August 21st Al Jazeera broke the story of 1,300 civilians killed in the opposition stronghold region of Ghouta, Syria. Casualties, primarily those of women and children, were the result of an alleged chemical attack. The Syrian National Coalition posted videos of hundreds of children either convulsing, displaying symptoms consistent with sarin gas exposure or being draped in white burial cloths. Reports quickly spread that Syrian leader Bashar Assad was responsible for the attack. A pretty gripping story the third day after the launch of Al Jazeera America.
In their best attempt to give the rebel group legitimacy, Al Jazeera repeatedly casts the coalized insurgents as western-supported opposition rebels. Why the push to legitimize such an assemblage?
If by meaning western-supported one means being supported by the Qatari government who funneled rocket-propelled grenades and heat-seeking missiles into rebel hands with the CIA assistance steering arms into the right Syrian rebel hands then yes, one could say that the Syrian National Coalition is western-supported.
The government of Qatar also happens to support The Muslim Brotherhood with arms and aid. Coincidentally enough the government of Qatar also bankrolls Al Jazeera. (It was the Qatar-backed Al Jazeera who purchased CurrentTV for a mere $500 million.) One could say that the Qatari government has a vested interest in how the news is reported from Egypt and Syria. Witness the staging of a story the second day after Al Jazeera America’s launch:
On August 20th Al Jazeera broadcasted a story about a wounded Muslim Brotherhood activist who allegedly suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen. As the tape runs, the victim lifts his shirt to find no wound. He quickly realizes he is caught red handed and obstructs the camera view with his leg.
Al Jazeera historically leans to the biases of its patronage. Prior to and during the Iraq War Al Jazeera acted in the role of insurgent provocateur rather than journalistic bystander.
It was alleged that Al Jazeera reporter, Ahmed Mansour, received kickbacks via oil coupons from Uday Hussein in exchange for favorable coverage of his father’s Ba’athist regime. (Saddam was busy running the Oil-for-Food program to exploit divisions among the UN Security Council therefore his son, Uday, was left to focus on the Oil-for-News campaign to exploit divisions in the court the public opinion.)
While Al Jazeera does an exemplary job portraying Bashar Assad as the monster he is, the network glosses over opposition crimes against humanity. Rebel reports are blanketed in vagaries portraying rebels as noble activists fighting the cause of overthrowing the Assad (or Mubarak) regime.
Glossed over are the accounts of a Syrian rebel fighter cutting out the heart of a regime soldier and eating it and Syrian rebels kidnapping and beheading a Christian man afterwards feeding his body to the dogs.
Glossed over is the fact that the Syrian National Coalition is comprised of thirteen opposition groups. The al-Narsa Front (an al Qaeda affiliated faction, a group designated by the US as a terrorist organization) is the most notorious among the thirteen. The Syrian National Coalition has taken great strides in organizing opposition against Assad. The Coalition has encountered numerous difficulties reigning in its more fringe members and has experienced difficulty retaining a Westernized figurehead as its leader.
The financial benefactors of both the Syrian rebel forces and the Muslim Brotherhood have a vested interest in the outcome of regional regime change and as well as the success of Al Jazeera America. Once a network that solely appealed to ‘public intellectuals and Islamist thinkers’ Al Jazeera aims to entice a larger audience with westernized reporting. Willing accomplices in the media are no longer bound between the Atlantic and Pacific.
Enter the al-Nahdah (the Awakening) Project. Al-Nadhad is an organization dedicated to ‘training Islamists in Egypt and other countries on how to function within the institutions of democracy.’ Al Nahdah is striving to remedy the reputation of radical Islamists from acid throwing zealots to conformed activists.
The supervising trainer of Al-Nahdah is former Qatari Brotherhood operative, Dr. Jassim Sultan. Dr. Sultan has the daunting task of teaching radical Islamists political discourse. Through ‘flexible political discourse, [Al-Nahdah is] seeking to turn over a new page and provide reassurance that it is committed to the values of democracy, human rights, non-violence, and the personal status code, which bans polygamy and provides for gender equality.’
The Al Nahdah Project has had great success in its work with Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera has transformed from TerrorVision provocateur to international media titan much to the envy of the Al Jazeera’s US media counterparts. Despite being in market competition with the likes of ABC, CBS and NBC, CNN is quick to absolve Al Jazeera of any previous journalistic malefesance by stating, [US audiences] ‘may find any past political slants overshadowed by a newscast striving toward U.S. standards.’
Legitimate news sources are losing their viewership and readership by the droves. With dwindling market share, layoffs and mergers, left-leaning networks are rallying behind Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera doesn’t have to fret audience ratings and sponsor appeasement as do their mainstream counterparts, they have a desert-tapped fluid source of capital flowing from the far reaches of Qatar.