KENNEALLY: American liberals and Islamic TV make strange bedfellows

Al-Jazeera buys Al Gore’s network for $100 million

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It’s hard to calculate the market value of one’s moral principles — the price at which one will trade purposeful conviction for cold, hard cash. For Al Gore, however, the number is clear: $100 million.

Mr. Gore sold his languishing network Current TV to Al-Jazeera for that stupefying number. For those not familiar with the Qatar-based news station, there are reasons to be squeamish at the thought of a former vice president of the United States profiting from — and introducing American viewers to — an enthusiastic advocate of tyranny and terrorism.

Let’s set aside for a moment the nauseating hypocrisy of Mr. Gore’s transaction. Our nation’s most visible environmentalist just brokered a financial deal with a nation whose entire economy is supported by the drilling and selling of oil. How many carbon credits must Mr. Gore buy now to atone for his ecological sins?

Let’s excuse that one of our most stridently liberal class-warfare troopers structured the deal to avoid the impact of President Obama’s new tax hikes. Perhaps pretending to invent the Internet indemnifies Mr. Gore for life from paying his “fair share.”

Even more disturbingly, Al-Jazeera has earned a reputation for its extreme illiberalism. First, the network is state-run and so premised on the rejection of free speech and an independent press. It has intimidated dissent and manipulates the news to serve despotic state ends.

The network also provided a hospitable platform to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and, predictably, is an inexhaustible font of anti-Israeli and anti-American ire. It’s not clear that there are enough self-loathing Americans living in the United States to make its entry into the market worthwhile, but Mr. Gore is willing to test the waters.

Moreover, it is difficult to imagine a news network more hostile to the purported premises of contemporary liberalism. Al-Jazeera is a reliable mouthpiece for Qatar’s condescending misogyny, its antiquated racial prejudice, its violent hatred of homosexuals and all-around contempt for human rights. The network’s perspective is typified by disgust for modernity itself, ironically dispensed by satellite.

Mr. Gore allegedly waved off overtures from Glenn Beck to purchase Current TV on the grounds that Mr. Beck was too politically radical. It is, at the very least, discomfiting that Mr. Gore thinks mainstream American conservatism, however heavy-handedly presented, is more radical than Al-Jazeera’s frothing brew of theological fundamentalism and political fascism.

Of course, in a free country the people themselves are the final arbiters of what speech is and isn’t acceptable. Al-Jazeera’s success or failure will be determined in the open marketplace of ideas — ironic, since they reject as a matter of principle such unregulated expression. The real issue here is what this says about the disfigured state of American liberalism, which finds more common ground with supporters of terrorism than their own counterparts across the political aisle.

One way to look at this is in terms of the left’s greater comfort with propaganda, given its own advocacy of the state’s intrusive supervision of political speech. A theoretical continuum runs through campaign finance laws that essentially ration free speech, various iterations of the “Fairness Doctrine” and the notion that free speech is a special privilege rather than a right.

Also, liberals in America have a tendency to interpret every facet of human life as political, and thus subject to government regulation. This inclines them to make friends with the enemies of their enemies and excuse their failings, however grotesque. Al-Jazeera hates American conservatives and Israel. Readers can conclude the syllogism on their own.

There has been much ado about our currently broken system of government and the legislative inertia that ensues from this dysfunction. Our problem of polarization, though, might have something to do with the left’s tendency to transform their political opponents into mortal enemies, to interpret dissent as sedition. This divisiveness, a kind of moral myopia, can produce the strangest bedfellows. Tune in to Al-Jazeera U.S. soon to see for yourself.

Ivan Kenneally is the editor in chief of

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