Saturday, July 16, 2005


The truly foreign press

From the CS Monitor I've just learned of the website Watching America. The site offers translations of stories and views on the United States that appear in the foreign press but are generally not available to English speakers. It is performing a most valuable service.

Susan Leach writes

While the Internet has made access to foreign media only a click away, what makes especially powerful is its translations of foreign-language news into English....

The distinction may seem subtle. But news organizations such as Al Jazeera put out different material for an English-speaking audience than for an Arabic-speaking audience. With this website, "you're getting to see what, in some cases, your enemies are saying to each other in their own languages about you," Koerner says. "That gives you insights which you cannot get from what they offer in English."

One caution: Leach mentions MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) as another organization offering translations of foreign media. MEMRI is in fact a well-funded neocon organization. Juan Cole wrote of it,

MEMRI was founded by a retired Israeli colonel from military intelligence, and co-run by Meyrav Wurmser, wife of David Wurmser. David Wurmser is close to the Likud Party in Israel and served in Douglas Feith's "Office of Special Plans" in the Pentagon, where he helped manufacture the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was linked to al-Qaeda. David Wurmser, who wants to get up American wars against both Iran and Syria, then moved over to Vice President Dick Cheney's rump national security team.

MEMRI is funded to the tune of $60 million a year by someone, and is a sophisticated anti-Arab propaganda machine. The organization cleverly cherry-picks the vast Arabic press, which serves 300 million people, for the most extreme and objectionable articles and editorials. It carefully does not translate the moderate articles. I have looked at newspapers that ran both tolerant and extremist opinion pieces on the same day, and checked MEMRI, to find that only the extremist one showed up. It would sort of be as though al-Jazeera published translations of Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Jerry Falwell on Islam and the Middle East, but never published opinion pieces on the subject by William Beeman or Dick Bulliet.

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