To the Editors
of Transnational Broadcasting Studies:
Dear Sir/ Madam,
In your issue of Spring/Summer of 2002, you have published an article by Mohammed El-Nawawy and Adel Iskandar under the title Boxing Rings: Al-Jazeera's Talk Shows. Among other things, mention is made in this article of a debate in which I happened to participate-in a way that twists the facts to make them suit the authors' views.
It goes without saying that this is NOT a personal matter. If it were, I wouldn't have wasted my time, or that of your readers, in order to reply.
In short, the version of the debate presented by your writer is "Hollywoodianised": The good strong American, a sort of a Rambo of the TV debates, Christopher Ross, engages and defeats the uncivilized native (me, cast in the role of a TV debate "Charlie"). The conflict, of course, is placed outside of ANY context.
There are several problems with this presentation.
First, the so-called "Alloush-Ross debate" was in fact a debate NOT between two persons, but between two different world outlooks: the imperial outlook of the US officials on one side, the outlook of the oppressed (in this case, of the Arab nation) on the other. The fact that Christopher Ross was chosen to represent the one, and Ibrahim Alloush to represent the other, is of marginal importance. Moreover, if this debate - as stated by your writer - was among the most successful in the history of the show, this obviously shows that the issue discussed, and the conflict underlying it, are not a "tempest in a teapot" but a very serious issue indeed. Therefore if your writers - as I contend - misrepresent the facts about this debate, this is obviously an attack NOT against Ibrahim Alloush, but against Arab Nationalism in particular, and against the oppressed of this world more generally - and it is in this spirit that I demand the right to respond to this attack through your publication. (Being an academic myself, I would like to believe that a publication issued by an academic institution will not place other agendas above the free exchange of ideas and the quest for truth.)
Then of course, there is the verdict of your writers that the debate ended in an ignominious defeat for Mr. Alloush, and a great victory for Mr. Ross, who impressed his audience and gained its respect.
Well, yes, and of course the Vietnam war was won by Rambo. I will not tire your readers with claims and assertions that they can't check, such as the ones made by your writer.
I will only point to the following facts: - The transcript of the debate in question is available online to everyone with Internet access. Those of your readers who can read Arabic can check it at the al Jazeera site: http://www.aljazeera.net/programs/op_direction/articles/2001/11/11-22-1.htm. You can also check it at the Free Arab Voice website at: http://www.freearabvoice.org/arabi/jazeerah2.htm. If you can't read Arabic, just think: would this debate have been posted on our site for several months now had any of the things claimed by Mohammed El-Nawawy and Adel Iskandar in their article been true?! - Christopher Ross himself was (literally) painfully aware of the "strength" of his arguments and the response they would have among the audience of the show. It was for this reason that (in a statement that apparently impressed a large part of the audience more than all his arguments together) he excused himself by claiming that he had a headache and was therefore below his usual mental abilities. Your readers can check this excerpt at the above mentioned transcripts.
2002 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
TBS is published by the Adham Center for Television Journalism, the American University in Cairo