoner exchange. Amid the cake and fireworks, an Al Jazeera interviewer told Kuntar, “You deserve even more than this.”
  • A stroll through the opinion section of Al Jazeera’s on Jan. 3, 2013, turned up an accusation the U.S. is “Reviving the Cold War,” that Westerners promote “The Myth of the Murderous Muslim,” that American “oligarchs” love guns but hate “America's already notoriously weak and undersized welfare state,” and, thankfully, that “Theatre of the Oppressed is found everywhere, providing possibilities for restorative justice from Los Angeles to Guatemala.” In other words, it’s chock full of warmed over Marxism, post-colonial twaddle and left-wing sophistry.

So instead of The Beheading Channel, AJA is looking to be a more conventional liberal news outlet. “It will, in other words, operate much like CNN (though the employees say they won’t be as sensational) and Fox News (though they say they won’t be opinion-driven),” Stelter wrote in a May 26 Times article. 

“Al Jazeera,” he said, “is coming to America to supply old-fashioned, boots-on-the-ground news coverage to a country that doesn’t have enough of it.” And old-fashioned liberal groupthink and conventional wisdom to a country that has more than enough: “New employees are being added to the rolls every weekday from places like CNN, ‘Frontline’ and Time magazine,” according to Stelter. 

And they’re getting right to work, Stelter assured readers. “Some are already rehearsing with mock newscasts. Others are fanning out to report news stories from parts of the country rarely visited by camera crews. Still others are setting up new studios in New York, where the channel will have a home inside the New Yorker Hotel, and in Washington.” 

Bracing stuff. But not for everyone. Your hard-core jihadist will still have to turn to Al Jazeera Arabic or English for inspirational video of terrorists killing American soldiers.

Matthew Philbin
Matthew Philbin
Matt Philbin is Managing Editor of MRC Culture