Control Me

Yesterday, after I realized that someone actually stole my NYT I decided to watch the documentary we’ve been sitting on for a while called Control Room. While their tagline “Different Channels. Different Truths.” does an excellent job summarizing what one will discover, I’m going to go ahead and ramble about it anyway.

After having watched the movie and followed it up with an hour long discussion with Toby Joe, I felt a bit conflicted. I was also sort of pissed off. I was so pissed off last night, that today I researched classes to learn Arabic.

During most of my adult life, I have felt rather anti-media. I have always believed that there are certain aspects of what happens throughout the world that the public doesn’t need to know about. The media coverage that followed September 11th, (the false reporting, the blatant lying, the misconceptions we had to endure) pretty much marked the final straw for me. I have never been so confused and angry about something intangible before. I had had enough. From that point on I put on my bullshit goggles every time I watched the news. And I find it ironic that the only reporting I wholeheartedly believe anymore comes from a satirical broadcast called The Daily Show. I take most of what I see on TV at night with a grain of salt. Still, up until last night I had no idea how misleading (if not blatantly false) the coverage surrounding the war in Iraq has been for the American public.

Control Room takes place in Iraq. It’s set at the Islamic and Muslim news station known as Al Jazeera. It also shows us the main artery for the media; a place called “Central Command”. Every major network has a presence at Central Command. And as one might imagine a lot of hemorrhaging goes on there as well.

Before last night, whenever someone mentioned the words “Al Jazeera” I pictured beheaded Americans and a slew of other gruesome images. I pictured Osama Bin Laden talking into some microphone telling us he wants to kill us all. I pictured Nationalism. I pictured extremism. I pictured raw hatred.

I did not picture cubicles and coffee mugs.

I did not picture this guy.

Who has children he wishes to one day send to America. Who, by the end of the documentary, you want to take out for a cup of coffee.

And I certainly didn’t picture this woman.

Who is so eloquent and intelligent, every time she spoke she gained my full attention as well as my respect.

I certainly wasn’t aware of the fact that our military bombed Al Jazeera killing one of their most beloved reporters. And while our press spokesperson said that he didn’t believe that this was planned, days following the bombing, Al Jazeera couldn’t get a broadcast for the life of them because the people of Iraq saw them as a target and therefore refused interviews. (Brilliant? Oh absolutely.)

When you said the words “Al Jazeera”, I never pictured a group of intelligent, middle eastern journalists who, like many of american journalists, are merely doing their job and reporting the news. And I have to assume that I’m not alone.

This movie made me angry and not in a negative, slanderous way. Instead, I felt insulted. I also felt a little embarrassed for having believed so many misconceptions for so long and so blindly. Are Americans that numb to the facts? Are we that easily able to go about our business and believe whatever it is the tube in front of us would like us to believe? Do we really want to live like this? Is ignorance really that blissful?

Because I’m not so sure anymore.

While I have no desire to ever witness a beheading on television. Nor do I wish to ever see children with their limbs blown off, I also don’t want the american media telling me that Al Jazeera is nothing but nationalistic propaganda. And this is where my conflict begins.

Our broadcasts haven’t shown us what’s really going on. So, I ask why have them at all? And I know what I’m writing is news to no one. Hell, it’s not even news to me. However, I had no idea that we’ve actually been lied to in hopes of building up some more ignorant patriotism. Sometimes, the news we were being shown was totally fabricated—Hollywood style.

I think we need to find a happy medium between what the media would like us to believe and what we can actually stomach about the truth. I don’t yearn for X-rated programming. I know some folks have the desire to witness such imagery, but it’s not my thing. But I don’t want to be pampered or lied to either. I know it’s impossible to have an absolutely objective journalist, but is it possible for someone to just SHOW it to us? I think we can connect the dots on our own. Can we, at the very least, get away from having to sit through made for TV movies they call “The News” as we sit down to our TV dinners each and every night?

We’re all adults here, aren’t we? Give us our diplomas already.

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