How Can Arabs Influence Western Media?

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Occupation, Western Media Views: 2079

How can Arabs influence Western media, combat its inherent bias and grotesque misrepresentations of the Arab and Muslim world? 

Despite the perpetual need to address this issue time and again, the apathy of the object of ridicule is equally relentless. Nothing noteworthy has been achieved on this front, particularly since the attacks of September 11, with the awesome, intellectual, social and cultural backlash unleashed thereafter. 

Many of the attempts to bridge the gap between East and West have been crude at best. They facilitated the emergence of two groups of Arab intellectuals and media spokespeople. 

One group was 'uncompromising'. It refused to acknowledge that a Western audience has an entirely difference frame of reference and thus cannot subscribe to an Arab or a Muslim's argument that simply conforms to what is accepted and what not in an Arab society.

The other group just wanted to 'fit in'. Intellectuals of this type told the media what the media wanted to hear. They preferred to draw the audience's applause, rather than risk its taunts and heckling. 

Needless to say, both groups have failed miserably.

This is not to suggest that a common ground is far-fetched and that both an eloquent and courageous third voice is an impossibility. 

For many years, Israeli and pro-Israeli officials, academics and the like have been swarming American news networks, talk radio programs and opinion pages of American newspapers, large and small. 

But if one is to discern their approach, he'll find an almost complete deviation from the issue at hand. It is noteworthy to mention that in their rhetoric, they scarcely reveal that their ultimate allegiance is to the thriving preservation of Israel. They come across as very much American. Thus, they justify the killings of Palestinian in Rafah by contrasting America's need to uproot terrorism in Afghanistan, and explain the suffocating closure of the occupied territories by cross-referencing the US army's occasional move to seal Iraqi borders in the face of 'infiltrators.' 

If you take a moment to listen to an Israel media expert talking to Fox News about democracy, liberty, freedom and so on, for a moment, it might slip your mind that the tacit goal of this expert-impostor, ironically is to justify the denial of real democracy, liberty and freedom to someone else. 

I cannot think of better con men than Israeli and pro-Israeli 'experts' in the field of media packaging. There should be no surprises however, since the official Israeli institution invests colossal sums of money in media training, the construction and operation of media centers in Israel and the United States - and elsewhere. In short, Israel understands the impact of the media in the world, and takes this business very seriously. 

On the other hand, Arabs trail far behind. Most Arab countries are nowhere close to Israel's impressive media triumphs. Part of this is the uninterrupted corruption that plagues most Arab institutions. 

In any given Arab country, chance are that those in charge of media and international relations are chosen based on anything but experience, wisdom and competence. Family affiliations play an important part, but also allegiances to the ruling party or close ties to men in charge. They lack fluency, persuasiveness and are "just too important" to submit to the notion of instruction or training of any sort. 

Give them a perfectly honorable cause and watch them run it into the ground. 

One must not mistake this critique with the absolving of much of the Western media's deliberate bias. The reproachful tone used on CNN or Fox News to interrogate an Arab guest can hardly be discounted. It's this precise approach - accusatory and indicting - that drove one of the most eloquent scholars, late Professor Edward Said to distance himself from mainstream media altogether. 

That said, one should also be wary of the overuse of the term 'bias'. Acknowledging bias must not justify the almost intrinsic ineptitude, and naturally ineffectiveness of the Arab voice in Western media. It does not explain why Arab officials with broken English constantly try to take on convoluted and multifaceted issues before American audiences. 

The issue of bias and partiality must be raised continually, as a part of the ongoing debate on media ethics and fairness, not as a justification for faltering away from the media challenge. Sadly, the latter is the prevailing norm in the Arab world. It's no surprise that Arab governments employ American PR firms, with total lack of knowledge regarding Arab affairs to revamp their image before Western audiences. One need not explain why such an approach is an utter failure. 

Standalone, most Arab countries lack the resources to engage in this important undertaking. Real potential resides in collective action. Countries such as Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia possess the financial and infrastructural resources to sponsor serious media initiatives, making use of the remarkable wealth of brilliant Arab minds brimming all over the world. The goal should not be individually self-serving. The approach must not be apologetic, nor should it deviate from the heart of the matter. 

