Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt from afar

I've been following the stories of the popular uprising and demonstrations in Egypt, after the uprising which toppled the totalitarian government in nearby Tunisia. It seems that northern Africa is a hotbed of insurrection at the moment.

I don't pretend to understand all the issues involved, other than the observation that in both places, masses of people are asking for democratization of their country's government. It is a widespread human yearning which has been made stronger by modern technology and the coming of the Internet to isolated regions around the world. That explains why the Egyptian government is shutting down Internet and cell phone access in their country today.

Admittedly, my following of this story has been mostly on the Internet and in print. I haven't watched television news coverage of it, but I have read some of the critiques of that coverage and the one that appeared in Salon.com today was particularly illuminating.

Salon makes the point that our cable news networks are doing their usual sloppy and indifferent coverage of a world event which may have important implications for the future of Egypt, the Middle East, and United States' alliances. The networks have few if any reporters on the ground there and their "coverage" relies heavily on analysis of talking heads sitting in studios in New York. They are covering the story from afar. (With talking heads like John Bolton for Fox News! Really, who better to explain events in the Middle East for us than Bush's condescending former UN representative who thought the UN should be dissolved?)

There is one cable news network that in Salon's estimation - and several others' that I have read - is doing an outstanding job of bringing fair and balanced and thorough coverage of the happenings. That is Al Jazeera English. The Arab news network is providing uninterrupted live video of the demonstrations and reporting from people who are actually there on the scene. In other words, the kind of coverage that American television used to provide, back in the good old days when American television actually did news rather than fashion shows of blonde anchorpersons with cleavage.

(If you are interested in seeing and hearing what is actually happening in Egypt, you can follow Al Jazeera online here.)

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