Al-Jazeera: Big like Gutenberg??

Nir Rosen* has a great piece on his new blog, detailing some of the ways Al-Jazeera has contributed to the speedy eruption of the current Arab Awakening. It’s all thoughtful and worth reading. The money quote was this: “Jazeera is the new Gamal Abdel Nasr, the nationalist force uniting the region.”
Jim Lobe recalled that George W. Bush had reportedly joked to Tony Blair about bombing Al-Jazeera’s headquarters, and adds:

    consider which has been the greater force for human rights and democracy in the region: George W. Bush and those freedom-loving neo-conservatives who served him, or their nemesis, al-Jazeera.

As for me, I think the ‘Al-Jazeera Effect’ in the Arab world in recent weeks (and years) has been 100 times more important than the “Twitter effect” or the “Facebook effect”. Sure, Twitter and Facebook have helped people to do their organizing using online tools. But the organizing has continued, everywhere, even when the internet is cut off.
News flash! People knew how to do mass organizing even before the internet existed! Who knew!
Also, the organizing that is needed in all these Arab countries– pre-revolution, during the revolution, and after a revolutionary victory– is much more about food, sanitation, logistics, providing medical services as needed, keeping decent accounts, and above all building resilient networks of trust and accountability than it is about sustaining a Twitter account or having a million Facebook “friends”.
The difference Al-Jazeera has made– over a period of years, and most particularly in the past two months– has been to restore for ordinary people throughout the whole Arab world the sense of their shared Arab culture and connectedness, the idea of the possibility of successful mass action, and importance of having border-leaping common human values that cannot be dictated or enforced by any one ruler. (Those last two Al-Jazeera effects can– and indeed, to some extent, have– be felt anywhere, not just in the Arab world.)
That’s why Nir Rosen was right to describe Al-Jaz as the “new Abdel-Nasser”.
I also think the effect of all these “new” media together– but at their heart, Al-Jazeera– may prove to be as revolutionary in world affairs as Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the movable type press, back in the 15th century. That invention had massive effects on the development of culture (and of print capitalism, and of nation states) in Europe, and thereafter in the whole of the world that was captured and colonized by those energetic new European nation-states.
Al-Jazeera’s principal political effect thus far has been, it seems to me, to considerably strengthen the idea of a post-nation-state order, and a post-colonial order, in world affairs.
Yes, of course we are all still, to some extent bounded by our linguistic constraints. But this Al-Jaz effect could soon become even huger. Interesting.

* I know that Nir made some thoughtless and unkind remarks recently, in a late-night Twitter feed, about a female correspondent for CBS News who had been subjected to sexual assault by a mob of unknown affiliation in Cairo. Nir has quite appropriately apologized for those remarks, and I feel confident he won’t be so thoughtless and unkind again. I’ve known him for a few years now– admired his gutsy, anti-war journalism for even longer; and I honestly don’t think that in general he’s someone who demeans or marginalizes women.

11 thoughts on “Al-Jazeera: Big like Gutenberg??

  1. Salah

    Nir Rosen, In Iraq during years of US occupation and bloodshed that created by Western power inside Iraq were he behaved and acting just like “Jazeera” with his report and blog were no news outlets all filtered by US just him, then he became more sympathetic just like “Iraqi Nationalists” he went after the Iraqi resistance brings stories and telling his views being reporter impended with US forces, but that was an act of a spy not more not less protected like few others reporters impended with US army.
    Most Arab regarded “Jazeera” one of media outlet heavily allied with the smears that the west like more over Sheikh Hammd well non folk his stand and others royal family who owns this station.
    Let not forgot the hateful combinations of Nationalist and Gamal Abdel Nasr were the most hated leaders with Arab nationalist for their motive and believe Arab had have as other nations and nationalists the right to fights for their existence that to live and defend there land.
    These two join factors were hated by Israelite and Iranian( hating Arab Nationalists) the west, were Nir Rosen have them all, he is a Jew, he is Iranian living or born in US, it’s very common to hear his seamier like this about Arab Nationalists and Gamal Abdel Nasr his mouth pieces.
    The Arab people got sick and tired from their daily suffering looking for “Norm” level of freedom and social justices to live and work like any other nations/people around the world while their land have all the richness they have long waiting to have the control on it, but the dislikes the Freedom and democracy that brought by US like in Iraq.
    But is revolution of Arab nation acceptable by Israelite and the greedy western power, let wait and see.

