Sunday, April 25, 2004

Media concentration

One of the common fears that people have over media concentration is that putting news into only a few hands may result in unscrupulous barons using their bully pulpit to achieve their own ends -- ends contrary to the public good. I have been unsympathetic to this argument on this blog because public media companies need to serve their readers, and if they instead choose to broadcast to please their owners, they will lose money and fail.

Al Jazeera, a fairly new Arab media outlet, is not publicly owned, it is in effect a vanity press for the Emir (King) of Qatar--a small Arabian monarchy that runs on oil money. Al Jazeera reporters "make news" in the traditional yellow-journalism techniques, which include paying children to run around with pictures of Saddam Hussein, and the poor to fire at coalition troops to goad them into firing into civilian crowds. While it is false to argue that Al Jazeera is some sort of Islamo-fascist propaganda organ, it is true that it is taking the side of those who wish Iraq's experiment with moderate muslim democracy fails. The central question behind the ideological war against terror is "are arab muslim states failures because they are insufficiently free, or insufficiently pure?" The US is betting on "free" while the Islamo-fascists are betting on "pure". The Emir of Qatar just wants to hang on to his position.

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