The sale of Al Gore’s Current TV to Al Jazeera is apparently more than just a business deal in which the world’s most prominent critic of fossil fuels made a fortune with an oil-rich emirate. According to the New York Times editorial page, the creation of a new Al Jazeera America is a blow struck for diversity in journalism. The Times feels Time Warner Cable is wrong to drop the new channel from its broadcast lineup. The implication is that those who have expressed shock or outrage about the spectacle of a former vice president of the United States becoming not merely a business partner but an advocate for a network that is well known for its anti-American and anti-Israel bias are either narrow-minded or in some way prejudiced against Arabs and Muslims.
The idea that the general disgust about Gore’s $100 million Arab oil windfall is more evidence of American parochialism or prejudice is absurd. No one is trying to censor Al Jazeera. If there are enough American viewers who want to watch news broadcast from the perspective of the channel’s Qatari government owners, then cable providers will give it to them and they are welcome to it. But that doesn’t obligate Time Warner or any other distributor to give it valuable space on a list of available channels if there aren’t enough viewers to justify such a decision. After all, those who want to look at the world from the point of view of those who promote 9/11 truther myths and who sympathize with those who fought the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan can always watch Al Jazeera on the Internet or find other outlier niches to hold their attention.
The real issue here is not a false argument about diversity. It is instead one about what it means to be a liberal in today’s media environment. As Alana noted yesterday, Gore refused to sell his channel to conservative Glenn Beck saying that he didn’t wish to see his vanity project fall into the hands of those who disagreed with his politics. Fair enough. But the fact that Gore sees Al Jazeera as a good match for his brand of American liberalism speaks volumes about the nature of that set of beliefs.