Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Media and Opinion-Shaping

Talk of the Nation on NPR has a segment on "The Arab Media" today, with Shibli Telhami, the manager of Al-Arabia, and the Washington Correspondent of Al-Jazeera. [http://www.npr.org/rundowns/rundown.php?prgDate=04-May-2004&prgId=5]

Shibli Telhami's take on whether the media drives public opinion or public opinion drives the media is interesting—he's right about the media reflecting more than forming public opinion on the most important issues. I mean, people have always believed the most cynical possible version of what Amrika Bahadur, The Agency and their own rulers are up to—and up till very recently, without the benefit of satellite television. Besides the political point—and irony—of the Secretary of State of the Free World wanting to shut down Free Speech, there's a subtle and deep point here for students and watchers of the media.

And the thought going through my head during the clip of Colin Powell commenting about Al-Jazeera “crossing the line of screaming ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre” was this: “So, Mr Secretary, you would rather that the 1.2 billion Muslims base their opinions on conspiratorial e-mails than on a news channel that carries you and Don Rumsfeld live much, much more often than even C-SPAN? Or that carries Knesset proceedings?”