War flutters and self-flattery

Charles Paul Freund writes about War Flutters on the Reason website. War flutters are the predictable anxieties that appear when a conflict becomes scary, real, and unpredicatably dangerous. Freund makes the point that scandalizing comments like those made by Peter Arnett are part of a larger process that serves us very well, whereas Al-Jazeera is not serving its own constituents well. As Freund puts it,

The debates that emerge from negative press stories are not a distraction, they are a necessity. If you want to see a medium that is, by contrast, largely failing to do its journalistic work, then you should find a way to catch Al-Jazeera’s coverage. Anyone in the Arab world depending on Al-Jazeera for an understanding of the conflict is not being well served.

Tantalizingly, he goes on to quote Michael Young of Beirut Calling that Al-Jazeera is the beginning of a brand new phenomenon in the Arab world that will itself mature. I’m quoting Young directly here:

It’s important to understand that while Al-Jazeera does indeed often act like a propaganda outlet, it has been a liberating experience for the Arab publics, providing them with higher expectations from their own media. Already, Al-Jazeera has to look over its shoulder at Al-Arabiyya, a Dubai-based station, and at Al-Hayat-LBCI, a venture between Lebanese LBCI and the Saudi daily Al-Hayat. This could explain the station’s penchant for sensationalistic atrocity reporting. In time, however, Arab stations will understand that accuracy is a better magnet, and the standards by which Al-Jazeera (and others) are judged inside the Middle East will be raised.