This is not a matter of policy, far from it. It's a cultural imperative, a response to the meddling media pundits, devout in their insistence to justify US government' hardliner foreign policy by selling wars to the public as 'moral' and justifying torture chambers as essential for American freedom, security and democracy. 

So how can Arabs influence the Western media? They must fill the void created by their absence. They must speak the language and learn how to relate to their audiences. They must understand that one may succeed at getting away with corruption in any field, but the field of media, where one's incompetence cannot be hidden. As for 'bias', maybe those who haven't done their part should hold on evoking it for a while. It's becoming far too redundant and self-deceiving.

 

Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Arab-American journalist. A regular columnist in many English and Arabic publications, he is editor-in-chief of PalestineChronicle.com and program producer at Aljazeera Satellite Television

He is also the editor of the anthology: "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion."

To buy "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion" CLICK HERE


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  19 Comments   Comment

  1. Idris from USA

    Everyone: please refer to my latest post on the America Bashing article in the archive section for an explanation about William and Sean.

    These two are real people that I work with who like to give me a hard time at work because of my religious and political views. I have argued with them many times; but they decided to take things a little further and have some fun at my expense by posting here using my desktop computer (they know about IP addresses, we are in a technology related field, they knew the webmaster would put two and two together eventually, I am sure) and my laptop to put up posts. At first I thought they were just posting in their names, or maybe using my name to make me look bad. But it seems that it is has gone a lot further than that (Ahmed isn't at the Emory masjid. Imagine my surprise when I went there and found out. I didn't understand at the time. Now I am really embarrassed). I am very sorry for everyone that has had to suffer from their ridiculous posts (which I tried to respond to here we can't really get too heated at work for obvious reasons), and I hope you can now see just how difficult being a Muslim here (especially a convert) can be at times. These two go back and forth from calling me a traitor and a collaborator to mocking my beliefs and what Islam stands for.

    Again I apologize for their imbecility. All I ask is that you please understand that it is not me saying these ridiculous things.

  2. Arthur from USA

    William, what world are you living in? As long as you get your bag of chips and get to watch your football games all must be good. Man you are a dope. Ever heard of the word Inflation? Which coupled with the fall in the monetary value of the dollar really means that you will have to work a lot harder and make a lot more money to pay for that bag of chips and your cable, because that dollar is worth a whole lot less today, thanks to .. Bush. Here is today's news on this issue:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4277875.stm

  3. Sean from USA

    Nigel, Nigel, Nigel, my ... friend, your wishful thinking is just that. I'm amazed that you think the Euro's success somehow ensures the Us's downfall; or that if it did it would somehow benefit your people ...

    You're right, it is useless to argue with us, because we are right and you are wrong. Wow-drug dealers don't want to use our money, man that's a real cause for concern. Where did you get your economics degree from the Saddam School of Financial Excellance?

    Why don't you stop saying you're from the UK, Nigel, and put Pakistan. ..

  4. Idris from USA

    Tri-tri again: Irrem isn't me, dude. From all the posts I've read, it looks like you've got a fan club.

  5. Anonymous from USA

    Not very long ago I had written that it was Syria that was the intended target and not iran - at least not yet. I draw your attention to March 23 through March 26. There is only one amusing thing that might also give pause to Pentagon's plans, is the sudden realization that Syria, like Iran is overwhelmingly shiite, and Iraqi shiite allegiance lies not just with Iran but to shiites of Syria as well. State department is in a quandry. Atacking Syria runs the substantial risk of galvanising shiites from every quarter of Iraq and Iran including the newly elected body into a massive group dead against the US. It might be wise now to reconsider.

  6. Nigel from UK

    William, it must get quite tiresome sticking your fingers in your ears, shutting your eyes and crying na na naa all the time. It seems to be America's national past-time. There is no point arguing with dullards such as you because you will go on living in this pseudo paradise you call the US, never mind its nothing but a sand castle built on deception and credit. Even the Chinese are dumping the dollar and that is bad. I have heard of some chap in Dalien, China who has come up with the capital idea of toilet rolls printed with US dollars. I can't wait for it to hit our stores. Put me down for a few dozen.

