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The Death of Al Jazeera for Americans: An Angry Eulogy

I feel helpless, silenced, angry, and violated in a #firstworldproblem, non-sexual kind of way. I have screamed and snapped pencils and flung tissue boxes at offending chair legs. I feel like my ability to choose a viable news source has been ripped from me without my consent and without equitable recompense.

Because it has.

Al Jazeera English (AJE) has been my Trusted Name In News for five years. I read the blogs, I read the news, I watch the live stream and the interviews, I follow the news service bulletins as they are released out of the Doha office at all hours. I have relied upon AJE as a source of news that isn’t watered down by the need to cater to the lowest common denominator that is the American appetite for news. In domestic American broadcasting, we get diluted soundbytes, bursts of over-simplified facts that have been leeched of any college-level vocabulary and complexity. We are told between commercials that Event A happened because of Group B and the reaction from Party C is Quote D. Then insignificant people who just Wikipediaed the issue shout each other down with their prefabricated “insight” on the issue. Then we get an hour-long special on hoarding.


Al Jazeera English was never this. Al Jazeera English investigated people, events, stories all around the world, and it streamed free on the website 24/7. No, I am not retrospectively romanticizing AJE with unreasonable zeal. Yes, I rely on other news sources in order to aggregate different perspectives and see what facts are omitted from certain sources. (I triangulate news from Le Figaro, the Telegraph, Reuters, the South China Morning Post, and ye olde timey paper copy of the Wall Street Journal, for the record)

I don’t want Al Jazeera to tell me about the obesity epidemic in Mississippi and I don’t want them to discuss the (American) National Football League. I don’t go to AJE to read about Florida juvenile detention facility riots. I have sufficient American channels for that, thank you very much. I go to AJE for election-fixing in Zimbabwe, for house arrests in the Ukraine, for interviews with the woman whose family olive grove was demolished for an Israeli settlement: I go there to ride on the boat with the Rohingya refugees towards Bangladesh. I want Al Jazeera to be there for me where the extant American channels consistently come up short. I feel betrayed that it no longer will be. I feel violated that my browser fucking redirects me from aljazeera.com to america.aljazeera.com without my consent.

Don’t placate me with the unsubstantiated optimism to “Wait and see.” I have seen the Al Jazeera America website, and I have augured only bad omens for the channel: shorter articles with simple language, sparse detail, diluted controversies, reduced anti-American views, and all of it covering fewer regions and clogged with shit I see plenty of on the American news aggregator sites.

How am I supposed to get real news now that I know Al Jazeera is tailoring their content for Americans? I want the news that the rest of the world is reading. There is precedent for this vast gulf between what a news conglomerate feeds to America and what it feeds the rest of the world. I’ll trudge through Google for the citation only if I have to, but it is known that Ted Turner admits to and is disgusted by the difference between CNN in the US and CNN International. It is known.


So why have you betrayed your American viewers and readers, Doha? Don’t insult me and with the “We’ll continue to broadcast the same high quality programming that you’ve come to expect from us.” That is impossible because that is not your market. I’m not deliberately insulting the intelligence of individual Americans seeking news. I’m categorically deploring the difference between international geopolitical broadcasting and infotainment designed to capture the shrinking attention span of a nation that is treading hegemonic waters without care for the shifting tides.

(Image copyright www.aljazeera.com. It's a screenshot of the homepage as of 9pm CST)

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