Let’s give credit where credit is due. In the midst of its invasions, occupations, bombings, sanctions, killing and maiming, torture and sex abuse, kidnappings and renditions, and kangaroo judicial proceedings, the U.S. government deserves credit for providing the world with some comic relief.
It comes in the form of a U.S. taxpayer-funded ($350 million and counting) television network named Alhurra that the U.S. government established in the Middle East to convince people that its actions were good, virtuous, and beneficial to people in that part of the world. Alas, however, according to a front-page article in yesterday’s Washington Post, the network is faltering because of — surprise, surprise — lack of interest in viewing it.
According to people in the Middle East, the primary reason why people don’t watch Alhurra is that it’s boring. Its stories, for example, have included such exciting programs as “old documentaries with Arabic subtitles, a program about a Jewish singing group on tour in Australia, a show on the history of bluejeans.”
Since many of Alhurra’s executives don’t speak Arabic, there have also been a few journalistic blunders along the way. For example, on Easter Muslim viewers were greeted with “Jesus is risen today!” One high executive lost his job when the network broadcast an unedited speech by a leader of Hozbollah, a real no-no in the eyes of U.S. government officials.
Unfortunately, American television viewers don’t get the pleasure of viewing Alhurra. While U.S. law allows the U.S. government to employ propaganda against foreigners, it is illegal to do so against Americans. Apparently declarations by Alhurra’s president that “We’re not the propaganda channel … not the Bush channel” have been insufficient to override the law. (The article didn’t state whether foreign television networks are allowed by their laws to employ propaganda against American citizens here in the United States.)
The U.S. government’s latest foray into socialism (i.e., government ownership of a television network) brings to mind the hilarious announcement by the Pentagon a few years ago that it was expanding its range of services to include the rebuilding of countries, which meant, of course, massive socialist projects akin to those that the Soviet Union used to engage in. No doubt that the Pentagon’s portfolio is filled with beautiful photographs showing what a great success its rebuilding program in Iraq has been. One can only assume that the Pentagon offers a special discount to those countries that it both destroys and rebuilds.
The U.S. government’s Alhurra television network is a comic example of the confluence of socialism, imperialism, and interventionism and the propaganda intended to convince people of their merits. No doubt that U.S. officials are scratching their heads in befuddlement over why Alhurra has failed. But at least they’ve succeeded in making the rest of us laugh.