Left Eye on Books

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hugh Miles on Democracy Now!

Democracy Now! has an interesting discussion with Hugh Miles, author of Al Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the News.

Interesting stuff:

But in those early days Al Jazeera made a conscious decision that it wasn't just going to entertain the likes of Saddam Hussein; it was going to welcome onto its show all kinds of groups who before had been excluded in the Middle East. For example, Al Jazeera invited on Israelis. This was an absolutely fundamental change from anything which had happened before, because Israelis were banned from Arab TV. Most Arabs had never seen an Israeli speak before, and here they were on Al Jazeera presenting their case in their own words, and of course Arabs were astounded. They were amazed. They couldn't believe it, and they were very suspicious, as well. They thought, you know, this has got to be a plot. You know, the C.I.A. are behind this. This is run by Mossad.

But it wasn't just the Israelis. Al Jazeera invited on Colonel Qaddafi. They invited on bin Laden -- or they showed bin Laden videos, rather, they didn't invite him on the show. They had on Saddam Hussein. They had on Hamas. They had on Hezbollah, groups who are very, very important in Middle Eastern politics, but who had always been denied airtime on other Arab channels, because the national Arabic channels, government channels, which had come before, had always regarded these groups as too pernicious an influence.

Read or listen here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Zizek! The smartest candidate

I caught the excellent documentary Zizek!, about, guess who, the other night. A particularly striking incident: In 1990, Zizek ran for president of Slovenia. They showed a televised debate where the moderator said something like 'we know your IQ is probably equal to everyone else here (about six people) combined--but can you let the others talk a little more?' Zizek explained to the filmmaker that immediately after this incident, his place in the polls jumped. What a contrast to the US! If a US candidate was ever described as smart, he would spend the next week urgently trying to prove that he's really just a stupid guy like everyone else.