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The American Media Slammed By One of Its Own
Last uploaded : Saturday 9th Jul 2005 at 06:37
Contributed by : The Associate Editor


On 26 May the NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell (wife of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan) was the keynote speaker at the Matrix Awards presented by Women in Communications of Washington, DC.

She made a point that solidified an uncomfortable thought I had been harbouring for some months now. We are all acutely aware of the inadequacies of network television in providing the American people with background on the reasons behind the news. Much as we criticise British media for bias against the USA and Israel, the quality of journalism is high and the depth of analysis awesome. In these columns on 19 June we lambasted the British media for the bias that influences impressionable young Muslims, but the ultimate irony is that Americans get no serious editorialising. Without doubt the British papers, radio and television are filled with invective against Israel and the United States, but the volume and scope of these arguments eclipse anything on offer in their American counterparts.

Except for programmes like ?Nightline with Ted Koppel,? daily network television is devoid of probing content. In her speech, Mitchell observed that before 9/11, the American media had spent the entire summer obsessing over the disappearance of Congressional intern Chandra Levy, who had been suspected of having had a close relationship with Rep. Gary Condit. Mitchell observed that the summer of 2001 was a turbulent one in world affairs and that the American media did nothing to prepare the public for the catastrophe of September 11th.

Indeed, those of us in Europe knew the al Aqsa Intifadah was tearing the Middle East apart and the United Nations Durban Conference on Racism had become a hate-fest of unprecedented proportions against Israel and the USA, with some delegates fleeing in fear for their lives amidst crowds of furious demonstrators. The conference had so wanted to pass a resolution condemning Israel and the USA, but had failed. I had predicted that the collective rage of that event could reverberate in the Muslim world and generate more anti-Western violence of previously unseen magnitude.

In summer 2001 Yasser Arafat was fuming that his desire to declare statehood in September 2001was being thwarted yet again. I remember thinking, ?If the PLO is angry again, might they resume the hijacking of aircraft??

When a friend visited me in London from the USA in July 2001 I told him how alarmed I was about the tinderbox situation in the Gulf and Middle East. He dismissed it by saying .?Oh, my dad sends a cheque every year to the Israel Emergency Fund -- what?s the big deal?? He had no idea there even was an Intifadah, did not know Arafat was planning to defy the USA and declare statehood and had not heard about Durban.

Now in 2005 the world is in turmoil. Imran Khan is exhorting Muslims around the world to commit Jihad, but ask any million-dollar American anchorman who he is and he will say 'Imran who?'

The shock and disbelief after the London terror attacks of July 7th are indicative of a breathtaking lack of knowledge of world affairs and of the sequence of events that has led to this explosion from within. Andrea Mitchell went so far as to say that our profession is at its lowest ebb and has a poor rating from the public. Once again the American viewer is being led by the media to obsess on Tom Cruise, Jessica Simpson, the runaway bride and other insular stories. Although coverage and analysis of the future makeup of the Supreme Court and the Karl Rove affair have been excellent, any proper daily background on European and world affairs has been almost non-existent. As one friend put it today, London is bombed and poof! off it goes from the screens.

What it will take to inspire network news executives to demand better journalism is difficult to determine, but I am gratified to have cable and to be able to view the alternatives. Indeed, how one longs to have BBC 2?s incomparable daily ?Newsnight? on American cable. What is so sad is that Americans continue to see a sanitised view of the world, and then wonder why bad things happen. Perhaps if a woman like Mitchell is given the reins of a male-dominated profession, things will change. Watch this space.


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