Government Spending

Not the Last Hurra, Unfortunately

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So how's that whole winning-hearts-and-minds-through-government-broadcasting thing working out in the Middle East? About as badly as you'd expect, according to the Washington Post.

Interesting month

Al-Hurra ? "The Free One" in Arabic ? is the centerpiece of a U.S. government campaign to spread democracy in the Middle East. Taxpayers have spent $350 million on the project. But more than four years after it began broadcasting, the station is widely regarded as a flop in the Arab world, where it has struggled to attract viewers and overcome skepticism about its mission. […]

Since its inception, al-Hurra has been plagued by mediocre programming, congressional interference and a succession of executives who either had little experience in television or could not speak Arabic, according to interviews with former staffers, other Arab journalists and viewers in the Middle East.

It has also been embarrassed by journalistic blunders. One news anchor greeted the station's predominantly Muslim audience on Easter by declaring, "Jesus is risen today!" After al-Hurra covered a December 2006 Holocaust-denial conference in Iran and aired, unedited, an hour-long speech by the leader of Hezbollah, Congress convened hearings and threatened to cut the station's budget.

Whole thing here. The cynic in me wants to say that the truly bad news here is that the station seems to be making marginal improvements, which sounds like a recipe for throwing money down this sinkhole in perpetuity.

I wrote about the on-its-face ludicrous idea that you could make a Radio Free Europe for the Middle East back in March 2006. Michael Young attacked the idea two years before that.

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  1. Shoulda called it al-Uhura.

  2. a qsl card! who’s the nerd?

  3. The cynic in me wants to say that the truly bad news here is that the station seems to be making marginal improvements, which sounds like a recipe for throwing money down this sinkhole in perpetuity.

    Silly Matt… since when has abject failure ever trumped good intentions when it comes to government funding?

    …wow, I feel sick to my stomach for saying that.

  4. Only the isolationist who seek to withdraw from the world and sit in there montana compounds could be cynical enough to kill this effort at improving international relations.

    Of course the program is having problems, look at how underfunded it is. They need at least a billion dollars a year to fund a first class media outfit. This is a pittance relative to other expenses and should be fully funded.

  5. One news anchor greeted the station’s predominantly Muslim audience on Easter by declaring, “Jesus is risen today!”

    Okay, that’s funny.

    By the way, I have discovered the secret to libertarian happiness, which I will share with you: if you view the purpose of government as “wise, sensible governance,” you will alternate between misery and rage, which are unhappy emotions. So stop it. The secret to happiness is to view government as performance art.

    That’s why I’m happy with how al-Hurra has been spending my tax dollars. Appealing to Arabic-speaking Muslims with non-Arabic speakers who celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection? Genius. Andy Kaufman couldn’t have done any better.

    During the Ramadan fast periods, al-Hurra should broadcast a marathon of Alton Brown episodes discussing the myriad ways pork is Good Eats.

  6. Clarification: the pork that comes from a pig, not from Congressional spending on performance art.

  7. Only the isolationist who seek to withdraw from the world and sit in there montana compounds could be cynical enough to kill this effort at improving international relations.

    Dude, have you ever watched North Korean propaganda videos? Because that’s what this shit is. And if the U.S. government stops funding it it won’t necessarily die. If this is such a cost effective way to reach out to people, if the funds of another space-shuttle would turn it into a popular station, there is no reason why you couldn’t get a bunch of investors to take it over and start high quality programming.

    Of course, that would allow Americans freedom in choosing how they spend their money, and we can’t have that can we?

  8. I get assaulted with Happy Hannukahs (and Rahmadans, and Kwanzaas, etc) every year coming from my TV and I deal with it.

  9. It has also been embarrassed by journalistic blunders. One news anchor greeted the station’s predominantly Muslim audience on Easter by declaring, “Jesus is risen today!”

    Yeah well, I’d just as soon we keep the Easter Bunny front and center, and leave the ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ Jesus out of it myself. This gets to the heart of the matter. This is why the Mid East will never be stable. How does one win the hearts and minds of a bunch of religious zealots? And once you figure out how, we have to ask; Do we really want to?

    That’s the one bright spot on alternative energy. If we can find an economically viable replacement for oil, we can start ignoring the Mid-East. And they can go back to killing each other with sticks and stones.

  10. How does one win the hearts and minds of a bunch of religious zealots?

  11. How does one win the hearts and minds of a bunch of religious zealots?

    With expensive government-funded TV stations praising a completely different religion! Duh.

    EDIT: And a Congressional earmark of billions of dollars to improve the Reason site so it isn’t so allah-damned picky about minor HTML mistakes.

  12. Maybe they should pick up Farfour reruns to get more viewers.

  13. I keep waiting for Al-Hurra to give a show to that ultimate performance artist: Ann Coulter.

  14. Government often seems to be the means for stupid people to rule over the rest of us…we wouldn’t pay any attention to them in any other venue.

