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Zahn on Jazeera – Cable Clash

The former Fox personality, Paula Zahn, from her new fair and balanced desk at CNN, was having an intense discussion with the anchorman from al-Jazeera. Paula abandoned her journalistic cool, which she must have learned during her term at Fox, and jumped on the al-Jazeera anchorman for saying that CNN basically rubber-stamps whatever the US government policy is. She couldn’t believe her ears and she could certainly not contain herself. She knew she had to defend the honor of free press in America if she was going keep her ratings/job. One can imagine, as I’m sure she did as she was speaking, the e-mails and faxes she must have received – “Way to go Paula - you told him – don’t let them get away with saying those things while our boys are fighting to protect their rights to say whatever they want.” Paula actually had a more pragmatic view as she interrupted the confrontation to break for a commercial, making it clear to the naïve Arab journalists that, “Someone has to pay so we can have these discussions.”

It is the 50th anniversary of Radio Free Liberty and Radio Free Europe and on this day, a new foreign media force accuses the American media, the father and mother of free press in the world, of being a rubber stamp. That was hard to hear and hard to take. Paula wasn’t going to let this upstart get away with making such a reckless accusation. No time for “Examples please” – or “What makes you say that?” – it was – "Wait one minute my Muslim brother – you’ve got a nerve to malign the very airwaves that are letting you advertise your biased station."

There was so much interrupted discussion it felt a bit like Hardball or the old Geraldo, who is now with fair and balanced Fox. Obviously the anchorman from al-Jazeera hit a nerve and gave an opportunity for our gal in the trenches to show the viewing public how patriotic and loyal she is.

I wonder if Paula thinks that al-Jazeera in Kabul was bombed accidentally – or if she cares. She didn’t ask. Someone could ask the media darling, “Rummy,” about this, even though he might make you stand in the back of the classroom for asking such an inflammatory question in a time of war. Maybe Paula, to prove she is not a rubber stamp, should ask the secretary of defense about al-Jazeera’s accusation that their Kabul station was bombed intentionally. Maybe she should give him a chance to say what he feels about any network that shows Afghan civilian casualties in the middle of a war and how counterproductive that can be to a worthy cause.


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If she is lucky she could get a sit down one-on-one with the maestro Rumsfeld, who basically asks and answers questions on his own anyway: “Do we want the Taliban to surrender? Maybe. Do we wish they’d die instead of surrendering? Perhaps. Did we bomb al-Jazeera in Kabul intentionally? No. Do I think you should ask me questions that will make you look good? Sure – why not. Will I give you answers that will have anything to do with reality? We’ll see.” Thank-you Mr. Secretary – as usual – we all feel assured.

Paula could then send the tape of that interview to al-Jazeera and show them what free press really looks like. She should also send the statement that every CNN reporter makes immediately after they show civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Disclaimer first – it’s going to be gruesome – and after the horror is shown – a fair and balanced network will say that these civilians have been killed as a direct result of what happened on September 11th and the perpetrators of that act bear full responsibility for the consequences of our response.

History begins on September 11th. The principle of cause and effect begins on that day as well. No one is allowed to look at civilian casualties in Afghanistan and say, “Nothing justifies this” or even be allowed their own thoughts. It is incumbent upon CNN, which is not a rubber stamp, to justify, explain or give a context for the civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Nothing can explain September 11th except evil, and September 11th explains all ensuing intended and unintended carnage.

It has been said that September 11th was a wake up call. The question then is who and what had put us to sleep? Paula? Any thoughts on this?

Bill C. Davis

Bill C. Davis

Bill C. Davis is a playwright.  Archive of his Common Dreams' articles here. His personal website here.

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