By Amitabh Pal on January 03, 2013

It's early in the new year, but the media landscape has already shifted with the news that Al Jazeera is purchasing Al Gore's Current TV.

"Al Jazeera did not disclose the purchase price, but people with direct knowledge of the deal pegged it at around $500 million, indicating a $100 million payout for Mr. Gore, who owned 20 percent of Current," reports the New York Times.

What is the motivation?

For Gore, there are a hundred million reasons.

For Al Jazeera, it is an attempt to overcome persistent prejudice against the network as anti-American and indeed even pro-terrorist. The attitude against the network is so negative in certain quarters that two years ago a public reception at a museum fundraiser in Maine featuring the Al Jazeera Washington bureau chief, Abderrahim Foukara, had to be moved to a private, undisclosed location.

Little wonder, then, that Al Jazeera English is available in only a few places in this country.

"The crux of the problem in getting cable and satellite clearance is that providers have seen little upside and a big downside to carrying Al Jazeera English," Lawrence Pintak wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review in 2011. "Not much demand -- i.e., profit -- but a near-certainty of pushback from conservative and pro-Israel camps in the form of letters, bad publicity, and potential boycotts."

So, even to get coverage from the heart of the Arab Spring -- one of the most consequential events in recent history -- interested Americans have had to turn to the network's website. Not surprisingly, 40 percent of the network's web traffic comes from the United States.

Now, the coverage of Al Jazeera hasn't been without problems. For instance, even in the Arab Spring it has been accused of being more vocally in favor of uprisings that have attempted to overthrow regimes that are unfriendly to its host country Qatar, such as Syria and Libya, while being muted about movements that target allies such as Bahrain. But to think of it as a radical jihadist network is absurd.

"I would challenge anyone who feels that these networks are apparatuses for terrorism to first see if they've ever watched it," says Professor Justin Martin, adding, "There's not very much agenda pushing. I'm more shocked when I watch Fox News."

Still, such allegations have bedeviled Al Jazeera. Hence, its acquisition of Current TV.

The buyout "boosts Al Jazeera's reach in the U.S. beyond a few large U.S. metropolitan areas including New York and Washington nearly ninefold to about 40 million homes," reports AP.

Current TV has not been without its own problems, making the owners eager for the sale. Fashioned as a left-leaning network, its ratings have been abysmally low, with a measly average of 42,000 people reportedly watching it nightly.

Already, the new venture has encountered a setback that shows how difficult its battle will be for American hearts and minds. Time Warner has used the merger as an occasion to drop Current TV from its lineup, depriving the fresh entity of a sizeable potential viewership.

It is always hard for an unconventional, noncorporate enterprise to break through in the American mass media. Bias against Arabs and Muslims just makes it all the harder.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Ravi Shankar's Artistry Spanned Several Streams."

Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter.

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Capitalism is the enemy, and the ideology of growth and dominion over the Earth.

 

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John Kerry used two weak arguments to justify President Obama’s war-making.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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