  15. Oh, and we’d probably win more hearts and minds if we replaced this propaganda station known as “Al-Hurra” with the Star Fleet Officer known as Uhura.

    That’s right: Star Trek Channel, dubbed in Arabic. The Sulu fans at Urkobold would no doubt approve.

  16. When I lived in Libya in the late 1970s, the state-run television network used to show Three Stooges shorts (in English, with Arabic subtitles).

    If Moe, Larry and Curly (and sometimes Shemp) couldn’t instill a love of democracy into the Libyan people, I’d say the situation is hopeless.

  17. “Jesus is risen today!”

    I thought Muslims were more or less down with Jesus? I’ve seen praise heaped on him in writings. True, he’s no Mohammed but I didn’t think this would be offensive to them.

  18. IIRC, the Quran/Koran/insert-correct-spelling-here says that Jesus didn’t actually die and rise again, it was just made to look that way. Or something.

  19. I thought Muslims were more or less down with Jesus? I’ve seen praise heaped on him in writings. True, he’s no Mohammed but I didn’t think this would be offensive to them.

    Jesus is a prophet in Islam, but they don’t buy into the Son-of-God-who-was-resurrected angle.

  20. So basically, it’s like NPR and PBS.

  21. Judging from the google adds, I think reason is doing a good job at steering the future of the Middle East towards freedom.

  22. Yeah well, I’d just as soon we keep the Easter Bunny front and center, and leave the ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ Jesus out of it myself. This gets to the heart of the matter. This is why the Mid East will never be stable. How does one win the hearts and minds of a bunch of religious zealots?

    If you are trying to sell them on the idea of secularism and what not, it does not help if you keep saying “Jesus this” and “Jesus that” otherwise they will view you and your calls for secularism as nothing but a veiled attempt to attack their religion. Leave religion out of it, and you might win some people over.

    Nothing hurts the advocates of secularism in the Middle East more than a ban on head-scarfs and other assaults on individual freedom in the name of protecting secularism.

  23. If the US wanted Al-Hurra to succeed, they should have studied the BBC model. The BBC radio was the most trusted news outlet back in the day. When the BBC Arabic TV broadcasting started, it was a hit for the few who had access to it. Al-Jazeera’s couldn’t have succeeded if the BBC continued their Arabic broadcast.

    The US government wanted a propaganda tool and disguise it, but middle easterners could see through it.

  24. Obviously, if they want to be convincing, the network should be showing non-stop footage of hot women in bikinis reciting the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Wealth of Nations, and The Road to Serfdom…preferably in Arabic.

    Heck, I’d probably watch that, and I don’t speak a word of Arabic.

  25. thoreau,

    I don’t see how you can approve of Sulu, considering he’s helping devalue your marriage in a few months.

  26. I have yet to figure out how my wife and I will be affected by Sulu’s marriage to another man. I asked my wife if she would be affected by this, and she said it won’t affect her either.

    Our families still approve of our marriage. Our friends haven’t dropped any hints about their opinions being lowered. Really, everything seems to be pretty groovy over here.

  27. because crimethink needs to cash in his fucking v-card and get over the whole “ewww gays are icky” thing?

    or he’s a secret occultist like rick santorum, spreading aleister crowleys’ doctrine of the magical, non-local effects of ritualized sodomy.

  28. Jesus is a prophet in Islam, but they don’t buy into the Son-of-God-who-was-resurrected angle.

    Exactly. They’ll watch a film on the life of Jesus just like any Christian… but to them, it’s over when he is crucified. They look to Jesus as a martyred prophet, not a risen messiah.

  29. tarran….did that bait taste good?

  30. Why Gabe, it did. Very good indeed.

    Bastard. 🙂

  31. More attacks against my religion. Stay classy, guys.

  32. c:\pot…the government can’t alter the value of my marriage by allowing or disallowing gays to do anything. This issue is just contrived drama, to make idiotic democrats and republicans appear more appealing to subsectors of this idiot population…this is no different than when Rowdy Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan had a argument.

    “When the business interests … pushed through the first installment of civil service reform in 1883, they expected that they would be able to control both political parties equally,” wrote Professor Carroll Quigley in his book, “Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time.” “Indeed, some of them intended to contribute to both and to allow an alternation of the two parties in public office in order to conceal their own influence, inhibit any exhibition of independence of politicians, and allow the electorate to believe that they were exercising their own free choice.”

  33. During the Ramadan fast periods, al-Hurra should broadcast a marathon of Alton Brown episodes discussing the myriad ways pork is Good Eats.

    And which wines goes best with it.

  34. Get rid of this travesty. And NPR. And PBS. If they can’t get enough viewers/listeners to support themselves, then screw them.

  35. Shockingly, government sucks at producing interesting TV. I don’t see how anyone could have predicted that.

    If they wanted this to work, they should have at least engineered some incentive to produce ratings.

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