Yesterday, New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter marked the launch of Al Jazeera America by writing that the new network “is the most ambitious American television news venture since Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes started the Fox News Channel in 1996.” Presenting itself as a less sensational, celebrity-free version of television news—“It sounds like something a journalism professor would imagine,” Stelter wrote—the launch had many journalists and media watchers buzzing.
By evening, a different, more xenophobic, racist hype had eclipsed the excitement about a station that broadcasts 14 hours of news a day: #AlJazeeraAmericaTVShows
Founded by the ruling Emir of Qatar in 1996, the network has had its controversies over the years. It was criticized for airing tapes sent by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in the wake of 9/11, and, more recently, its coverage of the military coup in Egypt has been anything but balanced. But generally, when it comes to coverage of the Middle East, particularly during the Arab Spring, it’s a revered news source.
But that Arab name! And the financial backing of an oil-rich monarch! It’s like catnip for the far right, and everyone from Twitter trolls with a handful of followers to Red State editor-in-chief Erick Erickson jumped in with their own racist satire of Al Jazeera America’s programing.
Wheel of Fatwa #AlJazeeraAmericaTVShows— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 21, 2013
#AlJazeeraAmericaTVshows 8 Simple Rules For Stoning My Teenage Daughter— Alo Konsen (@OhioCoastie) August 20, 2013
#AlJazeeraAmericaTVshows How I Honor Killed your Mother— Richard Brod (@rgbrod1) August 20, 2013
Trolling the trolls was Zaid Jilani, a journalist who regularly appears on Al Jazeera. He makes a pretty strong case for the new channel’s relevancy.
So You People Don't Realize A Saudi Prince Co-Owns Fox News? #AlJazeeraAmericaTVShows— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) August 21, 2013
We Reported About A Troubled Prison In New Orleans Tonight While CNN Featured One Direction #AlJazeeraAmericaTVShows— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) August 21, 2013