Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Land of the sloths

(Anyone, besides my sister, remember the Kroft Superstars show, "Land of the Lost"? Chaka, this post is for you)

Back in the saddle again. I was under the weather earlier this week - got really rundown, between the cold temps and stress at work - so I went home early on Tuesday, judiciously stocking up on DVDs and a few work projects in case I stayed home from work on Wednesday. Which I did. I did a little editing, a lot of laundry, and got caught up on my naps.

I also finally got to see, in addition to Sex and the City's season 6 and Curb your Enthusiasm's season 2, the documentary "Control Room." I realize I'm a day late and a dollar short on this one, since it's so 2004, but I still need to ruminate about it.

"Control Room" is about al-Jazeera. It was filmed, fortuitously enough, in the spring of 2003. It was fascinating to watch them going about their business and trying to show the other side of the story. Of course you have some anti-American sentiment - one particularly telling part was when an American journalist was interviewing someone from al-Jazeera and got them to admit that their employees came into stories with a bias. But then again, one of their employees asked if there were any Americans who weren't coming into the war with a bias either. Touche.

One of the stars of the documentary was a very earnest, very sweet Lt. Rushing from CENTCOM. He was so anxious to provide information and to explain that the United States' intentions were honorable, he was just adorable. In fact, one of al-Jazeera's journalists said that it was a good thing he wasn't a woman or else he'd fall in love with the lieutenant. People like Rushing restore my faith in the U.S. military, that there are solid and good people involved in it. Then you read follow-up stories where Rushing is getting reprimanded for having been too accessible and open. Doesn't the Pentagon realize that the more information is out there, the less misinformation there is to have to combat?

Another aspect I found interesting and that Rushing touched upon was that practically no Americans link the Palestinian conflict with the situation in Iraq, while in the Arab world the two might as well be the same thing. That's something that our people have to keep in mind when dealing with foreign media. And, pretty apropos, given how watching the news these days you're likely to see black-hooded faces throwing rocks at tanks which could be American or Israeli.

Finally, one part which I'd forgotten was April 8, 2003, when U.S. aircraft targeted al-Jazeera's building, Abu Dhabi TV's building, and the hotel where a bunch of reporters were staying in Baghdad. Three journalists were killed, one of whom worked for al-Jazeera and in fact had been on their roof shortly before the aircraft launched its attack. I vaguely remember hearing about this at the time but it was so quickly overshadowed by Baghdad falling the next day that it didn't stick. Reminiscent of the time in Serbia where China's embassy got hit, TWICE, in two mistaken incidents by U.S. bombs. Not getting all conspiracy theory on y'all, and I fully understand that mistakes happen in the fog of war, but damn. Not good at all.

I wish they'd focused a bit more on how Arab governments also condemn al-Jazeera for being a mouthpiece of the Americans. They did mention that slightly but I think that it proves a point: if both sides are unhappy with you, you must be doing something right. The darling Lt. Rushing made a good point, one which I've long believed, in that al-Jazeera plays up to Arab nationalism, just as Fox News plays up to American jingoism. That reminded me of, of course, the Simpsons, where there's a media circus and the Fox News truck comes in as a huge semi-trailer, blaring Queen's "We are the champions" and emblazoned with a huge "Bush-Cheney 2004" poster on its side. Doesn't it always come back to the Simpsons?

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