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Feb 01 2011

The revolution will be streamed

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Originally posted at The Great Orange Satan.

Welcome to the future.

For the past week, the citizens of Egypt have been protesting and calling for their “president” of 30 years to step down. And yes, there is a lot more to the story.  

But there is a bigger story here. Consider this: What have you really learned about the protests in Egypt (and Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Jordan and Lebanon) from the US media?

Let’s consider that.

To back up for a second, I am just old enough to remember CNN — previously derided as the “Chicken Noodle Network — mature during the first Gulf War. Sure, most times you turned it on, you would probably see reruns of a batch of happy jackasses journalists laughing about “the luckiest man in Iraq.” The point is CNN established itself as the go-to network for all current news from Iraq. For a different perspective about how the elder Bush sold the first invasion of Iraq more effectively than his boy, take 23 minutes and watch this.

Two years earlier, CNN and the networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) gave us a fair picture of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. We even got decent coverage of the democracy movement in China. (My full thoughts on the Tank Man are here.) China cut off CNN’s coverage not long after that. Keep that historic sign off in mind. I’ll get back to it.

One Al Jazeera to rule them all

Al Jazeera wiki

AljazeeralogoThe television station was created in 1996 and largely funded by the royal family of Qatar. You probably first heard of Al Jazeera after the September 11 attacks when they broadcast some of Osama bin Laden’s justifications for the attack. Prior to that, the U.S. government had praised Al Jazeera as an independent voice from the Middle East.

Here in Washington DC, we get the station as part of a cable package, but you probably don’t.

Naturally, the State Department was just fine with AJ as long as they toed the line (i.e. didn’t say anything too critical of U.S. foreign policy). They became media non grata when they tried to put events into perspective, which could have ruined the narrative. To wit: they broadcast Osama bin Laden’s videos. Just imagine the attackers having actual legitimate grievances! Oh the humanity!

Now Al Jazeera is back. On Friday, their website saw a spike in activity of 2500 percent. Half of that came from the United States. The live stream is here.

On Saturday, the government of Egypt went ahead and shut down AJ’s office in Cairo. The first word went out on Twitter:


RT @nolanjazeera: #Egypt state TV reporting Aljazeera office in #Cairo is to be shut down today. Licenses revoked #Jan25

Dan Nolan followed that up with this assurance.

RT @nolanjazeera: Don’t worry we’ll still report what’s happening in #Egypt no matter what new restrictions they put on us. #Jan25

Nolan’s and other reporters’ Twitter streams indicated that some Egyptian security officers shut down the offices. They also indicated that AJ was the only station being shut down, presumably because the station was drawing international attention to the crisis. They weren’t going to let a little thing like lack of media credentials or an office stop them from doing their jobs.

Now that’s some moxie. This is hardly the first time a tyrant has shut down Al Jazeera. Typically, dictators don’t like a media spotlight on their tyranny and it is an heroic act to keep broadcasting — and that is exactly what AJ has done, though they have been withholding the names of their reporters when they call in to give live updates. They didn’t just up and leave when the government told them too. (Granted, the security situations were vastly different, but the AJ folks showed some real backbone on Saturday.)

One of my journalism professors used to say, “If you are not pissing someone off, you are not doing your job.”

Or as I said on Twitter:


RT @CasualWednesday: Shutting down the free press is a tyrant’s act of desperation. #Egypt

So while we are having our well-deserved love affair with Al Jazeera, exactly why are we having it? Let’s look at the U.S. networks.

CNN: A bucket of meh

cnnRemember them? Once upon a time, CNN was THE standard in news. This is going back a while, but here is a comparison between the websites of CNN and Al Jazeera one day.

Note: Graphic found here: Since When Did CNN Start Covering News?

Now in fairness, CNN has been reporting from Egypt, but they have been a bit behind the curve. I Tweeted early in the morning Jan. 28 that their website had a total news black out on anything about Egypt. Never mind that the protests have been going on since Jan. 25.

CNN also has people on the ground, but a random check on CNN is just as likely to turn up Wolf Blitzer interviewing some inside-the-beltway neo-con “expert” as someone on the ground who had some idea what he/she was talking about.

Update: Thanks to a daily kos commenter for this comment:

They had pretty good news coverage once the protests had already been mostly protested. I noticed throughout the day that the narrative went from “The people protesting the tyrant” to “The people looking for an excuse to fuck shit up.”

And I saw a similar narrative out of Fox, just with more focus on the “looters.” What this does is decreases support for the people and serves to build sympathy for the regime, which quite frankly probably tortured people for us.

Final analysis: Not bad, but try harder.

Fox “News”: keeping those ironic quotes honest

Fox News LogoWhat else can I say? I just caught Geraldo “Al Capone’s Vault” Rivera pushing this narrative:

ZOMFG! We can’t let them have democracy! A majority might elect a government that doesn’t like American neo-cons! And they will be Muslims and all Muslims are extremists! Bomb them! Long Live Mubarak! Sure. he’s an asshole, but he’s our asshole.

I’ll give Fox “News” credit for always getting the dramatic war footage. It could have something to do with their toadying up to neo-cons who have an open mic there.

But never fear. Fox News remains as fact free as normal. For one thing, Egypt’s Muslims and Christians have been getting along just fine lately, thank you very much. For another thing, the Muslim Brotherhood — who has made Fox News, Free Republic, et al poop their britches — are not particularly extremist nor are they particularly likely to end up in control of whatever government emerges. In fact, that characterization is something the Mubarak regime has sold the West in an effort to keep that $1.3 billion in foreign aid rolling in.

Besides, the United States has been electing people even more extreme than the Muslim Brotherhood since the beginning of the Republic — we’re looking at you, Bachmann.

And at the end of the day, people living in a democracy get the government they deserve. I would rather see a democratically elected regime that does not like the United States than my tax money supporting a tin-pot dictator who loves oppressing the people.

And we have a long history of doing that.

Final analysis: Whatever

MSNBC: Home of Prison Porn

MSNBC (Live) Need I say more? The second the talk shows end on Friday night the weekend Doc-Block starts. At some point, NBC shot a bunch of documentaries about prison life, true crime and internet predators. Other than reruns of “Meet the Press,” that is all you get all weekend.

That said, I did catch a few hours of coverage of Egypt on Saturday. The sad part is that MSNBC made a name for itself on 9/11 and has taken a decade off since then. Now I get that MSNBC has limited resources and saves money by signing off for the weekend. The point is that they have had numerous chances to grow up and be a real news network just by having people on the ground where news is happening. And they have no excuse this time. The Tunisia protests have been going on for weeks and the Egypt crisis has been going on since Tuesday and there were plenty of heads-up (notably on Twitter) that Saturday was going to be a big day.

Note: If they want to lean left or forward or whereever the hell, there are non neo-con types perfectly willing to give interviews.  

There is a reason that the 9-10 p.m. hour (EST) is fast becoming the only reason to watch that network.

Final analysis: There is a reason you are consistently third out of three.

Other options

First, you should call your cable provider and request more news offerings.

Until the corporate-controlled media offers more options, here are some streaming options for you:

Democracy Now (new shows every weekday)

RT (formerly Russia Today. Owned by the Russian Government Heavily subsidized by the Russian government with a lot of criticism of US policy and the occasional 9/11 conspiracy. They also have Thom Hartmann’s TV show.)

France 24 (One of the best quality livestreams I’ve seen)

Euronews (Pretty straightforward news and their “No comment” series is pretty neat)

3 comments

  1. Casual Wednesday

    So hear ya go. Enjoy.

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