  7. Triathalon from UK

    irrem, if you dont like other peoeples opinions thats just too bad. I suggest you invest the time and effort to make your own viewpoint known based on the articles. People dont need buffoons like you telling to what to read.

    I stand by my opinions based on real world facts and 3rd rate propaganda coming from FOX, CNN or MSNBC. You wouldnt by any chance be Idris would you ?

  8. Max from USA

    Idris, get a clue bud. I made no threatening comments, but warned the troll making terrorist threats not to do so. Reread my comments.

  9. Yahya Bergum from USA

    I'm sorry, Ramzy, but watching Israelites telling lies on television isn't even interesting to me. Watching someone refuting such lies seems likely to be even less interesting. If you want to provide factual reports to which Zionists feel compelled to issue nonsensical responses that would be fine but that doesn't seem to be what you're suggesting.

    I realize you have an important story to tell. However, I find watching Hollywood commentators attacking Mel Gibson for "The Passion of the Christ" to be humorous. But then after a little while I start to feel guilty so instead I change the channel. I think you could aspire to do more. Sorry if I've completely missed the point.

  10. Irrem from USA

    I would advise all good people who use this

    site to start ignoring the comments made by

    .. who hides under the name

    "Triathlon." His remarks are made only to get

    attention and to stir up anger. He'll say

    whatever it takes to upset people. He may

    even be a child under 18. If not, he certainly

    behaves like an angry child and not a very

    intelligent one either. Ignore the tantrums

    and rantings and hopefully he will go away. I

    too commented on his ugly ..

    nonesense until I saw other good people here

    people becoming enraged, and then I realized

    he's just doing it for attention, he's not really

    saying anything useful, and his comments

    hurt the image of Islam. Please cease to

    respond and I'm sure in time, he will get tired

    of getting no response and like a child having

    a tantrum, he will stop. Peace to all of you.

  11. Nigel from UK

    The more immediate issue to address, which will certainly impact Islam's influence on Western politics, is that with the exception in those countries such as Ukraine, Poland, Israel and the Philippines, whose economies are tied to US economic and military aid and trade discounts and quotas, there is alarmingly and a dramatic loss of all credibility, support and good standing the US once enjoyed under Regan or Ford. This scenario is not just confined to Middle Eastern countries but in Europe, Africa South America and Asia as well, where currently the policies that are being formulated, are designed to the economic and political exclusion of the US and an apathy bordering disgust to any US influence on their social or cultural fabric. If Washington is busy courting Evangelists and Jews it is making the greatest mistake in not realising that the world around them is gravitating towards Russia which is fast replacing the US even in regions which traditionally have been opposed to Russian influence. USs' closest allies, Pakistan & Turkey have already begun talks with Russia on military and economic cooperation. Venezuela, India, China, Iran, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Kenya Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay are just a few countries that come to mind which have an ongoing military and economic relationship with Russia. Moreover what the US produces, nobody wants, as the only demand is for US technology, which the US refuses to part with (Ironically Israel has sold off US military technology to the Chinese). It won't be long before the US Dollar will be used for making paper planes, lighting stoves and cigarettes. Already the drug dealers in Europe and even in New York prefer Euros to the Dollar. The US Empire is crumbling. The whole world can see it, only Americans can't. Soon we shall read about America as a third world country, not that its record on human rights does not already justify it to be so.

