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By Diana West
Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
 

Al Jazeera America: The very name gives me the heebie-jeebies. What does Al Jazeera have to do with America?

Everything, if the happy talk of the American press corps is any measure. Entranced, media critics have greeted the rollout of “AJA” as that of just another news company, not the propaganda arm of monied Qatari despots. But no matter how many American journalists “anchor” Al Jazeera America's news desks, a 24/7 Muslim Brotherhood channel is now beaming into living rooms across the country. There is no changing the fact that Al Jazeera's leading personality is the Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Qaradawi has called for the murder of U.S. soldiers and Jews. Earlier this year on his own popular Al Jazeera show, Qaradawi also affirmed the Islamic penalty for “apostasy” or leaving Islam: death.

Qaradawi isn't just a big man with the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Jazeera. He's also a prized personage in Qatar. In a public ceremony in June, Qatar's new emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, “planted a kiss on al-Qaradawi's head and then his shoulder,” Gulf News reported.

But you could have fooled the U.S. press corps. The headlines read like Al Jazeera press releases: “Al Jazeera America Promises a More Sober Look at the News” (New York Times); “Al Jazeera Promises Meatier News” (Associated Press). “To be sure, the network has a handsome look,” The Washington Post critiqued.

NPR is about as close as we get to hard-hitting on the network's launch, which is already a bad sign. “Critics say Al-Jazeera will have trouble shaking its image in the U.S. at least as a news source with terrorist ties,” Celeste Headlee said by way of introducing Brian Stelter, the media reporter for The New York Times. Was she talking about Al Jazeera's terrorist tilt — or maybe the 2008 on-air birthday party Al Jazeera threw for Palestinian terrorist Samir Kuntar, who in 1979 reportedly killed four Israelis, including a 4-year-old girl.

“This is going to be a straightforward, down-the-middle, just-the-facts-ma'am style of television news,” Stelter explained.

Of course, if terrorism didn't come up in the NPR interview, the “diversity” of the on-air talent did. Stelter said, “One of the (Al-Jazeera America) prime-time anchors, Joie Chen, said to me when I interviewed her last week, ‘I would challenge you to find any television news operation that's more diverse than we are.'” The perfect metaphor for all of the skin-deep analysis.

This latest installment in the long fall of American journalism began last year when Al Gore sold his Current TV network for $500 million to Al Jazeera — instead of to Glenn Beck. Beneath any veneer of luxury, Qatar is a brutal dictatorship where a poet who criticized the emir was sentenced to life in prison. Al Jazeera's coverage of the sentencing, by the way, was practically nonexistent. (The poet's sentence was later commuted to 15 years.) Naturally, emirate-owned media protect the emirate. Come to think of it, it's against Qatari law to criticize the emirate or Islam.

Meanwhile, it is a 21st-century fact that tiny Qatar spends large sums of money to combat its image problem in the rest of the world. It spends even larger sums on war to shape the world itself.

Diana West's new book is “American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character” from St. Martin's Press.

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