Jan 28, 2011

Al Jazeera and social change in the Middle East

Broadcast news, whatever its allegiances and whatever platform it uses, has great power to organize the collective mind around ideas, ideals and events. While Twitter, Facebook and other social media have been profiled as part of the coverage of protests in Tunisia, Egypt, and Iran, not as much has been said about the role of Al Jazeera. The New York Times yesterday published a fascinating piece on just this subject. From the story:
In many ways, it is Al Jazeera’s moment — not only because of the role it has played, but also because the channel has helped to shape a narrative of popular rage against oppressive American-backed Arab governments (and against Israel) ever since its founding 15 years ago. That narrative has long been implicit in the channel’s heavy emphasis on Arab suffering and political crisis, its screaming-match talk shows, even its sensational news banners and swelling orchestral accompaniments. 

“The notion that there is a common struggle across the Arab world is something Al Jazeera helped create,” said Marc Lynch, a professor of Middle East Studies at George Washington University who has written extensively on the Arab news media. “They did not cause these events, but it’s almost impossible to imagine all this happening without Al Jazeera.”
Read the rest here.

If you want to hear Al Jazeera's coverage, the live English-language stream is here.

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