Before we came, I sent $200 to my mother-in-law and ask her to install Satellite TV in our apartment. With over 550 channels, I figured that we would get at least one American television channel and maybe even a movie channel or two.
Boy was I wrong.
Six hundred channels consists of 20 Russian language channels – none of them movie channels, 30+ religious channels (many in English, but who cares), some Turkish channels, Saudi Arabian State Television, Kuwait, Libya, Liberian, Sudan, Oman, Kurdistan, Italian television channels, some shopping channels, 50+ sex channels (mostly Arab with 800 numbers displayed), and news. Lots of news, some of it in English. The only English channels to watch.
I have BBC, Russia Today, Press TV (from six countries), France News, Saudi News, and Al Jazeera in English. I watch a lot of news. I have learned a lot.
Of course, America is still considered important, as is the American dollar. All of the countries were upset when the US cut interest rates to save the fools with mortgages they couldn’t afford. It made the American dollar drop and they are all heavily invested in dollars. Saudi Television commented that Greenspan would never have made such a politically motivated move. I was surprised that they knew who he was, but then his book got a lot of coverage on all of the news channels, particularly his comments on how the Republicans betrayed their principles and spent like drunken sailors when they were in power.
None of the news channels can transmit for a half an hour without spending part of it on America and American foreign policy.
News interviews are different in Europe. American interviewers generally try to at least look fair in the interviews. The European equivalent is “Open wide, Mister. I want to stuff some more words into your mouth.” I heard one reporter today say “Your party leader has proposed that you need to raise taxes. Are you going to betray your trust with your constituents by raising their taxes or betray your party leader by not supporting him?” The guys who came up with “Are your still beating your wife?” were amateurs compared to these interviewers.
The two best channels for news are, of course, BBC, and, surprisingly, Al Jazeera. In the States, we picture Al Jazeera as a bunch of lunatics extorting people to carry suicide bombs and burn Americans. I’ve never seen the Arab version, so I don’t know what they do, but the English service is run out of London and they are professionals who show no more bias than Fox News. They are, however, able to interview EVERYONE on the other side of our wars, and that makes interesting news.
I particularly enjoyed the interview with an insurgent leader of an Iraqi resistance group explaining why his group first broke with Al Quida and then tried to get them killed by the Americans. To paraphrase, “Those idiots were killing Iraqis. It’s morally alright to kill invaders, but you can’t let anyone kill your own people, so we turned the lunatics in to the Americans.”
One thing I learned was surprising. Bush scares people. Condelisa Rice gets less respect than anyone else in the news world, but Bush actually scares a lot of people. People are worried that the most powerful arsenal in the world is controlled by a man who says he governs by talking with God every day. They don’t see much difference between this and Komeni, and it worries them that they cannot trust him to be rational
Recently Bush made back to back speeches on the economy and the progress in Iraq. More than one foreign commentator referred to Bush’s “Faith based government” and commented that he must have gotten his “facts” on faith, because they didn’t match anything in the real world.
The big worry mentioned frequently on foreign news programs is that Bush will decide that his successor will not have the “moral courage” to do “the right thing”, and that he will do a preemptive strike on Iran before he leaves office.
Foreign leaders point out frequently that Bush has a belligerent attitude, a proven history of preemptive strikes, and a history of distorting facts to support his actions. He scares people.
Rice, on the other hand, just pisses people off. She began a recent visit to Russia by publicly criticizing the Russian government for its lack of democracy. Aside from the fact that this struck a sour note when it came from a government that runs Guantanomo and has secret prisons in Eastern Europe, it was widely considered extremely bad manners. She was, after all, a guest of a foreign government and starting out by publicly castigating your hosts was very bad form.
Of course, it fit in well with the current picture of the States. You must all be aware that respect for America is near an all time low, but American media will never show you just how low. In the last 8 years, we have become the hypocritical mean spirited aunt that you hope will not show up to spoil the party. Everyone fears our army and covets our money, but they are getting fed up with the constant lecturing and threatening. Oh, well. I can always tell people that I’m Canadian. Canada never offends anyone.
Another thing I learned from Television is that Arabs are way horny hypocrites. The most common channels on the satellites are Arab language sex channels. “Had a hard day harassing women who refuse to wear a full Chandra? Tired from stoning women who showed an ankle in public? Take a break and talk to Fatima at 800-Arabtramp! She dresses like an Egyptian whore and will lead you though fantasies that you would kill your wife for even imagining.” The free demos on the screen are often so graphic that the playboy channel would blush.
Apparently the old double standard is alive and well somewhere in the world. Your wife and mother and daughter MUST be pure virgins, but you spend your time fantasizing about women in leather boots and damned little else. It fits that this occurs in a region where many men still ride donkeys. Fits.