"Our audience actually expects us t o show them blood, because they realize that war kills .. .If we were not to show it, we would be accused by our viewers . . .of perhaps hiding the truth or trying to sanitize the war."
These words of an Al Jazeera spokesman describes the real difference between Al Jazeera and the Western media. The audiences of Al Jazeera (and to an extent Al Jazeera English), have actually seen war, violent political battles, and terrorism first hand. Though, like Americans, the Arab audience can tune out by watching Star Academy, they also must live under regimes that inhibit democracy and free speech - hence all of these nations cutting off ties with the Qatari government. Watching coverage of a war is very different when your own nation or a neighboring nation are involved and for this reason, media sanitation is ineffective and disingenuous. The spokesman is correct to state that to his audience, trying to hide the realities of war would be tantamount to lying. In reality, all Al Jazeera is doing is serving its audience. As the article stated, Al Jazeera's offices in Kabul was what set the network apart from all other international stations in the outset of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan (its not an invasion and its not an occupation). It was also Al Jazeera's offices in Gaza that set the network apart during the Israeli airstrikes of the Gaza strip earlier this year.
The reading gives a litany of examples of Arab leaders' anger towards Al Jazeera, but again, in regimes like Mubarak's that inhibit democracy (as Obama said, elections alone do not a democracy make) that is to be expected. In fact, the West should be happy that a network is willing to challenge the official government statements by such corrupt regimes. As for the references to Al Jazeera's airings of past interviews with Bin Laden after 9/11 and reading of statements by Al Qaeda on the air the question is not why would they, but, as a news station, why wouldn't they? Al Jazeera is a media outlet and Al Qaeda is an international organization that was at the epicenter of the news cycle at the time. Why not give their statements air time? If nothing else, to try and get a sense of how an organization like that thinks and operates? Also, the 'specter' of Al Qaeda is a very real thing in the Arab world - so why wouldn't they show these things on the air?
If anything, that is a shortcoming of the Western media - its need to de-sensitize and unwillingness to give real air time to unfavorable and threatening figures. They can give air time to the ridiculous vitriol of birthers, tea partiers, Lou Dobbs, and Glenn Beck but never to those that actually prove a serious threat or are guilty of truly heinous and criminal activities. If 60 Minutes were to do an interview with members of Al Qaeda there would be an uproar among American audiences about a 'liberal bias' or 'un-American' activity by CBS. In reality, however, simply not addressing the statements of bad people does not make them go away. It is more challenging to de-mystify them and to hear their twisted logic, not to justify them, but to try and understand (not sympathize) what leads people to such actions.
It seems as if in discourse about the International media there is the BBC, CNN, VOA and then there's Al Jazeera. It is never truly mentioned in the same breath of those other media outlets, it is always seen as the other, or somehow more of some kind of special force than those other media outlets. With that sort of diction, Al Jazeera automatically becomes the other, the different, mysterious figure, creating pre-conceived notions for people who have never actually seen the network.
For the rest of the world, where war, poverty, famine, terrorism, and corruption are an everyday part of life simply not showing something does not make it disappear nor does it make it any easier. In fact, it is nothing more than disingenuous.