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May 31, 2004

Go See "Control Room"

I saw Control Room, the documentary about the Arab news network Al Jazeera, this weekend. It was stunning.

The anchors and writers for the television network are clearly biased against the US invasion, and they make few bones about this fact. But then, they ask, aren't all the US networks supportive of the US? What's the difference? Isn't "objectivity" a crock?

But that doesn't mean there are no standards. When asked what is the purpose of Al Jazeera, an executive producers says it's showing the truth. Turth is of course biased, but there is at least one clear injunction in that for journalists.

Don't withhold information you know happened.

Al Jazeera passed that test. The US networks failed.

It was Al Jazeera that showed the results of US bombing-- the dead and crippled-- and the deaths of Americans themselves once they invaded. And they showed US soldiers threatening families as they went door to door.

They also showed the other side, the US military side, where they were willing to broadcast statements by the US government as to why everything was happening. As one top US official admits in the documentary, Al Jazeera was willing to broadcase almost any statement they gave them.

Yet Al Jazeera was accused of being deceptive.

Because it didn't censor images unflattering to the US.

Images that the US media, as if they were state-controlled media, dutifully refused to run as part of the war effort.

Who served truth?

Al Jazeera, whatever their bias, at least ran information from both sides of the argument.

The roots of torture at Abu Ghraib can be seen in this documentary, as US reporters refused to ask tough questions and instead became stenographers for Donald Rumsfeld.

At one point, Donald Rumsfeld attacks Al Jazeera, saying of them, once someone starts lying, how can you ever take them seriously.

The crowd in my New York theater, a few blocks from Ground Zero, began laughing derisively.

Yes, Don, how can we take you seriously?

Posted by Nathan at May 31, 2004 09:07 AM