This week's syndicated column:
Ever since Al Gore sold Current TV to Al Jazeera, the network founded and funded by the oil-rich emirate of Qatar, the former vice president has drawn continuous fire in conservative media. Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, for example, have all castigated Gore, a man of the left and leading avatar of “global warming,” for such hypocrisies as timing the deal to avoid lefty tax hikes and bagging $100 million in greenhouse-gas money.
These same news outlets share something else in common: They all belong to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. That means they also belong to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
Alwaleed owns the largest chunk of News Corp. stock outside the Murdoch family. Shortly after his purchase of 5.5 percent of News Corp. voting shares in 2005, Alwaleed gave a speech that made it clear just what he had bought. As noted in The (U.K.) Guardian, Alwaleed told an audience in Dubai that it took just one phone call to Rupert Murdoch – “speaking not as a shareholder but as a viewer,” Alwaleed said – to get the Fox News crawl reporting “Muslim riots” in France changed to “civil riots.”
This didn’t make the “Muslim” riots go away, but Alwaleed managed to fog our perception of them. With a phone call, the Saudi prince eliminated the peculiarly Islamic character of the unprecedented French street violence for both the viewers at home and, more significantly, for the journalists behind the scenes. When little owner doesn’t want “Muslim” rioting identified and big owner agrees, it sets a marker for employees. Alwaleed’s stake, by the way, is now 7 percent.
We can only speculate on what other acts of influence this nephew of the Saudi dictator might have since imposed on Fox News and other News Corp. properties. (I have long argued that News Corp. should register as a foreign agent, due to the stock owned by a senior member of the Saudi ruling dynasty.) Alwaleed hasn’t shared any other editorial exploits with the public. But that opening act of eliminating key information from News Corp.’s coverage of Islamic news might well have set a pattern of omission.
Recently, such a pattern of omission in News Corp.’s coverage of the Gore-Al Jazeera deal seems evident. I say “seems,” because I can’t be entirely certain that I haven’t missed something in my research. But judging from online searches of news stories and audio transcripts, two salient points are missing from at least the main body of News Corp.’s coverage.
One is reference to the noticeable alignment of Al Jazeera with the Muslim Brotherhood, the global Islamic movement whose motto is, “The Quran is our law; jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” The second (with an exception noted below) is reference to Al Jazeera’s superstar host and ideological lodestar, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure. The influence of al-Qaradawi at the network and in Qatar – where, according to Freedom House’s 2012 press report, it is against the law for journalists to criticize the Qatari government, the ruling family or Islam – can hardly be overestimated.
Strange omission? This relationship between the Qatari-controlled network and the Muslim Brotherhood organization has been observed for years. Back in 2007, for example, Steven Stalinsky reported in the New York Sun that various Arab commentators referred to Al Jazeera as “the Muslim Brotherhood channel” and the like. What’s more, reference to the relationship appears at least in passing in coverage of the Gore deal at mainstream media sites such as USA Today and the Seattle Times. More discussion is available at some conservative outlets, including Rush Limbaugh and The Blaze. (Searches at Breitbart and the Washington Examiner, like News Corp. sites, yielded nothing on these same points. Call it, perhaps, “the Fox effect.”)
Given the rise of Muslim Brotherhood parties in the revolutions of the so-called Arab Spring – undeviatingly cheered on by Al Jazeera – the network’s Muslim Brotherhood connection, which extends to Al Jazeera’s sponsors inside the Qatari ruling family, is a crucial point to miss. Especially when it seems to be missed across the board.
The same goes for failing to mention Al Jazeera’s leading personality, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in the Gore deal coverage. This longtime “spiritual guide” of the Muslim Brotherhood hosts one of Al Jazeera’s most popular shows, “Shariah and Life.” Among other poisonous pronouncements, al-Qaradawi has called for Americans in Iraq and Israelis everywhere to be targeted by terrorists (“martyrs”) who would then find a place in Islamic paradise. Given Al Gore’s refusal to sell his network to Glenn Beck’s The Blaze TV due to political differences, Muslim Brother Al-Qaradawi and his Shariah ideology become highly relevant. Then again, maybe one man’s news story is just another man’s clipping on the cutting-room floor.
Meanwhile, the one story I found in News Corp. coverage of the Gore deal that mentions al-Qaradawi – a column by Gordon Crovitz – neglected to note al-Qaradawi’s place in the Muslim Brotherhood. Particularly given current events, this is a little like forgetting to mention that Hermann Goring was in the Nazi Party.
Could normal editorial discretion or plain ignorance be at work here? I suppose so. Still, there is that tie-in between News Corp. and the House of Saud to consider, a partnership I find more troubling than Gore’s deal with the Qatari emirate. Not only does Alwaleed own a stake in News Corp., Murdoch owns an even more substantial stake (18.97 percent) in Alwaleed’s Arabic media company Rotana.
Within the Alwaleed-Murdoch-Rotana galaxy is a 24-hour-Islamic outlet called Al Risala, which Alwaleed founded in 2006. The channel’s director and popular “tele-Islamist” is Tareq Al-Suwaidan, widely reported to be a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait. The station’s “Supreme Advisory Committee” includes Abdullah Omar Naseef, who, according to former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy, is “a major Muslim Brotherhood figure” involved in the financing of al-Qaida.
Al Risala, then, would seem to fit right into the Al Jazeera-Qaradawi-Muslim-Brotherhood lineup.
We know Alwaleed has influenced Fox editorial matters before. Could that Alwaleed influence – even his very presence – account for why News Corp. hasn’t hit harder on the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaradawi angles of the Gore-Jazeera deal?
I don’t know, but I wonder. Don’t you?