Watch how, in the hands of the shameless, “Desperate Housewives and [the] Late Show With David Letterman are doing more to persuade Saudi youth to reject violent jihad than hundreds of millions of dollars of US government propaganda” becomes “Fox News – fair, balanced and turning Saudis off jihad like no CNN could” in just three easy steps.
The Rotana Channel’s heavily “Fox News” based lineup
Satellite broadcasts of the US TV shows Desperate Housewives and Late Show With David Letterman are doing more to persuade Saudi youth to reject violent jihad than hundreds of millions of dollars of US government propaganda, informants have told the American embassy in Jeddah.
Broadcast uncensored and with Arabic subtitles alongside sitcoms such as Friends on Saudi Arabia’s MBC 4 channel, the shows are being allowed as part of the kingdom’s “war of ideas” against extremist elements. According to a secret cable titled “David Letterman: Agent of Influence”, they have been proving more effective than Washington’s main propaganda tool, the US-funded al-Hurra TV news channel.
Diplomats said they believed the allure of actors such as Eva Longoria, Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer meant commercial TV had a far greater impact than al-Hurra which, according to one report, has cost US taxpayers up to $500m (£316m).
“It’s still all about the war of ideas here, and the American programming on MBC and Rotana [a channel part-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation] is winning over ordinary Saudis in a way that al-Hurra and other US propaganda never could,” two Saudi media executives told a US official in a meeting at a Jeddah branch of Starbucks. “Saudis are now very interested in the outside world and everybody wants to study in the US if they can. They are fascinated by US culture in a way they never were before,” the May 2009 cable says.
The popularity of the channels is particularly surprising given Rotana broadcasts Fox News, the rightwing News Corp channel that takes a hard line against Islamic radicalism and has strongly supported US military intervention in the Middle East.
Becomes at Mediaite:
according to cables included in the recent WikiLeaks document drop, informants have told diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia that American television–particularly Fox News Channel and David Letterman’s Late Show–are proving to be powerful weapons against “violent jihad.”
Where’d that “particularly Fox News Channel” bit come from? The only link Mediaite gives is to The Guardian story above.
Of course, that’s the bit that arrives at News Ltd. Columnist one:
Today’s WikiLaffs are brought to you by the Guardian, which reports that Fox News is an agent of peace in the Middle East…
[Following the “surprising” line from the Guardian piece:] It’s only surprising if you think that a soft line against radicalism would be more persuasive.
Yeah, nothing more hardline than Letterman or Friends…
And columnist two:
Could the BBC or CNN boast the same?
Fox News – fair, balanced and turning Saudis off jihad like no CNN could.
Each of the succeeding links quotes as its justification the preceding link. Note how the Fox News bit gets increasingly inflated – from “The popularity of the channels is particularly surprising given Rotana broadcasts Fox News” (you can check out how prominent the Fox News aspect of the channel is by looking at Rotana’s site) to “Fox News is an agent of peace” and “turning Saudis off jihad like no CNN could”.
Meanwhile, the David Letterman bit – Letterman being detested by many rightwingers – gradually fades: from “According to a secret cable titled “David Letterman: Agent of Influence”, they have been proving more effective than Washington’s main propaganda tool” to not being mentioned at all.
But how many of the above News Ltd commenters’ readers would’ve followed the links all the way back to the original source to discover that? As I noted last week, it’s on such cynical wonky reporting that the audience ignorance on which these people rely is built, brick by ill-informed brick.
UPDATE: You know what, I can’t find anything online confirming that Rotana, despite News Corp having recently bought a 9% stake in it, does actually broadcast Fox News at all, let alone so prominently that it’s in any way winning hearts and minds.
UPDATE #2: I’ve asked both the Guardian journalist and Bolt if they have any evidence that Rotana broadcasts Fox News at all – and if not, if they’ll publish a correction on their original story – and have received no response from either.