It’s hard to decide which makes less sense, Al Gore getting about $100 million for creating a boring-ass cable network that failed at every turn, or Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab news giant, thinking that Americans will somehow now start tuning in to foreign news when we have proved conclusively over the years that we couldn't find most world capitals with a Google map. Not waiting to find out, Time Warner Cable took advantage of a change-in-ownership clause and dropped what had been Current TV like a rock, saying: “We are removing the service as quickly as possible.”
Unlike most Americans who think that Al Jazeera is a “terrorist network,” I see little harm in having an alternative source of overseas news (think BBC but without the predatory sexual behavior). Although Al Jazeera does suspiciously share the same "Al" as Qaeda, the news organization is financed by the government of Qatar, which has strong military ties with the United States, and in fact is the current location of the U.S. Central Command’s Forward Headquarters and the Combined Air Operations Center.
The few times I have watched Al Jazeera, it offered a broad spectrum of world news -- often stories that I saw nowhere else. If it is cheerleading for Jihadists, it is doing a damned subtle job of it. And if it is guilty of presenting a "pro-Arab" POV, then so be it. That makes it no worse than Fox News or MSNBC -- neither of which can be said to be objective, despite promotional claims to the contrary.
Let's face it, we live in world that will -- at least until we frack ourselves into either energy independence or we all die from poisoned well water -- involve the Arab world. And to understand a little more of their thinking about global events absent the usually chest-beating or back-alley videotapes would not be such a bad thing.
Try this at home. Next time there’s a major event in a foreign country, go online and read the local coverage and see how it compares to the single AP report that you have to rely on now that most U.S. news operations have shuttered their overseas bureaus. You will get some perspectives that had not occurred to you -- and that you most certainly will not get from the 12 seconds of coverage given the event by the U.S. network news.
Never in history have you had such an opportunity just a few keystrokes away. Take advantage of it. And if your cable system can stop wrapping themselves in a meaningless flag gesture and carry Al Jazeera, watch a little and make your own decision about its value. Just as no one forces you to watch “The Walking Dead” or “Girls,” no one says that just because you have Al Jazeera on your box you have to tune in.
Just ask Al Gore.