28 August 2013
Another front in the global war of opinion
For some people, suppressing opposing viewpoints takes considerable technical ingenuity. For others, it takes political power. Kieran Michael Lalor wants to take the latter route. He's a Republican member of the New York State Assembly. He's using his bully pulpit -- never more aptly names -- to incite a boycott of cable and satellite TV providers who dare carry the Al-Jazeera America news channel. Many New Yorkers have already been denied a chance to see the channel on television because Time Warner Cable took down Al Gore's old Current TV channel the moment he sold out to Al-Jazeera. Lalor himself doesn't want to forbid New Yorkers from watching the English-language channel. He just wants those who really want to see it to pay extra for the privilege. He wants the state's other TV providers to make Al-Jazeera America a premium channel. His idea seems to be that the average viewer should not have to subsidize what he characterizes as an anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda channel by having it included in standard subscription packages. The Assemblyman's office was quick, however, to deny that his demand should set a precedent for "a la carte" subscriptions. Many people probably would prefer to have only the channels they like available, Republicans dispensing with MSNBC, for starters, while Democrats do without Fox News. People who buy the New York Times don't have to buy the New York Post, after all. But this is not what Lalor is advocating, according to Lalor's staff. Instead, he wants to stigmatize the channel he deems most likely to question the establishment consensus on Middle Eastern politics. Perhaps he'll next turn his attention to the English language RT channel, characterized by some as propaganda for its Russian owners, and certainly the channel most skeptical toward the prevailing narrative on Syria -- maybe more so than Al-Jazeera. He'd probably have the support of gay-rights activists if he went after RT, whether he'd welcome that or not. Time Warner still carries RT, but for how much longer? The "marketplace of ideas" definitely isn't what it used to be.