'Al Jazeera'- the very name probably dredges up fear and loathing in most of the American population who exhibit suspicion about anything remotely Muslim-sounding, especially a news network. And especially since 9/11. The aftermath of the fear and paranoia meme still looms large.
And so it was as we tuned into the first news broadcast last night, wifey sat in her recliner with a certain amount of trepidation. While her knuckles weren't white, she did express reservations: "Why are YOU watching that station? Why can't we just stick with ABC and Diane Sawyer?" Well, uh, because I want to get a different slant and emphasis on the news, not just the corporate brainwashing.
This isn't new! It's also why I often tuned into the Russian news while in Germany. You got a more balanced perspective, and you saw things the American broadcast networks left out. Like the huge anti-fracking demonstrations, protests around the world. But coddled, brainwashed Americans at home probably believed there were hardly any protests at all. They might even believe based on network news broadcasts from ABC, NBC, CBS that most of the world accepts it.
Anyway, as the news came on, Janice might have half expected a raving Muslim madman named Ali Abu Akhbar to pop onto the screen and begin screaming anti-American epithets and propaganda. She held her breath, I didn't hold mine because I knew the network - despite the name- wasn't as the lamos and numb nuts portrayed it.
And so who appeared on the screen? Was it Ali Abu screaming his head off 'Death to America!'?
Nope. It was John Siegenthaler, former long time NBC and MSNBC news host and now the anchor for Al Jazeera America. The lead off segment? A piece on how cheap clothing being made in places like Bangladesh is undermining the welfare of people living in such poor nations. This was followed by a segment on the fires being fought in Idaho and Calif. and then the cut off of military aid to Egypt. Later an in depth piece on force-feeding prisoners in California and the excessive use of solitary confinement.
No screaming propaganda, just more in depth reporting and taking longer for each segment, as opposed to the facile, sound bite 2 minutes allotted on corporate American network news. Which, frankly, I believe contributes to Americans' shrinking attention spans.
Most segments were also followed by more in depth discussion to allow better insight. For example, following the Egypt segment Siegenthaler interviewed a prof from Brooklyn College who stated emphatically aid should be got off because too much was going to "American defense corporations".
Also, the Egyptian military didn't warrant such aid after what it had done, already killing over a thousand Egyptians.
Even better, the irritating advert frequency that drives one to distraction on the regular corporate networks wasn't noticeable at all. One ad (mainly for 'AJ America' itself) every 20 minutes, as opposed to every 6 minutes. And Lordy! NO prescription DRUG ads! No Cialis! No Viagra! No whatever.....
It was refreshing to say the least. On the next program, 'Considering This' we saw how cholera deaths continue in Haiti, with 8, 000 this year so far. And up to now the UN has not admitted any responsibility, thereby delaying monetary assistance, despite the evidence being overwhelming that Nepalese peace keepers brought it with them - since the disease had never been widespread in the country before. See e.g. http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2010/11/haitian-cholera-outbreak-of-nepalese.html
Then on 'Real Money' one learned of the problems to be faced by those living in poorer states such as Mississippi (which ranks 50th in obesity control, and 50th in infant morality) when the Affordable Care Act (ACA or 'Obamacare') comes on stream. The primary problem? Too few doctors! In fact, by 2020 the nation will have 45,000 fewer family primary care physicians with the shortage worst in states like MS.
The only alternative the people living in the Mississippi Delta have is to rely on medics returning from Iraq, Afghanistan. As one MS official noted, no professional who studied years to get a medical education would want to come to such a state.
As for insurance premiums, they are likely to rise for a majority of Americans since Obamacare actually cuts back on federal support for insurance companies, i.e. in treating less healthy folks, figuring that enough people will sign up to pay for all. But this is doubtful. With all the anti- ACA propaganda out there, it is more likely too many will opt out. Also the penalties for opting out are way too low.
Al Jazeera America deserves a fair chance and hopefully more Americans will check it out. As its broadcast motto goes:
"More viewpoints, more stories, more of what Americans want to know."
Oh, and fewer commercials!
Al Jazeera America bought out Al Gore's 'Current TV' and is now on that channel (358) on Direct TV. Readers will have to check their own cable or Dish TV offerings to locate it.