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Fox News Promotes Phony Documentary Attacking Rival News Network

Reported by Judy - May 23, 2006

Fox News, which prides itself on being the mouthpiece for the American government, cannot stand the thought of a news channel that is cozy with government, if that government is an Arab one. The hypocrisy of the official White House news channel was on full display on Monday (May 21, 2006) when "Dayside" featured a "documentary" on Al-Jazeera made by a right-wing media critic.

The "documentary" titled Terror Television: The Rise of Al-Jazeera and the Hate America Media was made by Cliff Kincaid. "Dayside" co-hosts Mike Jerrick and Juliet Huddy never bothered to identify Kincaid beyond his name, but according to the chyron, he works for a group called Accuracy in Media, a far right organization that helped created the phony impression over the last 30 years that American journalists are liberals in league with the Democratic party.

As Media Matters has pointed out, Kincaid and AIM are known for:

--Standing up for Yugoslavian leader and accused war criminal Slobodan Milosevic.
--Falsely claiming that the "liberal-dominated" White House press corps started the controversy over Jeff Gannon because one of his reports was picked up by Rush Limbaugh.
--Starting the phony allegatiion that officials of the U.N. thought the U.S. was being "stingy" in responding to the Asian tsunami disaster, when in fact the comment by one U.N. official referred to Western nations as a whole and did not single out the U.S.
--Falsely claiming that Democrats had written a memo describing the Terri Schiavo case as a "great political issue" for Senate Republicans, even though Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida admitted his aide had written it.
--Suggesting Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff to be extradicted to Afghanistan after an article he wrote regarding Quaran abuse by prison guards at Guantanamo Bay was retracted. Kincaid claimed the article touched off deadly riots in Afghanistan, even though Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Richard Myers and Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the incidents were not related to the article.
--Accused Howard Dean of using young people as "sexual guinea pigs" and claimed he "implemented the homosexual agenda" in Vermont.

Enough about his credentials regarding accuracy. Now to his "documentary." Kincaid claimed to have "proof" that Al-Jazeera was encouraging terrorists to come to Iraq and kill Americans. According to a transcript of the "documentary," the proof is actually an NBC News report by Lisa Myers in which some terrorists captured in Iraq said "they came to Iraq to kill Americans 'because of pictures on Arab television network Al-Jazeera.'" So Kincaid's great investigative coup was to watch NBC News. That video hardly proves Al-Jazeera is promoting terrorism. If someone saw pictures of the Twin Towers attack on CBS News and was motivated to join the marines, does that make CBS News a recruiting agent for the U.S. government? Hardly.

Much of the "documentary" is speculation and innuendo. Take this gem: "But Al Jazeera has never completely explained why its first managing director, Mohammed Jassem al-Ali, was let go. (Video of alhurrah footage). No reason was given for the dismissal. Under the circumstances, it was impossible to stop speculation that Al Ali was, in fact, receiving support from Saddam's government." Speculation that is impossible to stop -- especially if you're the one doing the speculating -- is proof in Kincaid's mind.

Then there's this leap of logic: "But if Al-Jazeera is in fact an enemy propaganda organ, isn't America justified in bombing it?" Kincaid never mentions that the U.S. did in fact bomb Al-Jazeera headquarters in Baghdad during the invasion, killing one staff person.

Kincaid appeals to his right-wing audience's prejudices by attacking Al-Jazeera's owner, the government of Qatar, which he calls "an undemocratic regime which doesn’t tolerate internal dissent but which poses as a friend of America. This is one of the richest Arab oil gulf states." In other words, they've got our oil and are selling it to us instead of giving it to us for free like they would if they really were our friends. Never mind the fact that, as even Kincaid is forced to admit, "Qatar was the base for coalition military operations in Iraq." They can't be trusted because they sponsor an Arab television network.

Kincaid uses his "documentary" to attack Al-Jazeera's plans to expand with Al-Jazeera International, an English-language version that will broadcast from four points around the globe -- the Middle East, Europe, the U.S., and the Pacific Rim -- to provide a variety of perspectives on events. It's a bold experiment in bringing international news to the people of the Arab world.

David Marash, formerly with ABC's "Nightline," has taken a job with Al-Jazeera International and appeared alongside Kincaid to rebut his documentary. Marash insisted on the independence of the new operation from the older Al-Jazeera.

"Beating us with the stick of (Al-Jazeera) Arabic makes about as much sense as beating Fox News for the problems that the Murdoch-owned Star Channel has had being caught in bed basically with programming decisions made by the Beiging government and Communist China. That’s got nothing to do with you” and Al Jazeera Arabic has nothing to do with the new channel, he said.

Kincaid, however, is positive that once Arabs in the U.S. can watch Al-Jazeera on their television sets in English instead of Arabic, they will turn into killers like the student in North Carolina who plowed into a group of students with an SUV. As Kincaid says in his "documentary," "Cases like this could multiply once Al-Jazeera International starts broadcasting into the U.S. The next time, the SUV could be a suicide bomb." Or a mushroom cloud? Doesn't that sound familiar.

The uncomfortable truth is that young Arab Muslims have plenty of reasons to dislike the U.S. All they have to do is look at the situation of the Palestinians and their treatment at the hands of Israel to feel plenty of outrage. And the terrorists in Iraq? Relatively few of them are imported. The locals don't need television to tell them that they don't want Americans there. The violence and bloodshed is so widespread there that few families have been unscathed. Watching your neighbor get blown up is enough to radicalize anybody.

While Fox News technically presented a "balanced" story on the documentary, the more fundamental question is why they chose to publicize the documentary at all. It is based on a flimsy premise, has little actual documentation, was made by someone whose credentials are suspect and who has a known ideological bias. The only reason to publicize it is if you agree with its biases because it certainly is not a professional piece.

For a more balanced look at Al-Jazeera, consider Control Room, made by Jehane Noujaim, an Egyptian-American. While sympathetic to Al-Jazeera, the film portrays the network as pro-Arab but not unreasonably so. At one point, for example, an Al-Jazeera reporter makes the point that the U.S. expects to be a superpower that can bomb and invade any country it chooses, yet still expects to be liked by everyone.

Overall, Al Jazeera staff come off as just a bunch of journalists. They interview U.S. Centcom officials alongside members of the British and American press, and they have informal chats with Centcom press officers, who seem to treat them like the other journalists. Certainly some shed tears when they see U.S. tanks in Baghdad, but who wouldn't feel sorry to see their country invaded? Abd they also cried the day the U.S. bombed their Baghdad offices, killing one person, even though they had told the U.S. military where they were located.

And they offer some perspectives that American reporters miss because they are Arabs. During the staged pull-down of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad, an Al-Jazeera reporter notes that those on the scene did not have Iraqi accents, that the Iraqi flag they waved was a pre-1991 flag, and that they arrived with the U.S. tanks, rather than streaming from nearby houses to join the celebration.

In other words, they are much more skeptical of American military sources than the U.S. press was at the time. That doesn't make them terrorists, only journalists. Kincaid can't tell the difference.

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