  2. Salah

    U.S. President Barack Obamaon Thursday expressed outrage over the bloodshed in Libya and asked the world to speak in one voice against violence by the Qaddafi regime, as his administration evaluated a “range of options” to respond to the crisis.

    Yeh…. were he was with those named human rights watch when carpet bombing , C130, Tomahawk each minute launched and all other type of deadly weaponry through on Iraqis, were all the world when US occupied Iraq and killed 100,000 Iraqis?
    When all US and world when 500,000 bay killed in Iraq during the sanction.
    Here 300 500 person killed……..well
    Love someone and Speak ….hate someone and speack

  3. David

    Salah,
    I believe Obama spoke out against Bush’s plan to invade Iraq. I can pull up the speeches and post the links but I think you know that. You obviously think Obama should have done more. Like what do you think Obama should have done, lay down in front of one of the tanks?

  4. Salah

    David
    read my post, I am putting this not specific I meant Obama as a person or one US Politician we all new who spoke and who against Ira war, but Bush get behind him more that 70% of politician when he went to occupy Iraq also he had 80% of US people believe in his lies.
    There was a big media lies machine guide the war one of this Al Jazeera joining the wagon of the war and occupation in Iraq till now.
    David tell me is what corruption and suffering in Iraq now more that Libyan? but you know well your media telling its rosy in Iraq.
    What about Bahrain Why the voice of media faded? Tell us david?
    David who is exactly more Butcher Gadafi or GW Bush & US army in Iraq ?
    Tell us what your military done in Fauljha and other part in Iraq?
    Is more serious than Qadafi right now?
    Libya’s Butcher
    NYT, EDITORIAL February 22, 2011
    The Daily Cartoon

  5. scott

    One really interesting quote in the NR piece: “Through Jazeera, the government of Qatar is effectively fomenting revolutions in much of the Arab world.”
    Indeed. (and rather ironic if my understanding of the founding intent behind al-Jazeera is correct)
    But before I float what I once was told in doha, anybody aware of any academic studies on the founding of the network?

  6. Domza

    The editorial policy of Al Jazeera appears eclectic but is actually selective.
    Whether Al Jazeera is “effectively” fomenting revolutions or not is a matter of opinion or judgement.
    Actually, the only way NOT to “effectively” further the aims of revolution would be to have no information at all, else or nothing but lies.
    Now, Scott, do please tell us what you were once told in Doha about Al Jazeera.

  7. Salah

    But before I float what I once was told in doha, anybody aware of any academic studies on the founding of the network?
    Its the not funding that could raises here, its more who owen that media wagon.
    A year ago there was reports that Israelis, also Rupert Murdoch, put that went very salient.
    Hammed & Moza those Scott make fun on them well known belongs to, definitely not Arab world or Arab citizen.

  8. scott

    Hi domza…. Understand the distinction you raise, and Salah, sorry, not sure what you’re trying to say, but have no bent to “make fun” of anything here.
    Re. the founding “purpose,” I honestly to wish to use care here, given the extraordinary role the network has played in the unfolding events. That’s why I’m wondering if any careful reviewers have previously examined al-Jazeera’s founding catalyst and purpose. (as I heard it once long ago first hand from Qatar’s last Minister of Information — and just after a certain “traumatic” incident for Qataris)

  9. Helena

    I will just add in to this the following about Al-Jaz and its hosts in Qatar.
    For some notes on Qatar, go read the couple of posts I put up on JWN at the time of my visit there in may ’09.
    The way i see matters is, briefly, this. The present emir of Qatar was, in essence, installed by the Americans in 1995 at the time they wanted to vastly increase the size of their military footprint in the state. This posed problems because (1) the Qatar political elite are strict Wahhabists, stricter than in Saudi Arabia, and (2) the emir’s wife and probably he himself have a longtime attachment/commitment to pan-Arab nationalism. So he felt he needed to ‘balance’ the favors he gave to the US military (in return for them having helped him undertake a palace coup against his brother, who is still under house arrest someplace in Doha by actively pursuing a pan-Arabist– and somewhat pro-Islamist– agenda in various places.
    The Emir’s (nicely funded) founding of Al-Jaz in 1996 was part of this. I think both sides hoped then– and still hope– that the relationship Al-Jaz has with the Emir is analogous to (a healthy version of) the BBC’s relationship with the british government.
    That’s the short version.

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