Cable news gets a bad rap for being truncated and sound-bitey, but the kind people at Al Jazeera was nice enough to ask me and a couple of other critics to come on and discuss the results of the Academy Awards—for 25 minutes:
For all the talk about the billion people who theoretically tune into the Academy Awards, there’s very little conversation about the overall international reaction to the results, unless a win sparks off a very particular reaction, as was the case with Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s Best Foreign Film statuette for A Separation. I don’t agree with everything my fellow panelists said, but it was fascinating to hear how Argo and Zero Dark Thirty are playing outside the United States.
In a typical fair and balanced panel, Fox News warned on Wednesday that Al Jazeera is set to “infiltrate” the United States amid dire warnings about “sleeper cells” in the Muslim suburbs of Detroit.
Host Megyn Kelly began a segment about Al Jazeera’s expansion into the American television market by raising questions about the network’s “real anti-American bias.” Contributor Lisa Daftari agreed, veering into blatant Islamophobic fear-mongering in the process:
DAFTARI: The point is they want to differentiate themselves from their sister network, but at the same time, it’s the same thing. They’re having the same type of coverage. They’re apparently expanding to eight cities, including Detroit, Michigan. Detroit, Michigan is a large ex-pat community of Muslim-Americans and sleeper cells have been detected. You can Google this, you can find out all this information. So if you’re trying to set yourself apart the Qatari petro-dollars are backing this, you’re still developing in this area where the sleeper cells have been detected. They’re going to have do do much more to prove to me that they’re different from their sister network.
Daftari was referring to the suburbs of Detroit — like Dearborn, MI and others — which have high populations of refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority nations like Lebanon. Dearborn has been the target of hate speech and protests against Muslims for years now. As for the specific “sleeper cells” she was referring to, in 2008 a former Dearborn resident was convicted of “providing material support” to Hezbollah — hardly the makings of a widespread support for terrorism.
Conservatives have been concerned about the purchase of former Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV by Qatar-based Al Jazeera since the deal was announced in January. Fox’s points about the difference in coverage between Al Jazeera English — which currently airs in millions of homes in the United States — and Al Jazeera Arabic — the original channel, which was the chosen distributor of Osama bin Laden’s video messages — would be accurate if they weren’t so hyperbolic and fearful of the encroaching Muslim threat. Also, Fox News’ concern about the presence of Middle Eastern oil money in U.S. media does not extend to Fox owner Rupert Murdoch’s deals with Saudi Arabia.