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February 11, 2006



Father of Aardvarks

Sadly, structurally, I think this "crisis" is one of those things broadcast media has a hard time covering "responsibly." And indeed media in general. As I said at 'Aqoul, the headline 60 million Maghrebines don't protest is hohum.

The assumptions were probably already locked in my the political boil - I do not seem any Arabic lang. media successfully floating the idea of the cartoons as not being offensive this late in the game. Feelings have risen too far. The Western hypocrisy angle goes to the same. While overdone on the Arab side, there is of course a grain of truth (the Danish paper's funny incident re the Jesus cartoons, e.g., etc) which makes it too hard not to run. Rather like the inverse, the Arab world's gross hypocrisy when it comes to anti Jewish imagery.

I am personally not sure which angles of looking at this storm of idiocy is most fruitful. Largely, in my sadly addled state, I have been thinking about what I dubbed (partially ripping off Gilles Keppel, but what the hell, I am a businessman, not an intellectual) "the pious middle" and what kinds of communication reaches them. Even floated a sad little reflexion on that.

An open question, what communication reaches them best. Hard core secularism as a principle I do not think does.


Since the cartoon scandal broke out, I have also not been very pleased with the way AlJazeera has been covering it. I'm not one to usually criticize this channel, as it has brought a lot of good to the region. However, on this issue I started to question they way this controversy was presented and continues to make top headlines every hour. In response to your question, "what to make of all this?", I think that AlJazeera recognizes the intensity of feelings across the Arab world regarding this issue and that any small 'slip of the tongue' or phrasing the headline in a different way would really isolate a lot of its viewers. They really have to walk a fine line, but that doesn't mean that they can't really put this up for serious debate.
Another issue that bothered me was watching another show on AlJazeera covering this issue. I think it was "Behind the News" but I can't remember with who or when. In any case, the alJazeera moderator at one point asked the guests what they thought about the idea that the cartoon controversy could be an American/British conspiracy to make themselves look like they were on the side of the Arab/Muslim world for once. In fact, they came out as practically the "good guys" because most US/UK papers didn't publish the cartoons, and it shifted the focus from the war on Iraq and other conflicts to Western Europe, which so far has been on the "good side" of the Arabs in regards to Palestine, and the Iraq war.
I'm not 100% against conspiracy theories (maybe 99%) but I didn't think it was unprofessional to present the question this way. Maybe the moderator could've asked, "how do you see the US/UK benefitting from this issue?" but not with the implication that they had a hand in getting some cartoonists to publish these pictures in Denmark. That's just absurd.

That's just my 2 cents :)
Thanks for your analysis on this issue.

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