In May of this year, Al Jazeera won The Roosevelt Foundation’s Freedom of Speech and Expression Award. During a gloomier time, when the leadership of the U.S. behaved less like Gorbachev and more like Putin, Donald Rumsfeld called the Qatar-based media platform’s unembedded coverage of the Iraq War “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.” Rumsfeld’s comments from 2004 remind us that not too long ago, the Gulf state’s news outlet was far from revered in the U.S.
The heyday of the Bush administration was a peculiar period throughout which journalists working for Al Jazeera were subject to an onslaught of zealous vilification from actors in the American political scene (in addition to imprisonment and occasional shelling by U.S. forces).
Yet, the courageous and adept journalists behind the Qatari media organization managed to weather the bulk of the ferocious attacks. In something of an inversion of roles, today actors and events in the American political scene are frequently the subjects of Al Jazeera’s astute scrutiny. Such was the case in the most recent, and certainly worth watching, episode of Al Jazeera’s roundtable program, The Cafe.
The fantastic episode is titled "US: Still #1?" and is hosted, as usual, by the political director of the Huffington Post UK, Mehdi Hasan. Last Saturday's show, which features a lively and extended discussion on the state of modern American politics, is a testament to the sort of high quality programming and political pluralism that has allowed Al Jazeera persevere through venomous attacks from Middle Eastern dictators and some American politicians alike in the past decade.
Topics from the state of the economy, to race, women’s rights, to drones, to the overall quality of the Obama administration’s performance are discussed by a diverse panel that includes -- among others -- a Ron Paul adviser, the host of Democracy Now!, and an establishment Democrat.
Without further delay, here’s a link to the episode.