Thursday, September 12, 2013

Becoming Aware of Other Voices

Last week saw the launch of Al Jazeera America. To my surprise (and delight), Comcast assigned it the channel slot previously held by Current TV (which had been bought out by Al Jazeera). As a result, after several "dry" decades, I actually had the ability to choose between two channels, both of which showed the same attentive respect to the coverage of hard news that had once been the agenda of CNN.

The launch has had major impact on our home viewing habits. When everyone was covering the Senate Committee hearing on taking action against Syria, my wife and I chose Al Jazeera America. We felt that it would be the most likely source of both sides of opinions, and we were not disappointed. The same could be said of the discussion prior to Barack Obama's address on Tuesday evening.

Once again, American television viewers are getting the opportunity to listen to points of view other than those that the rich and mighty want us to hear. One result seems to be a renewal of reluctance to engage in another military exploit being given a more "legitimate" voice than it had received in the wake of 9/11 hysteria. Perhaps that is why Vladimir Putin chose to make his case directly to the American public through an op-ed piece in The New York Times. Regardless of how many people will actually read the piece (which was written with a well-honed sense of convincing rhetoric), the word is sure to circulate heavily that the Times took the trouble to run it today.

Whether this will make a change in what seem to be our culturally-embedded trigger-happy inclinations, it is a sign that at least a few media outlets are beginning to honor the fact that ours is not the only voice in any conversation with global repercussions.

As might be guessed, there seems to have been a general attack on Putin's article coming from a variety of different "establishment" representatives. I was most trouble to read, in a report on the BBC News Web site, that Leon Panetta went "on the record" by declaring that Putin was not in a position to lecture the American people about human rights. On the basis of this country's track record since we first ventured into Afghanistan, does Panetta really believe that Putin is any less qualified than any representative of our own government to take strong positions of human rights?

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