Media Revolution


Abu Aardvark hails satellite TV for its role in the Lebanese uprising:

Part of it is a long term process: al Jazeera, and to a lesser extent to the other satellite stations, have been eviscerating the legitimacy of the Arab status quo for years. The al Jazeera talk shows are full to overflowing with critics of almost every Arab regime and of the entire Arab system more generally. Hardly a week has gone by in the last five years without a guest on some popular al Jazeera program denouncing some Arab leader as an authoritarian despot, or demanding greater democracy, or complaining about Arab backwardness….

There's also the cumulative effect of the way issues have been framed. One of the key things that al Jazeera (and, again, to some extent its competitors) did was to explicitly and implicitly link together everything that happens anywhere in the Arab world into a single, coherent narrative: Egyptian protests, Bahraini arrests of bloggers, Tunisian sham elections – they are all part of the same story, not isolated events….

While those who want to claim the current protests as a vindication of the Bush Doctrine might not like the analogy, the closest comparison to the current situation is the spring of 2002, when al Jazeera drove and energized Arab protests against the Israeli re-occupation of the West Bank not just by showing gory pictures but by showing Arabs that other Arabs were marching and protesting. I know from interviewing lots of people involved in those protests that the Arab media were really important in shaping their ideas of what was possible, inspiring them to march and to protest – and, in a very real way, making them feel that they were part of that same, common story…When Jordanians marched in Amman, they weren't only "talking" to King Abdullah, they knew that they were being seen by Egyptians, by Moroccans, by Palestinians.

He concludes: "Maybe you needed Bush to get what you're seeing today – I remain skeptical – but you definitely needed al Jazeera."

Reason's Michael Young praised the station's role in the region back in 2001.