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The right’s bigoted crusade against Al Jazeera America

August 29, 2013

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(Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

(Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

“The Muslims are coming!” That is the tongue-in-cheek name of a new documentary by Muslim comedians. But it is also the deadly serious shriek echoing through the American right in response to the launch of Al Jazeera America. Like Dr. Emmett Brown’s distraught warning that bazooka-wielding Arab terrorists are stalking the palatial suburbs (“The Libyans!”),conservatives are in a full-on frenzy, insinuating that Al Jazeera’s entry into the U.S. cable television market is akin to an invasion by a foreign menace and, thus, represents an existential threat to U.S. national security.

Before getting to some juicier hypocrisy, let’s first ponder an obvious question: Are these Islamophobes living in the 21st century? Because I get the sense they’re still stuck somewhere in the early 1980s, not just because they seem to see the world as a cartoonish mashup of “Delta Force” and “Red Dawn,” but also because they apparently haven’t yet heard of that little thing called the Internet.

Had they known of that complex and now-ubiquitous network of computers, they might know that most Americans can already expose themselves to news from foreign Muslim-owned media organizations 24-7. Indeed, because the Internet is inherently boundary-less, that includes everything from the esteemed Al Jazeera English, which is widely recognized as a responsible news outlet, to Al Manar, the media organization the U.S. Treasury Department has called an “arm of the Hizballah terrorist network” — and everything in between.

Now, to the hypocrisy: If the jingoistic anti-Al Jazeera saber rattlers are so angry about media outlets with foreign owners coming to the United States, where is their outrage when it comes to similar media-expansion efforts by entities connected to other countries?

For example, Australian citizen Rupert Murdoch began buying up major American newspapers like the San Antonio News-Express and the New York Post. Murdoch only became a U.S. citizen in 1985 — and that was in order to circumvent U.S. statutes restricting the amount of media a single foreign owner can control. Why aren’t the anti-Al Jazeera jingoists expressing concern that Murdoch represents a dangerous foreign infiltration of the U.S. media market?

Murdoch owns News Corp., and one of his most powerful co-owners is none other than Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who owns the largest amount of company stock next to Murdoch. Considering the rhetoric about Al Jazeera America, why haven’t we once again seen an effort by conservatives to insinuate that this means that their beloved conservative Fox News is actually a secret plot by Muslims to conquer America?

Then there is the Washington Times. In 1982, South Korean religious leader Sun Myung Moon created the newspaper, making it of the two major broadsheets in the nation’s capital. Moon’s Korea-based church has run the conservative publication for almost three decades, and nowplans an expansion into cable television. Why aren’t the same conservatives who are slamming Al Jazeera America also slamming the Washington Times? If they are insisting that Al Jazeera America is an unacceptable attempt by Islam to take over America, why aren’t they pointing to the Unification Church’s missionary history and claiming that the Times is an equally unacceptable attempt by that religion to take over America?

Considering the difference between the conservative reaction to Al Jazeera and the conservative reaction to these other outlets, could it be that something else is really going on? Could it be that the criticism of Al Jazeera America isn’t about legitimate national security concerns or about some general fear of foreigners, but instead about both promoting conservative political ideology and about selective and specific religious persecution?

The answer is clearly “yes.”

Quite obviously, this is the right’s attempt to try to preemptively discredit a new news organization that — at least so far — seems determined to avoid parroting right-wing talking points. That defiance makes the outlet a threat to the right, and so it is being attacked.

Additionally, in a society where the ugliest Islamophobia is still pervasive, the right wing is also using the launch of Al Jazeera America as yet another excuse to manufacture a spectacle of anti-Muslim bigotry and to vilify anything with ties to Muslims — even a news organization whose international branch has won esteemed awards for its objective journalism. Read more at Salon.

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