  12. Hudd D'Alhamd from Canada

    Jack Bishop, your comment is one of the most bizarre ones I've ever read on this site. The superlative of ignorance is sheer stupidity and the superlative of stupidity is insolent arogance. This if you wondered why Bush was called a moron and an idiot by those who think. Simple because he is not only stupid but also very proud of it! Hence the arogance. You said,"I do not see Arabs or Muslims that do not support terrorism im my country". You forget one thing: not your country, you didn't purchase it on the flea market, it's God's land inhabitted by His people. Your Muslim compatriot is as much American as you are, in many respects a better citizen than yourself. Having a big and boisterous mouth doesn't mean that you are of service to your country. Talk is cheap, as you put it, get in to action dude, I wish I see you arrested for hate crimes and put away for a while where you could contemplate on all aspects of the definition of "Jail body". What you stated about Arabs and Muslims is imbecilic, how would you know what American Muslims think? Do you know any? Obviously not. American Muslims would not condone or facilitate terroristic actions in their country, USA, for the reasons known to the sober minds, which is, they don't want their loved ones be killed. In almost any aspect of American life, Muslims are involved, in the industry, business, services, police, armed forces, scintific research, etc. There is no safe haven for American Muslims if terrorists attack. At 9/11, Muslims died in the twin buildings alongside with others. But again, how would you know, when your ignorance is abyssal. You said,"helping authorities to rid us of them." Is this the job of the Muslims? What are the Muslims? Detectives? Private eyes? Homeland? Security Officers? FBI? Isn't the governments duty to protect its citizens, Muslim included, or what for we pay taxes? Jack, you lost it body, is it senility? Your next,"when the next attack on our country occurs", do you wish for it, Jack?

  13. Idris from USA

    Max: chill out. You threatening people only makes things worse. I mean, what makes you any better or different than Jack? And what is more, if anyone has to worry about landing into serious trouble for laying down threats on the internet, well you couldn't have picked a better place than an English language web-site that is probably monitored by more than one group. The (the US) can track your IP address, dummy!

  14. Max from USA

    Simple answer: they cant. Arabs will have to come up with their media instead of pandering to western STATE press. As for the would-be terrorist "jack," be warned that making terrorist threats could land you in trouble. Serious trouble if you're stupid enough to announce your intentions on a Muslim website.

  15. MHH from USA

    Jack.. I am really shocked and appalled by your comments. How many Muslims do you know personally? Don't you know that Muslims are numbered at more than a billion (the second largest religious community after Christianity)? They come from all different languages, races, culture, and color (unlike Jews). I am a south-east Asian Muslim working in corporate America. I know more white Americans than Muslims from Middle-East, Africa or far east-Asia combined. How am I supposed to know about who is going to do what? And yes, I love this country - I will do everything to defend my adopted homeland and the birthplace of my child. So, please don't throw out labels or blames. Should you be blamed as a Christian because Orthodox Christians killed innocent Muslims in Bosnia, or Christian Nazis killed Jews in Germany?

    BTW, if you really want to have a balanced and open mind, don't just listen to (or read from) Foxnews. CNN, BBCNews, Christian Science Monitor (to name a few) will give you a better coverage.

  16. Idris from USA

    Jack, give me a break. Most Muslims condemn terrorism and have been very outspoken against it. Just because you don't know about it doesn't mean it isn't happening. What is more, why are you singling out your fellow Americans that are Arabs or Muslims? Just because we are Muslim doesn't mean we are any more privy to the underworld of global terror any more than anyone else you know. I live in suburbia, work at a median income job...what the hell do I know about terror except what I read about it in newspapers or see on tv?

    Do you think we're all in some sort of club together? I love my country, and would fight to defend it, but its not incumbent on me to prove it to the likes of you just because I'm Muslim.

    I mean, are all Irish responsible for the IRA? Are all Italians in the Mafia? Are all Hispanics illegal immigrants? Come on, dude, be fair!

  17. S Awan from USA

    The Muslims need their own voice and I agree that we must define ourselves instead of current media defining us everyhour with one stereo-typed tone.

  18. Nazim from US

    Brilliantly and the best article I have recently read on Islamicity.

  19. Jack Bishop from USA

    Talk is cheap....I do not see Arabs or Muslims that do not support terrorism im my country..helping authorities to rid us of them...they are silent....when the next attack on our country occurs....we will not be silent...we will no longer give these people the freedom to kill us in our own land.....we are all armed....and this time we will take the action that is our right....we will not be a nation of lambs.......